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Non-Review Review: Spectre

Second acts are always tough.

This is very much the case with Spectre, whether in terms of the film itself and its relationship with Skyfall. Despite the considerable backlash that Skyfall has generated since its release – an inevitability in this era of hype – it remains one of the best-loved and best-received James Bond films. It makes sense for the follow-up to try to capitalise on that success, in much the same way that Tomorrow Never Dies attempted to up the ante from GoldenEye and that Quantum of Solace attempted to build upon Casino Royale.

Spectre will suffer in the inevitable comparisons to Skyfall. The film doesn’t have the same clarity of purpose, revisits a few too many of the same things, and lacks the sheer beauty of Roger Deakins’ cinematography. Any direct comparisons between the two films will see Spectre coming up short. This is a shame as, taken on its own merits, Spectre is a remarkably successful James Bond film. Indeed, with three out of his four films firmly in the “hit” category, Daniel Craig assures his place as a James Bond for the ages.

Spectre is perhaps a little over-extended and gets a little lost in its own extended middle section. It perhaps falls a little too heavily into the “origin story” territory teased by Skyfall. However, it is stylish and confident, with charisma to spare. Spectre retains the energy and verve of its predecessor, capitalising on a script that knows what it wants to be about and perhaps the franchise’s most artful director. Spectre is one of the better Bond films, but it suffers from having to follow one of the very best.

A nice ring to it...

A nice ring to it…

Watching Skyfall, it felt like director Sam Mendes and his team of screenwriters were conspiring to render redundant the idea of a Bond film directed by Christopher Nolan. Skyfall drew blatantly on the approach that Christopher Nolan had taken to his Batman films, focusing on the psychological vulnerability of the central character while emphasising his status as an orphan. Ignoring a skyscraper action sequence that evoked Batman’s sojourn to Hong Kong, Skyfall gave Bond his own ageing man servant in a country manor with a cave system under it.

Spectre retains that influence. This is apparent in some of the set pieces, as a confrontation with a henchman on a train in the middle section of the film borrows one of the shrewder stunt pieces from the climactic fist fight in The Dark Knight. However, the screenwriting team seem to have adapted the literalism that Christopher Nolan brought to blockbuster cinema with The Dark Knight. In the wake of his Batman trilogy, it seems like every half-intelligent big-budget action film is obliged to clearly articulate its themes through dialogue.

“There is one more way to kill a man…”

Skyfall was packed full of that sort of dialogue, culminating in a sequence of Judi Dench reciting Tennyson against the backdrop of a major terrorist attack upon London. Here, much is made of the relationship that Bond has to his own past, and the idea that he might be a mirror image of the film’s antagonist. These have been recurring themes of Bond films (and action films in general) for decades, but never has the script been so clear and forceful in articulating them.

(The mirror imagery is particularly blatant. Mirrors recur throughout Spectre, almost always with thematic importance. At one point, Bond discovers that a mirror is actually a doorway through which he must step to advance upon his journey. At another point, Bond confront his opponent across a sheet of glass; with the assistance of computer-generated special effects, the faces of the two characters overlap in their reflections. Spectre never offers any of the “we’re basically the same” rhetoric of Skyfall, but it is heavily implied.)

A cold killer...

A cold killer…

What is most striking – and most interesting – about Spectre is the aesthetic. Spectre is being released the week before Halloween, which makes a great deal of sense from an economic perspective. Ignoring the lure of an eight-day opening weekend in the United Kingdom, it also overlaps with school holidays. However, there has never been a Bond film more clearly suited to a late October release date. In some respects, Spectre teases the idea of the Bond film as an existential horror story.

The teaser takes place during the Mexican “Day of the Dead”, setting up a recurring theme. Bond is targeting a subject for assassination. In the first of the film’s countless examples of mirroring, both Bond and his target wear the same skeleton mask; Bond just wears a black suit while his target wears a white suit. When his journey brings him face-to-face with an old friend, that old friend refers to himself and Bond as “two dead men.” Discussing an early elimination, Bond’s antagonist muses, “In the space between life and death, he was already gone.”

Skull and bones...

Skull and bones…

Mendes’ direction puts an emphasis on the little horror flourishes. The opening title sequence feels almost Lovecraftian with its focus on octopus tentacles. When Bond crashes a secret meeting, it resembles a meeting of a cult more than the criminal cabals of the sixties Bond films. Ravens fly through a seemingly empty cabin. Later, those same ravens eagerly feast upon a corpse. In the wake of a horrific car accident, the camera lingers on a body that should – by all rights – be dead; inevitably, it twitches.

