Spectre

1964 Goldfinger – Bond is tied down on a table and facing being cleaved into two halves by a powerful laser beam under the control of Auric Goldfinger. In short, Bond is about to become a bit of crispy toast.

James Bond: Do you expect me to talk?
Auric Goldfinger: No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die!

2015 Spectre

Oberhauser: Why did you come?
James Bond: I came here to kill you.
Oberhauser: And I thought you came here to die.
James Bond: Well, it’s all a matter of perspective.

That the story folks. In 24 Bond films spanning the years from 1962 when Ursula Andress stepped out of the sea onto a Jamaican beach in the first Bond film called Dr. No, until the present – Spectre opened today – all the Bond films stick to a tried and true formula. Give them action, an ultra-cool hero, unique villains, plenty of beautiful women, fast cars, guns, a few rather clever quotes, and an occasionally memorable song plus a few gadgets, and you may expect to sell lot of tickets.

While the formula has been box-office tested and proven over the years, it is true that some Bond films have not been classics. Clearly some are better than others. Some even are rated no better than mediocre. We may get new actors as Bond, new villains, new M’s, Q’s, Moneypenny’s, as well as new directors. But if they stick to the formula, the audience can feel that they will be entertained.

In the case of Spectre, aside from the feeling you will have, that all of this film seems so very familiar, you can find plenty to praise. I loved the music, the locations of Mexico City, Rome, Tangiers, the Austrian Alps, and London all had either enough of the exotic to interest viewers, or they had the requisite roads for a thrilling car chase.

spectre-set-3

Lea Seydoux fills the bill as latest memorable Bond Girl. Ralph Fiennes as M was also excellent. Then there’s Daniel Craig. If I’m asked to rate my favorite Bonds, it is a toss-up between Connery and Craig for the top spot. Craig has the muscles, the intensity, and the sophistication to carry off Bond the way you like Bond.

But Spectre is not going to go down as a top flight Bond film. Half of the blame lies with the script which was both scattershot and not quite free of plot holes. The other half of the blame must be laid to rest on Christoph Walz as the latest villain.

He’s not particularly scary. His game plan or maybe I should call it ‘his scheme’ lacks impact. In fact most of it depends on the sub-villain rather than Walz’s Oberhauser. Oberhauser came off as a creep who was most interested in torturing Bond instead of anything else.

And what makes it even worse is that I’m sure you won’t be able to figure out the why which is sometimes called the motive.

Moneypenny’s role is only a shade above being forgettable. And speaking of forgettable, Monica Bellucci is on hand as a would be Bond conquest. In the context of the film, she seemed an after thought.

Dave Bautista takes on the role of the villain’s muscle guy Hinx. Like Oddjob and Jaws, he is a formidable foe, and he gives Bond all he can handle.

The best location was the Mexico City Day of the Dead festival. The one with the least impact was Tangier. Both Rome and London looked good but seemed strangely empty.

Bond has his martinis and looked particularly good in a white dinner jacket when paired off against Seydoux’s ravishing evening gown. The problem was they were on a train chugging across some North African deserts. I mean if they were heading somewhere like Cairo, there may have been a point. But we weren’t given a clue, so the whole train segment seemed uninteresting

And another thing, they were the only people in the dining car. Even when Bond and Hinx get into a fierce fight, a re-do of Connery and Shaw’s fight in From Russia With Love, and they tumble into the kitchen from the dining car – even the kitchen is strangely and inexplicably devoid of people.

In fact the only other person we see on the train besides the dining car waiter, is a cabin steward. Bond hands off a garment in a bag to this guy and says, Have this pressed please. An empty train without any other people, suspicious or otherwise, makes for a dull ride.

Inventory: there are two Aston Martins, two helicopter scenes, two boats, one airplane, a car chase in Rome, a wrist watch, an old Rolls-Royce, two buildings come down, one snapped neck, plenty of great shooting by Bond, and just two bedrooms scenes – one of which was tepid, and the other interrupted by Bond having to trot off to do an assassination first.

While this Bond flick doesn’t deserve to be called disappointing, it was definitely lacking. I can’t give this film a rating any higher than three point two five. As for a recommendation – it is worth seeing if you want to ‘escape’ for nearly two and half hours – the three hours including the trailers – but this is far from a must see.

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