Omar: 4.0 out of 5

It has been a little over one month since my last review, I swear that wasn’t intentional! Every week I’d plan to write a review only to find myself putting it off for some reason or another (mainly law school). Now that I’ve finished writing my first law school final I am back to hit you with a Spectre review! I am a huge fan of the 007 series, specifically I am a huge fan of Daniel Craig‘s take on James Bond. I’ll be honest, Spectre wasn’t my favorite movie in the series but it wasn’t terrible by any means. Spectre is also one of those films that is worth the price of admission and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend you watch it in theaters.

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Spectre is the twenty-fourth film in the James Bond series, the second directed by Sam Mendes, and the fourth starring Daniel Craig as the main man. That’s quite a bit of 007! Just to make it clear, I have NOT watched all of the previous movies or read the books, I apologize if that offends you. I have watched pretty much all the classic films in the series though. I wasn’t as big a fan of the series before the Daniel Craig era because I grew up watching Pierce Brosnan as a kid and his Bond movies were too ridiculous and comic-like  for my taste. Craig came on the scene at the perfect time when I was old enough to appreciate a more dark and brooding character and storyline. I won’t waste time going too deep into it but Casino Royale (2006) hooked me completely, I enjoyed Quantum of Solace (2008) when factoring in the circumstances surrounding the movie, and I absolutely loved everything about Skyfall (2012). I had extremely high expectations going into Spectre because Skyfall was one of my favorite films of 2012 and Sam Mendes was returning to direct. The additions of Christoph Waltz, Lea Seydoux, and Andrew Scott also had me counting down the days until I could rush into theaters. These new additions didn’t collectively disappoint but they didn’t exactly hit a grand slam either.

As always, I’ll begin with the positives. Spectre is a gorgeous movie. You might think that this isn’t saying much because all four of the last Bond movies have been gorgeous but this movie might just be the prettiest one yet. I was enamored with the cinematography, locations, set-pieces, etc. in Skyfall and I didn’t think Spectre had a chance of topping it. Whether Spectre actual tops Skyfall is subjective but I think at the very least the films are even in this regard. One of the fun things about these movies is that they have specific elements that you look forward to seeing in every movie like when the Bond girl will show up, the opening song, when Bond will say “Shaken, not stirred”, and the opening sequence. There have been many great opening sequences but the one in this film was the coolest and most gorgeous one to date. Maybe I’m biased because dia de los muertos is a part of my culture and I have an obsession with tracking shots but that scene was jaw-dropping from a technical standpoint. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve gone back to watch True Detective‘s stunning tracking shot in season 1 episode 4 and the same is probably going to happen once this film’s opening sequence is on Youtube or I buy the blu-ray. While Mexico City highlights one of the film’s more colorfully eye-pleasing moments, the scene at the Spectre meeting in Rome highlights a different type of beauty. The scene in Rome is gorgeous for its use of shadows, silence, and pauses to create what is likely the film’s most menacing and tense moments. In typical Bond fashion, the cars, locations, and clothing were all beautiful. You get the picture, this is a good looking film.

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The second thing I liked about the film was the script. I wouldn’t say this was a masterpiece script but it was fitting for what it was. Bond was suave and confident under pressure as ever and there was more than enough witty banter to go around. Waltz was clever and cruel, Seydoux was funny and alluring, and Scott was as big a jerk as always. I also want to sprinkle a little praise onto Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris, and Ben Whishaw, all of whom were dynamic in their roles. One of the things I hate is when a film focuses too much on developing one or two characters and leaves the side characters feeling flat. Again, the script won’t be winning any Oscars but it was solid.

I’ll give some brief praise for the film’s score. During my very short time double majoring in film sound was always one of my worst subjects. I can’t recall exactly why but I definitely didn’t do those sound chapter readings. Anyway, this movie has an awesome score. It’d be kind of hard to mess this up when the series has such iconic sounds. Think of Star Wars, just recycle those classic Star Wars sounds in the new movies and your job is done. As for the opening song, Sam Smith is no Adele but I enjoyed his rendition.