There is something decidedly “other” about the enemy that sits at the heart of Spectre. There are echoes of the existential horror of True Detective reverberating through the film. At one point, Bond is instructed to find “the Pale King”; it turns out to be the poetic nickname of a familiar character, but it evokes Robert Chambers’ The King in Yellow. Asked why he would betray the eponymous criminal enterprise, one haggard character speaks of the horrors inflicted upon women and children.

Scott free...

Scott free…

The climax of Spectre finds Bond stalking through a wasteland that resembles the Carcossa featured at the climax of the first season of True Detective, with red string and graffiti stranding in for tree branches and macabre sculptures. The antagonists of Spectre seems almost otherworldly. “You’ve crossed my path so many times,” the baddie boasts. “And yet you never saw me.” Encountering a bunch of goons from the eponymous organisation, Madeleine Swann wonders, “Don’t you people speak?”

Sitting at the head of a long table, the baddie does not even reach for the microphone himself. Shot in shadows, the first half of the film seems to suggest that the baddie is nothing more than a puppet for some more primal force or entity. When Bond decides to pursue his investigation to the secretive cartel at the heart of the film, he is advised that he is “crossing over into a world without mercy.” A new intelligence agency is described as “the world’s digital ghost.” It is a very unique tone for a James Bond film, despite the familiar scale and spectacle around it.

Waltzing along...

Waltzing along…

Thomas Newman’s soundtrack only enhances this atmosphere. The soundtrack for Spectre feels more operatic than most Bond films, with Newman eagerly employing choral sounds to provide a soundscape that feels at once familiar and unique. Spectre is every bit as classy and expensive as its predecessor, but its first hour feels just a little bit uncanny and unsettling. Never has the use of the octopus as the symbol of the Special Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion seemed more appropriate.

This approach makes a great deal of sense, and does help to distinguish Spectre from Skyfall. In many ways, Skyfall was a very typical and archetypal Bond film; it was perhaps the purest Bond film since Tomorrow Never Dies. the success of Skyfall means that Spectre retains a lot of the aesthetic of its direct predecessor, but Sam Mendes and his screenwriters do offer the film a unique flavour. Spectre is not as distinctive as Licence to Kill or Casino Royale, but it does feel distinct in a way that Quantum of Solace did not.

The thrill is in the chase...

The thrill is in the chase…

That said, Spectre‘s stylistic tendencies can overwhelm it at points. The plot to Spectre is largely operatic, with a lot of heightened emotional stakes and personal connections. There are points at which it seems like James Bond must exist in a world inhabited by about two dozen people. Spectre places considerable emphasis on the personal history of its central character, digging into the past of the franchise’s primary character. “The dead are alive,” the film promises in its opening moments, and Bond is haunted by those dead.

There are a lot of contrivances necessary to justify the internal logic of Spectre. It seems trite to complain about suspension of disbelief in a Bond film, but the nature of Bond’s connection to this particular case feels particularly forced. There are moments at which it feels like the back story for Spectre might have been appropriated from an Austin Powers film, which feels like a rather surreal sentiment given the vocal minority of fans who complain that the Daniel Craig films are simply “no fun.”

Trigger warning.

Trigger warning.

There is a pulpy giddy thrill to these soap opera twists as Mendes and his writers peel back the layers on Bond. James Bond has spent more than half-a-century as a blank canvass, so there is a novelty to looking underneath the hood and digging into his back story and motivations. Given the success that Skyfall enjoyed while poking around its central character’s history, it seemed inevitable that Spectre would continue in that direction and reveal even more about who James Bond is and where he came from.

The clunkiest aspects of Spectre are those that feel like cliché origin story beats – not only for James Bond, but also for the mysterious antagonist sitting at the heart of the film. There are points at which Spectre seems to be running through a check list of familiar villain clichés. For all that the film carries the influence of Christopher Nolan, it stops just short of the sort of comic book logic so expertly codified by the relationship between Batman and the Joker in Tim Burton’s Batman. There is something just a little bit too fan-service-y about all this.

“Dammit. A bulb’s gone again.”

Ian Fleming originally constructed James Bond as a one-dimensional cypher, not too far removed from the original version of Sherlock Holmes who appeared in the works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Characterisation was often inferred by the reader rather than explicitly articulated by the writer. A lot of what made Sean Connery or Roger Moore’s take on the character so fascinating existing as subtext rather than text. When the films added depth to the versions played by Timothy Dalton or Pierce Brosnan, they did so with reference to the character as he is rather than by reference to the distant past.

