October 27th, 2015
Spoilers ahead. You’ve been warned.
Last night I went to the cinema for the premiere of the latest James Bond movie: SPECTRE. I had mixed feelings going in, I came out with an even greater mix. Let me talk you through some of those mixes.
Since the beginning, SPECTRE was billed as the natural sequel of Skyfall and, in my opinion, the closing act for Daniel Craig as 0071. If you look at it under that light, it actually delivers something of a good closure.
In some ways SPECTRE also plays as a love letter to the Bond universe in more general terms. There are many elements from past movies which are brought together, with Sam Mendes squeezing the eye in our direction as a way of saying see what I’ve done there?!
The underlying story seems to be the biggest problem here. Because there isn’t one. It picks up the event of Skyfall, but it simply close those events, without moving the story forward again. This for me is another sing on Craig’s departure. Yes we get to see an new villain in Christoph Waltz’s Ernst Stavro Blofeld. But he’s not really new. It’s like Bond. A different face to fit under a common umbrella.
Speaking of the bad guy, rumours initially said that Blofeld wasn’t going to be Blofeld. Turns out that’s exactly who he is. Down to the scar and yes, of course, the white cat. If they can keep the right for the SPECTRE brand, they could probably keep using Waltz as a bridge from the “old” Bond to the “new” Bond2, giving us and the MI6 a common enemy to revive the 00 programme. They just need to give him a real long-term plan. In SPECTRE we get to know why Blofeld is obsessed with Bond, but we never get to know which is his end game, since the plan that he set in motion doesn’t really make any sense3. Also, the plan itself is vaguely reminiscent of Tomorrow Never Dies, which is probably not what you want to shoot for.
Since we are on the bad guys paragraph, it’s worth mentioning the other two baddies. Dave Bautista as Mr. Hinx. Where have I seen this character before?…oh yes of course: hi Jaws! Big, bad, unstoppable, basically mute and a bit dumb. In SPECTRE his only word is “shit”, just before flying off a train. The impact on the movie: sub-zero cold.
But probably the award for the worst bad guy in a James Bond movie has to go to C. C is the head of the new global security order backed by Blofeld who tries his best to dismiss M,Q and Bond. Let’s play the game again: where have I seen this guy before?…I know: this is James Moriarty! C is played by Andrew Scott who in the BBC’ Sherlock plays Professor Moriarty. I really like this actor and the way in which he portrays the bad guy in Sherlock. The problem here is that C is exactly the same as Moriarty. There are no attempts at differentiating the two. I don’t know if this was a deliberate choice, but at least they could’ve changed the color of his suite and the style of his facial hair.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a proper Bond movie without other two elements: cars and women. As you may imagine at this point, I have something to say about both.
Let’s start with cars. There are few. But they are beautiful. The new Bond ride is the incredible Aston Martin DB10. It is pure joy to the eye. Unfortunately, it’s not a car you’ll ever be able to buy, because it’s only a concept specifically designed for this movie. If you want to see the car in action outside the movie itself (it only does a very short cameo unfortunately), you should watch this video where Marek Reichman (Chief Creative Office of Aston Martin) stops by Jay Leno’s Garage to showcase the car. They go into the details of the car design and they also go out for a test drive. Lucky guy that Leno!
The other car is the equally amazing Jaguar C-X75. This car is driven by Mr. Hinx while he’s chasing James for the streets of Rome. Make sure to watch the behind the scene video to see how Williams Advanced Engineering did their magic to modify the car for the chase scene.
The action between the two cars is a good mix of beautifully crafted machines, heavenly noises and a bit of humor. It goes on for a while, probably a bit too much, but we are in a Bond movie and the cars are playing the co-protagonist role, so we need to let them breathe.
Now it’s time to talk about the most controversial part of the movie: women. For SPECTRE we have two very equally talented and beautiful women: the Italian Monica Bellucci and the French Léa Seydoux. I was very happy when I saw the cast announcement and I was even happier after the comments from Monica Bellucci where she clearly said that the two ladies were not going to play the stereotypical Bond-Girl part. To be fair the premises were there. Unfortunately they very quickly disappeared.
Monica Bellucci has a very limited time on screen. She plays the wife of one of SPECTRE’s top lieutenant (the one that gets killed in the opening scene). In the big picture of the plot she’s basically a bate that is used to lure Bond into Rome to first meet his nemesis. We see her at the funeral, we see her drinking poolside, ready to die. Bond buys her some time and give her some protection after she give away more information on where to find the SPECTRE gathering in Rome. Then? Sex. Then? Goodbye.
The encounter is classy. The setting is as mature as she is. We probably didn’t need the sex, but he’s Bond and we are in the first half an hour of the movie and we were lacking some action.
The sex that we definitely didn’t need is the one with Léa Seydoux.
She plays the distant daughter of another ex-member of SPECTRE, Mr. White. She starts as a very strong written character, capable of whit standing the seemingly un-resistible Bond-effect. She also half responsible for the death of Mr. Hinx by saving the day and saving Bond. With him out of the picture and still a long train journey ahead. What should we do now?. Sex is Bond answer. What should we do now?. That is probably the single dumbest and totally unnecessary line ever written for a female character ever. There was no need for that scene. They could’ve simply cut to them leaving the train (as they actually do after the red-light scene). It’s a complete giveaway and it also undermines the strength of her character. Luckily that’s the only close-encounter shown in the movie. Possibly the others are left to our imagination, helped by the good chemistry on screen, and the joint exit at the very end.
Nothing is lost fortunately, because in the end she will be the saviour of Bond’ soul, stopping his hand and seemingly freeing from a world of lies, violence and self-destruction.
I’m sure you’ll come out of the theatre with many questions in your head and hope for the future of this great big screen franchise as I did. I was happy I went to see SPECTRE. Despite all my complaints it does a good job in keeping the the Bond myth strong and alive for the future.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll have an ice cold Heineken.
- I know Daniel Craig was originally contracted for 5 movies and SPECTRE is only number 4, but there are plenty of sings of his possible departure from the character. ↩
- Bond will return is the message left at the end of the credits. ↩
- You can of course make some good assumptions, but at least Javier Bardem is Skyfall had a clear path ahead. ↩