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Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Spectre.


Spectre.



You know, if there's one thing that the build-up to this film's release taught us, it's that nobody has or ever will hate James Bond as much as Daniel Craig does. Between snapping (fairly rightfully so) at interviewers who tried to frame one of his love interests (played by Monica Belluci, barely three years his senior) as an 'older woman', describing the character as an alcoholic and a sociopath, and cheerfully announcing that he'd rather slash his own wrists than return for another film and that he doesn't care who takes over the role, it's pretty clear at this point that Craig despises the character, the films, and the work.

How much of that is because of the hectic workload and the considerable pressure on him, I don't know, but I did read about it all with morbid fascination - and his distaste for the whole thing is a large reason of why I watched Spectre at all.

In the aftermath of the previous M's death in Skyfall, Bond follows posthumous instructions from her to Mexico City, where he retrieves the ring of a terrorist leader, setting him on a path that eventually brings him into conflict with a figure from his past, believed long dead, and with the mysterious criminal organisation SPECTRE, who appear to have been involved with all of Bond's adversaries for the past three films. Meanwhile, the current M tangles with C, the head of the privately backed Centre for National Security, who is campaigning to launch Nine Eyes, a global security and surveillance initiative, with potentially disastrous results.

Chess.

As is often the case with Bond films, I had no idea what was going on at the start, and if I'm being honest, while my confusion lifted enough to give me a decent working idea of what was going on by the time I was halfway through the film or so, I was never entirely clear on all of the details and minutiae. It isn't even that the plot is especially complicated - it's a Bond film, they're pretty simple - it's just that every time anyone started talking about what was going on, my mind drifted elsewhere, as it always does in Bond films. I got the vague outline 'bad not dead man doesn't like James, bad not dead man runs a criminal organisation that wants to use Nine Eyes to rule the world, explosions happen', but really not much more.

It doesn't help that a large part of the plot hinges on the dramatic reveal that Oberhauser is both James' adoptive brother and that he's Ernst Stavro Blofeld, but neither reveal had any impact on me. As far as being James' brother goes, since we were never told he had any adoptive brother at any point, and as James shows precisely zero emotions over this, the reveal falls completely flat, failing to make any impact whatsoever. As far as being Blofeld goes, it's a reveal that's meant to tickle long-time fans of the series, for whom Blofeld is a recurring character who hasn't appeared since 1971, but I've never watched a Bond film earlier than Casino Royale, so they could have substituted any name and it'd have had precisely the same effect on me.

"Could we get some decent lighting in this evil meeting room?"

The other big plot turn is the reveal that C is actually evil, but it's delivered in such an offhanded way that it was as if the writers and actors realised in advance that it wouldn't be even remotely shock. You mean that C, a man who repeatedly expresses his desire to monitor everyone in the entire world, played by Andrew Scott of all people, is evil? I never would have guessed if you hadn't casually tossed that into a conversation.

(This goes doubly when you consider that you actually see that shortly after South Africa annoys C they suffer a terrorist attack, making it entirely clear from the get-go that C is a wrong'un.)

An entire film could have been spun out of the conflict between C and M, and it probably would have been a marginally more interesting film than the one we got. Instead, it's a subplot at best, and while it's an interesting one, it never really gets enough screentime to seem particularly important.

Shockingly evil.

The romance subplot also had some potential to be interesting, weirdness of a forty-eight year old man having a romance with a woman literally young enough to be his daughter aside, but in a film already crowded with action scenes and people talking very seriously about things, it never had any chance to breathe.

It's definitely a fun film at times, with plenty of car chases and explosions and scenes of people shooting other people, but I think at this point I need to just accept that James Bond films aren't really my cup of tea. Still, it was definitely a better film than Quantum of Solace, which is good because I couldn't stand Quantum of Solace. So far there's no confirmation either way as to whether we'll be seeing Daniel Craig back for a fifth film as Bond, but given everything he's said about it, I very much doubt we will.

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