The fascination on the history and origin of James Bond in Skyfall and Spectre (and arguably Casino Royale) reflects a broader trend in popular culture of humanising characters who tended towards archetypes. This can be seen in the many different iterations of Sherlock Holmes to appear across the big and small screens over the past few years. (The same is true of icons like Batman or Superman.) It seems inevitable that James Bond should be developed and humanised, simply as part of the larger aesthetic trends of the twenty-first century.

The baddies are amassing.

The baddies are amassing.

It is, of course, highly debatable whether this trend is really a good thing. After all, Pan suffered from trying to impose an origin story structure upon the magical world of J.M. Barrie. There is a sense that both Skyfall and Spectre run the risk of stripping away what made Bond so fascinating in the first place. Bond’s personal history is arguably more interesting when the audience doesn’t know it, and when he share it. Still, while Skyfall and Spectre might feel a little heavy-handed in their explorations of the character, they could be a lot clumsier.

“I am the author of all your sorrows,” the villain boasts at one point, and Spectre suggests that the audience is meant to take him seriously. Spectre eagerly ties its opponent into the byzantine and varied schemes of the last three films, with Bond’s latest antagonist taking credit for virtually everything that has happened since Casino Royale. While some of this makes sense, it also feels like a cheap way to build up a threat. Spectre doesn’t have to establish its baddie as a credible entity, because it can coast on the hard work done by Le Chiffre or Silva.

Just Swann-ing in like that...

Just Swann-ing in like that…

Quite a lot of the sequences featuring Christoph Waltz as the central villain feel indulgent and self-congratulatory. There is a sense that Spectre over-explains its antagonist, layering more and more incongruous and distracting details on top of one another because that is what the audience has come to expect. Waltz is a great actor, but the film never offers him a character to play; instead, it seems like Waltz has been handed a mass of continuity and references while being instructed to fashion them into a credible antagonist.

Skyfall was able to get away with its nostalgia because of the anniversary. It is not every day that a major global franchise reaches half-a-century, so fans and critics will indulge a little reminiscence and affection. Spectre never makes as big a deal of its continuity and history as Skyfall, but it remains just as fixated upon the past. “It has been a long time, James,” the antagonist at the heart of Spectre teases when he first crosses paths with our hero. “What took you so long, cuckoo?”

White out...

White out…

Indeed, Bond’s investigation into his adversary quickly turns into an excavation. Various set pieces and locations from Spectre serves as connections to the franchise’s rich history. The teaser features a helicopter stunt that competes with For Your Eyes Only. The Christopher Nolan references become reflexive when Bond’s journey takes him to an isolated snowbound clinic like the one featured in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Although the film never offers a volcano lair like the one from You Only Live Twice, it comes close.

There is something very fun about all this. In its own way, Spectre features more stereotypical James Bond locations than even Skyfall did. While Skyfall allowed its antagonist to set up shop on an abandoned island near Hong Kong, the film drifted away from that unique location quite quickly. In contrast, Spectre runs through archetypal James Bond location after archetypal James Bond location. A Latin American celebration like Moonraker! A mountain top retreat like On Her Majesty’s Secret Service! A secret sixties-style base! A villain who collects novelties!

There is a certain thrill in watching Spectre continue the re-appropriation of archetypal “James Bond” story beats that began with Skyfall. When Bond and Madeleine pay a visit to a mysterious location in the Tunisian desert, they are collected by a chaffeur driving a Rolls Royce. They are escorted to a headquarters that feels like it could have been lifted from a Sean Connery film. In true Bond villain fashion, they are afforded full hospitality by their captors, with the design of their rooms evoking the third act of Dr. No.

When the time comes to torture Bond, the film’s antagonist does not opt for half-measures. There is none of the half-hearted improvisation that marked La Chiffre’s efforts in Casino Royale; instead there is a ridiculously overly elaborate torture mechanism that seems whole impractical in any context beyond this one particular scene. Spectre feels like a conscious attempt to reincorporate all those classic (and ridiculous) James Bond signifiers into the film series. Nobody will mistake Spectre for a riff on Jason Bourne, as was a criticism of the earliest Craig films.

It feels appropriate, then, that the antagonist’s grand over-elaborate torture of Bond hinges on the idea of memory. As one might expect for a film called Spectre, a title harking back to the earliest films in the franchise’s long history, memory and continuity are very important. Spectre is very much about going back, not only through the history of the three prior Daniel Craig films, but also back to the earliest Sean Connery adventures. Familiar characters and references abound, as do set-ups and scenarios.

