Spectre (2015) Review

I remember really really hating this movie for some reason when I was younger. I can’t remember why, I’d have only been 15 when it came out. It’s not like I was becoming some sort of film snob either at that age, I was just coming off the back of declaring Godzilla 2014 to be the best film ever since The Avengers, and shortly into the embrace of the next best film ever made, Avengers Age of Ultron. So for the life of me I have no idea why I didn’t like this film when I was younger. It’s so inoffensive and devoid of anything remotely controversial or interesting and-

Oh. Now I remember. Though I wouldn’t say I hate Spectre now, I can understand what 15-year-old me maybe didn’t like about it, especially in comparison to Daniel Craig’s other Bond outings… It’s so dull. Boring. Empty. Vapid. Inocuous. I’m going to need a bigger thesaurus.

When I reviewed Quantum of Solace I said that was a really bad film. I even had to watch it in two sittings because, despite the script being okay, the film is edited in such a way that is prime to make your eyes ache. But the thing about Quantum of Solace is that it’s aiming for something; it wants to dial the gritty Bond from Casino Royale up to eleven and get to the core of his emotional mess. It’s not that good at achieving that goal, but it does do it to some extent. By comparison, it’s hard to know what Spectre wants to be.

Well on the surface it wants to be the climactic conclusion to Daniel Craig’s Bond – The opening credits flash all the villains from the previous movies in a Spider-Man 2-esque sequence. Bond is on a secret mission for an old character, Judi Dench’s M, post death, while riding under the radar of Ralph Fiennes’ M. Other old characters, like Mister White, play a role in the plot and his daughter is even the new Bond girl. There are callbacks to Vesper Lynd and the villain from Skyfall, all in the name of making these movies feel like one cohesive story leading to the point where Bond must defeat the puppet master behind all his past villains.

But the films don’t really work that way. Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace are such different films to everything that comes after them, that mentioning their events here is jarring more than anything. In Casino Royale Bond gets a nosebleed when he’s punched in the face. In Spectre, he is unscathed after intentionally crashing a plane into a forest to knock some cars off a road. In Quantum of Solace, he is sweaty and out of breath when in range of the fire at the bad guy’s base. In Spectre he intentionally blows up a city block, only metres away from himself, and walks away from the destruction without a scratch, burn or anything. And the fact that both of Craig’s opening Bond films had a self-contained story that was wrapped up, giving Skyfall free reign to do whatever it wanted with the character thereafter only further disconnects everything. Skyfall might take place in the same continuity as the previous movies, but it is in no way attempting to be connected to their stories at all. It wanted to see what Bond would do after that. So forcing it to have a connection to them in this movie is just silly.

And in what name does Spectre do all this? In the name of Blofeld, the most over the top villain to ever grace James Bond. He’s a character that works in the cornier and more dated films. But in Craig’s gritty timeline he’s out of place. He feels like they tried to parody Doctor Evil from Austin Powers by trying to take him as seriously as possible, and then some. It just doesn’t work. They took a character who Roger Moore killed with a helicopter ten minutes into the tongue-in-cheek Live and Let Die, and made him the big bad of a gritty, grounded universe. The result is he’s boring. He can’t have the same extravogence as he did in those older movies, or even screen-presence despite Christoph Waltz playing him, because he’s limited by what new Bond was supposed to be about and counterintuitive to it.

With that in mind, I narrow Spectre down to wanting to be the Avengers Endgame of 007 movies with Blofeld showing up to be Thanos. But beyond that, what does it want? Well it wants to wrap up Bond’s character.

But it can’t because nobody except Bond and M have anything to do in the whole movie. The new Bond girl is supposed to be his eternal love and the reason he leaves MI6, but she isn’t good enough. I say that in spite of the fact she’s probably the best of Craig’s Bond girls, aside from Vesper Lynd. Vesper had agency and a reason to be in Casino Royale other than to appease Bond. But this lady is in the story specifically because Bond needs something from her, and in no time at all they’re sleeping together and starting a new life elsewhere. Her personality and performance have the same bite as an independent Bond girl, which is why I like her so much, but the writers use her as a plot device to get Bond from a snowy place to a secret hotel room and that’s her only purpose in the story. After that she just sort of hangs around and tells Bond she will be with him if he isn’t a super spy anymore.

It takes no risks. It does nothing unexpected. There is a lack of tension throughout – with the exception of one pretty good fight scene on a train – and is generally just bland. The whole film stinks of “going through the motions”. So while I can’t say this is worse than Quantum of Solace, I can say it’s so much more boring. I just have no reason to watch this again and I think that’s what I don’t like about it. Quantum of Solace might suck big time, but I was thinking about that film for four or five days after watching it. I’d almost forgotten Spectre by the time I sat down to review it, for all its flare and hype.

I am so glad No Time To Die came out after this because this would have been one hell of a sad note to leave Craig’s Bond on. I know he’s not everyone’s favourite, but he is mine, and I’d argue he has one of the more interesting runs as the character in terms of the changing goals and direction of his franchise.

So would I recommend Spectre? No. Watch the scene at the end where Bond is like “I quit MI6”, and then he sits down with the attractive lady who he drives off with, and whom he loves very much… And then just watch No Time To Die, a film that spends most of its plot undoing a lot of what this one set up while also being pretty good in it’s own right.

Speaking of which, you may be expecting me to review No Time To Die next, but I’ve actually already reviewed it! I’ll leave a link to it here if anyone is interested: https://alexsreviewcorner.com/2021/11/21/no-time-to-die-2021-review/

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