Thursday, November 26, 2015

Bond Might Consider Putting Some Points Into Sneak

It's Thanksgiving, so let's talk about the new James Bond movie, Spectre! I know it doesn't have much to do with the holiday, but it's this or a review of another book about France in the interwar period. I'd say take your pick, but I haven't finished the book yet, so you're stuck with this. There will be spoilers, I suppose.

My dad wanted to see it, so we went. He thought it was OK, not as good as Skyfall or Casino Royale, with not enough plot, and falling prey to a "It's been three minutes, time for another explosion/fight/chase!", which he figured had something to do with the lack of story. He also gets annoyed that, even though the films are filling in Bond's backstory, they're set in the present day, rather than the past, before the time when all the past films were set. He understands why*, he just doesn't entirely like it. He liked Lea Seydoux as Dr. Swan, really thought she had "it", whatever that is.

So of the Craig Bond films, I've seen all of this one and Casino Royale, and bits and pieces of Skyfall (mostly during one of my dad's attempts to catch it on TV earlier this fall). So the reveal Blofeld had been behind everything thrown at James over the prior three films, fell a little flat (also I'd read a review at some point that alluded to that, because I didn't expect to watch the movie anytime soon). I kind of hate those reveals, having been soured on them by years of the Spider-Man comics playing, "Everything going wrong is the work of Norman Osborn!" over and over again. The significance of the reveal of the identity of the shadowy head of Spectre was completely lost on me, because I wasn't sure if I was supposed to recognize him or not. I was left wondering whether he was someone Bond had shot in an earlier one of the movies.

I wasn't as enamored of Seydoux as my dad. She fine (though I kept thinking it was Scarlett Johanssen and then thinking, no she wasn't in the credits), but I was curious to see if she had a character arc. I'm not sure she did. She was confronted with the sort of work that had distanced her from her father, and remained committed to staying away from it? There seemed to be a theme about choice, given M's speech to C about how a license to kill is also one to NOT kill, and Blofeld having made his decisions on how to handle certain events, so Swan's choices, in particular the one during the sequence where Blofeld tortures Bond, might play into that. Not sure if that counts as an arc, though. I didn't really buy the two of them falling for each other. It felt sort of perfunctory, it's a Bond movie, he and the attractive young woman have to sleep together. Similarly, the film wasted Monica Bellucci, I really expected her to have more of a role in things when she appeared, but no.

I liked the car chase sequence (the one on the mountain, with the plane was a bit much), even had a little humor in it, which I appreciate in action movies. The fight in the train was good. Not as good as some of the ones in John Wick, but for a Bond movie, pretty solid. Bautista as the physical threat was credible, though the metal thumbnails were dumb and unnecessary. He's a big dude, I'm pretty sure he doesn't need those to gouge someone's eyes out. I did keep expecting him to reappear at some tense moment, maybe as the base in the crater oasis was exploding, but he didn't.

I actually kept expecting a lot of gotcha surprises. I thought there'd be one about Swan somewhere near the end. She was actually behind SPECTRE all along, or had decided to use James partway through to take control. I don't know why. It was very convenient that C fell to his death, since he hadn't done anything illegal I know of, and even if he had, I don't believe they had any actual proof, what with Bond blowing the crater base to hell and back. Also, I expected Moneypenny and Q to do a bit more at the end. Especially Moneypenny, since she was an actual field agent, and more recently than M. And why did M think "grounding" Bond after the Mexico City incident would do anything? Bond had already been running around unauthorized, what was going to stop him from doing so again (the tracking bots in the bloodstream, obviously, but the grounding isn't required for that).

I don't have nearly the experience of fondness for the Bond films my dad does. The thing that most forms my opinion or image of Bond is still the N64 Goldeneye game. In my mind, he's supposed to be stealthy, sneaking around shooting people in the back of the head with a silenced weapon. Not blowing up buildings and having fistfights in helicopters in broad daylight in the middle of a Day of the Dead celebration. Kind of missing the "secret" part of "Her Majesty's Secret Service". I know he's been involved in big, flashy stuff in the past, but it seems to be this Bond's go-to move a lot of the time (my dad describes him as a "brute", which amuses me). It was notable to me that in the opening bit in Mexico City, while he does prevent an act of terrorism at a stadium (which is good), he does cause a building to explode and collapse, and when he eventually emerges on the street, there's smoke and dust and people running, and I thought about how he'd just created his own, smaller act of terrorism. Not intentionally, but he was kind of sloppy and/or unlucky, and there you are.

So it was OK, nothing I'd have gone to see on my own, nothing I'll likely feel compelled to watch again anytime soon. Or possibly ever.

* Though he says Bond keeps wearing suits that were fashionable in the '60s and doesn't understand that if you're going to set it in the present day. I'll take his word for it


Kelvin Green said...

Don't worry, I've seen all of the Daniel Craig Bonds and the Blofeld revelation seemed made up on the spot to me too.

I didn't think it was a bad film, but it was a mess and needed a good rewrite.

CalvinPitt said...

Kelvin, that makes me feel better. II guess I shouldn't be surprised they didn't have that in mind from the start, though now I wonder when they decided to go that route. While filming Skyfall? Earlier? Later?