There are points at which all this self-reference could seem indulgent or distracting. Certainly, a lot of the details around the film’s antagonist feel like references to the franchise’s history that exist solely so the film can make reference to the franchise’s past. Spectre is never smothered under this mess of continuity and history, but there are points at which the film seems to strain and groan. There is a very fine line to be walked, and Spectre (mostly) manages to walk it quite well.

We all wear masks...

We all wear masks…

Spectre meditates upon its own fascination with the past. Taking Bond on a tour of her family’s favourite locations, Madeleine Swann recalls her father’s affection for a creepy old hotel in Tangier. “He kept coming back here,” Madeleine admits. “Even after the divorce.” It seems like a sentiment with which Spectre might agree, as it seems like the Bond franchise is drawn by its own gravity towards the same iconic images and the same iconic routines. There is a safety in the nostalgia of the Bond franchise.

This is also reflected in the debates about the relevance of the Bond franchise. As in Skyfall, the “double-oh” programme finds itself under siege. This time, creepy government stooge Max Denbigh is plotting to replace all those agents in the field with drone strikes and surveillance culture. It is a plot beat that feels a little worn at this point. The James Bond franchise already contemplated its own relevance in films like GoldenEye, Casino Royale and Skyfall. Given the success of Skyfall, it seems a bit trite to return to the question of “is Bond outdated?” quite so soon.

Sitting it out...

Sitting it out…

Indeed, this whole subplot featuring Max Denbigh is perhaps the only aspect of Spectre that does not work on any level. While the other problems with the film are all qualified, executed with enough flare that they don’t bother too much. The decision to make Bond’s relevance such a central plot point feels ill-judged. Skyfall proved that Bond is as relevant as he has ever been, so addressing the same questions in Spectre feels like covering familiar ground. Given that Spectre runs for two-and-a-half hours, there is no excuse.

At the same time, Spectre does mirror Skyfall in some very clever ways. The climax of Skyfall has become a stick with which critics might attack the film, deriding it as a tribute to Home Alone. However, Spectre does not back away from that memorable and distinctive climax. In some ways, the climax to Spectre is constructed as a mirror image to Skyfall. It is a climax that hinges on Bond coming home, in a certain manner of speaking. It offers an emotional pay-off to the rest of the film.

Kiss me deadly...

Kiss me deadly…

Spectre largely works. It does not work as well as Skyfall did, but that is not a fatal flaw. Skyfall was one of the best Bond films ever produced, so it was always going to be a tough act to follow. Spectre is entertaining and engaging, fun and fascinating. It has some problems, but it also has a lot of the skill and technique that made Skyfall such an effective film in the first place.

17 Responses

  1. Wow sen, I haven’t even seen a trailer for this and already you have a review. Where do I live.

  2. I feel bald for Waltz. Well, not really, he’s a household name. But I recall an interview, back when “Basterds” came out. You can probably still find it, he opens by rambling about how much he loves English words, like ‘Smithereens”.

    Anyway, the vibe I got from it was he dropped out of acting because he was tired of playing one-note villains in three-act movies.

    So he finally gets handed one sympathetic character to play — Dr. King Schulz — sandwiched between a Nazi, Cardinal Richelieu and a crazy evil ringmaster.

  3. ” Batman and the Joker in Tim Burton’s Batman.”

    As soon as I heard the words “ski instructor” I just slouched in my chair, defeated.

    “it can coast on the hard work done by Le Chiffre or Silva.”

    Feels like they missed the boat. I don’t know if you remember, but “Casino Royale” set up the syndicate very well. I love the book-end reveals of Mr. White. Okay, so they’re Caucasian terrorists who play the stock market. Not the most original of bad guys. But it was handled better than, say, the Mandarin in Iron Man, whose endgame was to “own the War on Terror”, whatever that means.

    I see that even Darren “But That Isn’t Necessarily A bad Thing” Mooney had trouble coming up with positives for “Quantum of Solace”! The real sin of the movie, what melts my brain to thisd ay, is how it wasted the momentum from Casino Royale. The studio filmed it without a completed script, trusting in Bond’s loyal fanbase and endless sequels to pad out the myth arc. (this reminds me of game publishers who release half-finished games only to “patch” them later… for a price). Marc Foster was a bit naive to shoehorn in his social justice platform — which I sympathize with — into an orgy of commercialism, which is essentially what Bond is. “Skyfall” did away with the myth arc entirely, and many of us fans agreed that was the way to go.