Onto the action sequences, you can’t review a 007 film without talking about the action. As you might expect, this movie had spectacular sequences! From the opening scene in Mexico to the car chase in Rome to the plane scene in Austria, this is a movie that is worth watching on the big screen.  I like to compare this movie to The Dark Knight Rises (2012) in that it is such a grand movie that you just enjoy it more watching it at least once in theaters with a large screen and great sound system.

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Now for the bad stuff, I’ll carry my Batman comparison a bit further to explain how this movie fell short. At this point I hope we’ve all watched The Dark Knight (2009) and The Dark Knight Rises (2012). I think most people would agree that the former was a near perfect movie (for a comic book movie). TDK introduced Batman’s most iconic enemy in The Joker, had the series’ best acting performance (Heath Ledger), had a fantastic story, and had very few, if any, plot holes that broke immersion. Fast forward to TDKR and we have another great and authentic comic book film with all the series staples. That being said, Bane (Tom Hardy) was never going to be as compelling as The Joker, the story wasn’t as good, and there were many plot holes and moments where you had to consciously suspend your disbelief to enjoy what was going on. In the context of the recent Bond series, Skyfall was my Dark Knight and Spectre was my Dark Knight Rises. This isn’t a perfect analogy because Skyfall certainly had some notable plot holes but they never truly broke my immersion. There were many moments in Spectre where I had to make a real effort to not let a wild action sequence, random sex scene, weird character motivation, etc. break my level of immersion. Specifically (but not too specifically for spoilers sakes), Blofeld’s motivation and Madeleine Swann’s relationship with 007 were highly unconvincing. I wasn’t as upset with the outcome as I was with the way the film got there. The way Swann and Bond developed really cheapened the authentic feeling of Bond’s relationship with Vesper (Eva Green). The results were fine if I look back at them in a vacuum but in the larger context of the film they weren’t convincing enough for me to feel entirely happy with them.

I want to talk specifically about Christoph Waltz now. Waltz is one of my favorite currently active actors. In fact, I like him more than every other actor/actress in Spectre. Christoph Waltz’s name is usually enough to get me to the theater and usually I come out with no regrets. Spectre is guilty of criminally underusing one of the best actors in Hollywood! IT’S CRIMINAL I SAY!! It’s my understanding that Blofeld (Waltz) is supposed to be Bond’s foil, the Joker to his Batman. If that’s actually the case then I think the writers missed a big opportunity with Waltz. I feel that Javier Bardem did a much better job of being Bond’s foil than Waltz did. Bardem was intelligent, physically imposing, flamboyant, and everything you could hope for in a Bond villain. I don’t want to give anything away but Blofeld’s motivations were pretty lame. Hell, even Dave Batista was a more menacing villain! There was one moment when Blofeld finally posed a real threat to Bond, one moment that had me on the edge of my seat, only for it to end in disappointment with another plot hole. Spectre (the organization) was shrouded in mystery and menace for the first three movies, an organization that moved in the shadows and had seemingly limitless power. When this movie revealed the inner workings of the organization it felt like your mom came in and turned the lights on when you were telling a scary story and the whole thing lost much of its bite.

This movie was great for many reasons beyond what I listed above and I definitely recommend watching it while it’s still in theaters but if you go in expecting to be blown away you’ll probably leave a bit underwhelmed. This movie seemed like a return to the older style of Bond film where things were less realistic and a tad more on the ridiculous side. That’s not necessarily a bad thing but it marks a difference in style from the rest of the films in Daniel Craig’s run. I had heard criticism that Craig’s movies were too much like regular spy movies and had lost the flair and wonkiness that were in previous entries into the series but I was a fan of the more serious and brooding style. Maybe that explains why I wasn’t as thrilled with Spectre as I was with Skyfall. All that being said, watch this movie.

 

 

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