“Spectre” (2015)

What a fabulous movie. And what a disappointing movie.  Lurking fairly close to the surface of “Spectre” is an outstanding Bond film, one perhaps two drafts away.  The story is simple and interesting: that Bond’s past holds the key to all the events in “Casino Royale”, “Quantum of Solace” and “Skyfall.”  And that in the midst of an inter-agency power grab involving a consolidation of all world Intelligence data-streams, he has to journey into a history he avoids dealing with at all costs, or all is lost.   Love that idea. But to make it work, you need to have every emotional thread examined carefully, especially those between Bond and the chief love interest, and Bond and the antagonist. And frankly…these strands are not steel but spaghetti, and they are both overly tangled and under-cooked.

Oh, it’s spectacular.  Fantastic stunts, and a wonderful fight scene between Bond and a mostly silent henchman played by Dave Bautista, but the Second-Unit on 007 movies is always impeccable. That isn’t where the problem lies.

I think Craig is great, at his best the best Bond ever in many ways, but the problem is that he has been TOO transformative.  Skyfall was TOO successful.   Skyfall was an amazing film, a revelation of Bond as an actual human being, which I figured for a one-off before they returned to the cartoony days of yore.    But I’d not anticipated a real problem: it earned 1.5 BILLION dollars by breaking the formula that has sustained the series for half a century. For the first time in the series’ history, the franchise was “off the map”, and that was both glorious…and deadly.

I suspect that for the first time, the producers feel less powerful than the actor-director combination, and they tried to pull Spectre into being an “event” movie, a “prestige” film as if they could turn “Goldfinger” into “Lawrence of Arabia”.

They can’t. These movies are absurd wish-fulfillment fantasies, and you can dress that pig up, but despite the best efforts of their lead actor-villain, they couldn’t teach it to Waltz.    While I  enjoyed it, there were MAJOR flaws that made me just shake my head. Jeeze. The fault was in the script, which was too leisurely, and went totally off the rails in the third act. I mean…you can SEE the place where the film schisms, as if suddenly they were a direct-to-video generic spy movie with a bad script and a HUGE budget.     If they had just considered the propulsive basic Bond structure, they would have been fine.

But in retrospect, the clue was in the title sequence: a totally wimpy song blasted out of the speakers, backing sexy/male images of Craig.   All sound and fury and signifying…well, you know.

Very disappointing, despite some fabulous action scenes.    I’d give it a B-, and I’m a die-hard Bond fan who stood in the rain for two hours to see “Moonraker”.   I certainly liked this better than THAT piece of @#$$, but man…

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