Spectre

Rating:

GHOST STORY

Main Cast: Daniel Craig, Christoph Waltz

Director: Sam Mendes

Hall of Mirrors Versailles by Myrabella Wikimedia Commons CC-BY-SA-3.0

I’d like something like this, but with more sparkle.

Work is continuing on Casa Maine at a breakneck pace.  So much of the house was decorated with rather drab colors and very plain lines, not the sort of backdrop that’s needed for a star of my magnitude.  I and my glamor require such basic necessities as sparkle ceilings, flocked wallpaper and acres of gold veined mirror tile in order to truly shine like a shimmering star in the cinema firmament, or at least have a great ‘a star relaxes at home’ photo shoot for People magazine. Of course all of this work means sheetrock dust everywhere, piles of new Pergo flooring to trip over when trying to ascend the grand staircase and grave difficulty finding even the most basic of items for domestic living as the moving crew seems to have mislabeled every box.  I did rescue the DeKooning portrait of me in my ball gown from the finale of my hit film Kiss Me Katherine the Great out of a box marked chafing dishes and crock pots and had Normy hang it over the fireplace.  We will have to repaint the living room to match.

The big project, of course, is the construction of the new wing which will house my staff and MNM enterprises, the umbrella company that controls my various commercial ventures which bring a little Hollywood glamor into the otherwise humdrum lives of average Americans.  The first step was getting the foundation poured.  In order to do so, we had to remove all of the little tombstones in the yard that dear Norma Desmond, the previous owner, had used as some sort of macabre garden décor.  I’d already decided we would have them broken up for use as paperweights for my MNM business lady office collection but I was unsure if there were any particular tools or protocol for this.  I had Leah, my gal Friday, call Mr. Michael, the mortician to the stars who is always handy in such situations and soon he showed up with a sledgehammer and was happily busting slabs of granite into small usable pieces.

Normy showed up curious about the noise and then decided that sledgehammers and granite were just the thing he needed as percussion accompaniment for one of his new pieces.  Pretty soon he had the whole electrical crew, who were busy installing LED chaser lights around all of the windows, swinging whatever metal implements they could find against a rapidly diminishing pile of uprooted tombstones, all in waltz time.  I left them too it, headed for the dining room where we had at least unpacked the bar, made myself a large lovely cosmopolitan in a Bennigan’s souvenir glass that had come from heaven knows where as I would never deign to eat someplace as common as that, and headed off to my lovely Chinoiserie home theater in order to relax with a film.

As the sounds of mayhem and destruction were still wafting in, I decided to choose something nice and loud with plenty of car chases and gun shots which would drown out the cacophony.  Looking at my to view pile, I saw the DVD of the most recent James Bond film, Spectre, starring Daniel Craig as the one and only 007.  Having thoroughly enjoyed Skyfall, the last entry in the long running series, I popped it in hoping for something that would again balance the action set pieces for which Bond is known with an engaging story full of character development and unexpected revelations.  I was somewhat disappointed.

Spectre is pretty much a direct continuation of the events of the previous movie, despite the three years between the two films release.  MI-6 remains a bombed out ruin.  M is still dead and replaced by a new M (Ralph Fiennes) with whom Bond does not get along very well.  Things get off to a reasonable start in a pre-credits sequence in which Bond wreaks havoc on a Day of the Dead celebration in the Zocalo in Mexico City and takes out an assassin named Sciarra who was planning to blow up a local stadium.  The new M is more concerned with the havoc then the crime that was prevented and a pouting Bond tells Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) that he went after Sciarra because of a video left him by the previous M (Judi Dench in a brief cameo).  Bond gets Moneypenny and Q (Ben Whishaw) to cover for him and is off to Rome to Sciarra’s funeral and before you can say ‘Aston Martin’, he’s busy seducing the widow, running into a shadowy criminal syndicate run by Christoph Waltz and leading a nasty goon named Hinx (Dave Bautista) on a high speed tour of the streets of Rome.  Eventually Bond ends up at a clinic in the Alps, apparently borrowed from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, hooks up with the sexy Dr. Madeline Swann, crashes an airplane, visits a fantastical secret hideout in a volcanic crater, gets tortured, heads back to London and has to save MI-6 and by extension us all from the evils of the national security state.

The biggest issue with the film is that it’s overstuffed.  It careens from one major set piece/plot point to the next without giving us any room to breathe.  The supporting players aren’t given enough time to make their marks as human beings and are little more than cardboard cutouts used to push Bond into certain actions.  Even Daniel Craig, so good in previous films, looks like he’s sleepwalking through this one.   I think the fault is in the script (which credits four writers – never a good sign).  My guess is an original character driven draft was rejected by the studio, sent out for rewrites that plugged in more spectacle and that director Sam Mendes wasn’t able to pull it all together.  The film tries to hearken back to the evil criminal organization/Blofeld films of the 60s but forgets that we no longer live in that world and so shadowy scenes of criminals gathered in council come across as merely risible.  These days they’d just skype each other.   Christoph Waltz, as the uber villain, and who has created a number of fabulously evil characters in recent years, seems oddly restrained and out of place here.  I sort of wish Mendes had let him off the leash as the second half of the film might have had some fire with his usual pyrotechnics.

Putting all of these scenes in the final cut makes the film overly long and the pacing is off.  We reach false climax after false climax and keep expecting things to reach an inevitable conclusion (Bond always triumphs) and by the time we’re blowing up the secret hideout, we’re ready for things to be over and we still have half an hour to go.  There just might be a good two-hour Bond film inside two and a half hours of bloat.  There are some things here that are worth noting.  As usual, the action sequences and stunt work is top notch.  I especially liked the car chase through the streets of Rome with all of the familiar landmarks flying by.

Daniel Craig has announced that this is his last outing as Bond and that the part will be recast for the next film.  It’s a pity he didn’t go out with Skyfall but you can’t have everything.  The new Bond has not yet been announced but top contenders include Tom Hardy, Tom Hiddleston and Theo James.  I’m just hoping that the next film, due sometime around 2020, will have a better script, give the excellent supporting cast that has been assembled something to do, and juice up the franchise in the direction of the more adult and cerebral Bond that Skyfall promised.  The franchise has survived the hokiness of Roger Moore, the deadpan delivery of Timothy Dalton and Denise Richards as a nuclear scientist so it will survive this too.  One final thing to say, it’s actually a better film than Quantum of Solace which put me to sleep both times I tried to watch it.

Upside down helicopter flying.  Plane through barn.  Gratuitous thumbs in eyeballs.  Thames riverboats.  Tiny little torture needles.  Special watch.  Multiple damsels in distress.  Fall from height.  Evil computer programs.

To learn more about Mrs. Norman Maine, see our Movie Rewind introduction, visit her entire back catalog and follow her on Twitter at https://twitter.com/missvickilester

photo by Myrabella / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-3.0

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