    But here we are. Dredging up Spectre it fits and starts again…

    • I’m fonder of Quantum of Solace than most, but I don’t think it works as a movie. There are little bits that I like, though. As with anything – I should get “… but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing” added to my business cards. Also, I need to get business cards.

      There’s a whole host of stuff in Spectre that I want to talk about, but can’t due to etiquette, and I think you get at the bigger ones. I might do a spoiler review after the U.S. release, although I think most of my thoughts are discernible from the review as published.

  4. Haven’t seen the movie yet, but this seems to line up pretty well with the rumors and spoilers I’d heard. In no particular order;

    1) Yes, the villain’s connection to Bond, if it’s what’s been rumored, definitely reeked of Austin Powers from the first I heard it (to the point that I can’t believe nobody in the writers’ room pointed it out or thought it was a good idea). And the link not just to the first two of Craig’s films (which would’ve made sense as it was clearly the same organization) but all three of them made me think of the flashback sequence with the egg in Puss In Boots.

    2) It’s not that the trend in humanizing characters is itself a bad thing, but they’ve got to know when to stop. I liked watching Bond become a 00, learn to be less of a “blunt instrument,” and get a reason not to get too close to a woman. Did we really need to see him go back to his childhood home and fight bad guys with his father’s gun before escaping through the same tunnel where he hid as a child when his parents died?

    3) Not sure how I feel about the nearly supernatural take on SPECTRE you’re describing here – I liked the villain they were setting up in Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace, felt like it fit the “less campy, more gritty” era of Craig. On the other hand, the Bond franchise does over-the-top villainy better than most.

    4) I wanted Waltz in the Bond franchise, but after seeing him in Django, I thought he’d be better as a Colorful Local Ally (in the vein of Kerim Bey, Tiger Tanaka, Columbo or Zukhovsky) than a villain. Though I still trust he’d make a perfectly good villain.

    • 1.) Yep. It’s the links to Skyfall that stand out, because Skyfall makes no reference to QUANTUM or SPECTRE and was definitely written with Silva existing as a free agent. The connections to Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace make sense, but neither was the massive breakout hit that Skyfall was, so it gets tethered to Skyfall as well. Which undercuts Skyfall and just makes the villain here seem like he’s really just being propped up by a previous successful film.

      2.) I like Bond as a cypher. I’m less comfortable with the “everything needs an origin story” trend in modern movies. Without spoiling the film, there is a particular piece of iconography as it relates to the villain that I really thought was gratuitous and unnecessary in an effort to connect Bond and the antagonist. I think you’ll know what I’m talking about when you see it. I really just wish we got an “I do have a life outside of you, James!” line or moment or something.

      3.) I may be overstating it somewhat. SPECTRE is still a gritty villain involved in prostitution and drugs because this is the 00s, dammit; but there are definitely more occultish overtones to them then there were in the Connery era. A lot of that is down to how Mendes stages his sequences. The “evil boardroom” scene looks more like a meeting of Masons than a corporate interest. The scene where a villain survives an improbable injury could have easily come from the Roger Moore era, but is shot like a horror film. The use of images like mirrors and ravens, coupled with references to death and ghosts, add a layer of metaphorical horror to the story that reminded me of True Detective. I’m curious to see what you make of it. (Although, even without that stuff, we’re well out of “less campy, more gritty” territory with production design evoking On Her Majesty’s Secret Service or Dr. No in the film’s second half.)

      4.) I really think that Giancarlo Gianni was wonderful in the first two Craig films. I’d love Waltz in that sort of role. That said, he does play a good villain, even if his character isn’t as interesting as that of his predecessor. And the character will invite certain comparisons that will do Waltz no favours.

      • Simpsons reference! Well met, sir.

        Truthfully, I quite like the sound of “Bond vs. the Illuminati”. Who else would have the power to infiltrate M16 and toy with nations this way?

        Throw in Alex Jones as a sidekick and you have the makings of the best buddy-cop movie ever.

      • That would be great fun. Speaking of buddy comedy films, I’d actually love a Bond film that sent Ben Wishaw’s Q properly into the field. There’s a taste of it in Spectre, and I want more.

      • Well, now that I’ve seen it… Yes, the Austin Powers twist is a catastrophe. It belongs alongside the invisible car, Denise Richards as a nuclear scientist, the Roger-Moore-as-Tarzan moment, etc. And frankly, I maintain that there was no need to bring back either Blofeld or SPECTRE. The franchise got along fine without them for forty years plus. The CR/QOS “spiritual successor to SPECTRE” approach would’ve worked just as well.

