By Robert Andrews.
Expectation as franchises have demonstrated time and time again, has proven to be the lingering enemy of reality. After the flop that was Quantum of Solace, it would have been a difficult task for Sam Mendes to create anything more irrelevant and void when Skyfall came to cinemas worldwide. The outcome however surpassed those greatly lowered expectations. Audiences got a Bond move brimming with outstanding performances, a subtle, yet effective use of comedy and a plot which asked us to invest in the character of Bond more than ever before. A Bond movie with brains so to speak, and arguably the best Bond movie made to date. Naturally expectations would be somewhat higher when following on from such a cinematic achievement, heighted by an intelligent marketing effort from those involved with advertising of this Bond movie, clouding the plot in a sense of mystery which audiences were dying to uncover. With an actor in the form of Waltz, who seemed destined to master the role of Bond villain at some stage in his career, all the signs seemed to indicate that this Bond movie could be even greater than Skyfall, which would serve as a continuation of a more personal Bond storyline that had been established in the previous outing. High expectations? No doubt. To think that with all these indications and assurances of quality gave way to a shambolic romp through a narrative with no intention of doing anything creative or ambitious is not only puzzling, but deeply disturbing. Spectre could have been the continuation of a new Bond era, one which continued to invest in the personal and intimate side of Bond as a character as opposed to action hero. Instead Spectre turned out to be just another cash cow, a flavour of the week story with no ambition, no innovation with just enough explosions and action to conceal the fact from most viewers that Spectre is a slow burning, lifeless subversion of high expectations.
Casting can often make or break a film. Waltz inclusion in Spectre, with his character concealed in a manner which heighted audience expectation in terms of demanding answers, indicated that audiences would be getting another strong Bond villain, the likes of which made Skyfall as great as it was. So where did it all go wrong? Waltz’s character had arguably one of the weakest and incoherent motivations for his villainous motives than any other Bond villain, void of any real personality. This Bond villain is just a remedy formed from the need to create enough action to prevent audiences from disengaging. How are audiences supposed to care about someone they don’t understand? The character on the page was ridiculously weak and one dimensional, and the character on the screen is only bearable to watch due to the fact that Waltz is a fine actor whose potential was thrown in the trash along with those long forgotten DVD copies of Quantum of Solace. When it occurred to me that the opening title sequence credited four different screenwriters for Spectre, it all began to make sense. Too many cooks spoil the broth as the saying goes. And what a way to spoil a film than by stripping a character of any real motivation and personality. No amount of action and explosions or helicopter rides can salvage that.
Even the comedic side of Bond is somewhat off. The comedic punch lines to Bond’s sassiness and defiance were met with silence and not laughter. I felt as if the comedy was being forced on me, that at one stage I had to laugh, which I did, but not for the right reasons. Credit where credit is due however for the execution of the action sequences. The opening action sequence in Mexico during the Day of the Dead set the tone for several ambitious and exciting action sequences, qualities largely absent in almost all other areas of the film’s production. Even Dave Bautista contributes well in this regard. He doesn’t speak, and nor does he need to do. He’s proven himself to be quite the Hollywood hotshot now and in a film riddled with problems, Bautista is actually a shining light, an excellent source of physical and muscular conflict to test Bond’s violent character.
Credit should also be given to the marketing team behind Spectre. They advertised a film that looked to have such a Bond worthy narrative at its core with a sense of mystery which drove audiences like myself to the cinema. Where they deserve credit, commiserations must be granted to the filmmakers, writers and producers for delivering a product with a flat, overstretched narrative that romped on towards a trope filled finale which emulated the disappointment of the entire film. Even the character of Bond himself is tiresome. It is difficult to be content with his womanising when there has been little else to uphold by engagement with the narrative whilst he wines and dines women at his convenience. The mystery element of the film, arguably its unique selling point leads to revelation which led to a thought in my head which can only be described as ‘is that it?’ The point of a mystery is to provide audiences with a revelation intended to shock and awe them into extended engagement. I wasn’t left shocked and awed, but rather bored and frustrated. The narrative falls into the trap of being nothing more than a soap opera flavour of the weak scenario, and proves to be nothing more than a cash cow, which is the only thing the film really succeeded in based on its recording breaking box office returns so far.
When the title sequence rolled I remembered all of which I loved about Bond and all that I missed about it, and why I was excited to be watching Spectre. To my utter disappointment, Spectre proved to be just another blockbuster with no brains. What is so frustrating is the fact that this film will succeed immensely despite being so flat and void of quality. The desire to execute anything ambitious seems to have disappeared, buried beneath the millions of box office dollars it is amassing as this review is being written. But then again, in a capitalist intensive industry like film, why should a film like Spectre bother being ambitious in an industry which measures it success in box office statistics as opposed to real cinematic quality and merit. Underneath the sound of all those explosions and gun fights, you can just about make out the distant sound of audiences like myself asking “where did it all go wrong?”
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