Spectre

I don’t feel just one way about Spectre; I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I’m ambivalent, since I did enjoy it overall, but … well, let me think through this with you.

First, perhaps most superficially, the intro song and credit sequence didn’t do it for me.  It had a hard act to follow given Skyfall’s opening, so I’ll give it that, but it felt pretty meh.

Plot-wise, Spectre builds on all of the little dribs and drabs of plot that were left hanging in the previous three movies (all the Daniel Craig ones: Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace, Skyfall).  This meant that I felt a little lost going into it without having seen the others recently, but when I think back on the events of the previous movies I think the requisite hooks were there.

The Daniel Craig Bond films walk a tightrope that previous Bond films haven’t really walked before.  What I mean is, it’s unusual for a Bond movie to consistently build on what’s come before in any way, so this is a bit strange.  Personally, I think they could have done better.  They laid the groundwork for this film to some extent, but it seems like they sacrificed some continuity and clarity for the sake of trying to make more traditionally individualized Bond films along the way.  Of course, if they’d done less of that, then perhaps I’d be upset about how they undid the Bond movie traditions.

So Spectre is a bit of an odd fish.  It has excellent scenes, moments in which the movie offers up the beautiful set pieces that I’ve come to hope for (and even expect) from good Bond films.  But it also feels like it fumbles itself together at times, tries to make itself one whole thing out of a number of disparate scenes that needed just a little more narrative glue to make it all gel.

I have more thoughts to share, but…

There are *SPOILERS* after this mark.

I love the fact that Spectre has so many homages to earlier spy movies.  Spectre is unlike nearly every other Bond film that I’ve seen in that it links itself tonally to more gritty and realistic films such as Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.  Thinking more on it the tone is actually consistent with the approach of Casino Royale, but there’s far more focus on the more normal lives of the people that Bond works with.

It also feels like a clear throwback to earlier Bond films with its set design.  I mean, obviously when you introduce Ernst Stavro Blofeld you’ll have to blow up a large number of buildings, but they made sure that Blofeld’s secret base looked perfectly in keeping with the aesthetics of secret Bond bases of the past.

I’m really upset by Blofeld’s super high-tech torture though.  I’m not saying it shouldn’t have shown up in the movie; his ornate torture trap seems perfectly appropriate for Blofeld.  But his torture appears to have no effect beyond the initial pain.  And when Blofeld taunts Bond later, he taunts Bond in a way that specifically shouldn’t work after the torture he put Bond through.  So, narratively speaking, the entire Blofeld torture scene makes no sense.

And I wasn’t impressed with the emotional journey of Bond and his romance.  I know Bond films aren’t really the right place to look for emotional journeys that hold together or make sense, but they DID manage to do it right with Casino Royale in a lot of ways.  Since then, I’ve kept looking for it and been disappointed when I don’t find it.

Basically, Spectre does a lot of things that I liked and fails to do a number of other things that I’ve come to hope for or expect based on the other Craig Bond films.  Overall, I enjoyed it.  But it’s not without its problems.

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