        Having gotten the obligatory bitching out of the way… I was surprised how much I still managed to enjoy the movie, and especially the first half. The “occultish overtones” fit very, very well. It’s in the same vein as classic villains like Kananga and Doctor No who cultivated a supernatural aura, and the mystique of the original SPECTRE, where Blofeld was heard but not seen and simply being in a room with him was risking death. (Also not as odd as it sounds – fraternities and secret societies often do cultivate that kind of mystique and ritual in real life. Sometimes it’s silly associations like college fraternities, Skull And Bones, but sometimes it’s deadly serious, like the Ku Klux Klan). If they were trying to recapture the menacing atmosphere of the classic era before Bond villains had turned into cliches, I think they did a good job.

      • I really loved the occultish stuff. Very macabre, less exploitation-y than Dr. No or Live and Let Die, I think, which is maybe why I didn’t make a strong connection until you pointed it out.

        The twist stuff is so heavy-handed. Since we’re in the comments, I really dislike that the movie gave Blofeld an origin story for his scar that tied back to James. Why can’t Blofeld have a life outside James Bond? Surely that makes him scarier, because it means he doesn’t get defeated in EVERYTHING that he does.

      • I think the problem is that the filmmakers, despite a lot of audience skepticism, absolutely knocked the ball out of the park with Casino Royale. And because it worked so well, they’ve been trying to repeat it ever since. Quantum of Solace basically stretched CR’s plot points of “heartbreak over Vesper” and “MI6 needs to know they can trust this new agent” over another movie (it’s most justifiable there because it’s a direct sequel). Then Skyfall and Spectre returned to the origin story well again, but this time plumbing his childhood instead of his beginnings in the service.

        I don’t remember if this was one of your reviews, but I remember reading a comment on superhero movies that said the writers love origin stories because they’re the only ones that allow you to have a clear character arc. Something like that apparently is at work in Bond, where even four movies in, they’re still giving everything an origin story.

  5. I liked Skyfall but it is always struck me as a film that gets past huge cracks in plausibility (even by Bond standards) with sheer beauty. I don’t care how brilliant Silva supposedly was, he was not a sorceror and some aspects of the film required what is basically magic.

    Anyway I think in some respects Spectre is the superior film even if it can’t match the highs of Skyfall.

    Has Andrew Scott played many English characters? His Irish accent always threated to break through (and did so on several occassion) but Denbigh seems written as ultra-English (Whitehall mandarin, school with the Home Secretary…)

    • I have little experience of Andrew Scott outside this, Sherlock and some Irish films. He tends to go to the Michael Fassbender school of accents, from what I’ve seen of him. “The real enemy’s out there, bud.”

      I actually don’t mind Silva being basically magic. The same is true of Ledger’s Joker, who was very much an inspiration on the character. I tend to like cartoonish bordering on magic villains if the performance and the film around them is strong enough. I think I’d be more forgiving of Spectre’s antagonist if they didn’t strain so hard to tie him to Skyfall. I’d probably buy him as a greater threat if the film were willing to have let him take that film off, like Blofeld seemed to do with Goldfinger. There must be more than one evil organisation in the world, after all.

  6. Had a few issues with the movie around pacing and the comments on Spectre and Quantum seem to cheapen it further. It’s hard to look past the idea that Sam Mendes seems to have been lured back only on the promise of using Spectre again, itself only available after decades of legal wrangling over the name and image resolved itself. That coupled with the ill fitting and forced connecting all the Craig films is wearing thin at this stage. I always liked the idea of separate Bond movies with some clever connections, but forcing it doesn’t seem to work as well. It ends up like a season of 24 where the bad guy is actually controlled by another bad guy, who himself is controlled by another one!
    In itself, I liked the last third of the movie as it gleefully rollicked along as it pleased. The middle could have been just cut, had no purpose.

    • Strange. I actually really loved the first third, if only because it was a very different sort of Bond film, at least in tone if not in plot.

      I didn’t mind the connections to Casino Royale or Quantum of Solace, as it seems quite clear that Q.U.A.N.T.U.M. was invisaged as a twenty-first century S.P.E.C.T.R.E., allowing Spectre to essentially serve as a rebranding. It’s the connections to Skyfall that were most distracting to me, given how hard Spectre worked to distance itself from Casino Royale and Quantum.

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