“I always knew death would wear a familiar face… but not yours.”
Nutshell: Wham, bam, thank you…James. A one-explosion-after-the-other film that will have you dazzled. But perhaps not on the edge of your seat. Blame that on a formulaic plot and one too many climaxes as the film winds up. Come for the FX and the dazzling, comfortable way Daniel Craig now slips into 007. But don’t expect more than the usual spy film cliches. Grade: B-
Before: Sam Smith is singing the opening number! There’s a Day of the Dead sequence! The studio sure knows how to amp up the excitement for this new installment of the Bond franchise. I did enjoy Casino Royale and Skyfall. Alrighty. I’m all in.
During: Now that’s the way to start off a bond film! Though the opening credits scene is hentai-wonderland — tentacles! All is tentacles! — Sam Smith’s “Writing’s on the Wall” is lush, gorgeous and everything you’d want in a Bond opening number. I’ma need that single. But why am I not getting sucked in? Granted, I feel like crap (perhaps I should have pitched those taco fixins from yesterday, rather than having them for breakfast) but movies tend to drag me in so completely that I can forget about my owies for a bit. Spectre, however? It feels like one paint-by-numbers scene after the other.
Granted, Craig, Ralp Finnes (as M), Naomie Harris (Moneypenny) and Ben Whishaw (Q) are a fun gang to watch, with their believable work-gang chemistry. And it’s always fun to see Andrew Scott do a riff on his Sherlock Moriarty better-than-thou priggishness. But I’m not invested. The gorgeous scenery, spectacular stunts, and cute quips just aren’t doing it for me. Maybe I need a re-watch when my body is less growly?
After: No. No re-watch needed. Okay, I’d totally see this again when it hits Netflix. But I know why I wasn’t pulled into Spectre even though it looked spectacular (Spectre-tacular?) It’s the same reason I never got into the pre-Craig Bond. The storytelling is too sloppy. It’s as if the screenwriters had a Scripts Against Humanity* deck tossed it up in the air, randomly grabbed “Spy Trope” cards, and then slapped ’em into a script.
The pieces are exemplary, but the whole doesn’t come together. In fact, some of the transitions are so abrupt I wondered if they were still fixing things in post before the big release. The lighting was a bit iffy too, especially in the scene where Christoph Waltz’s baddie Oberhauser finally gets down to dirty business. The bright white light was so blindingly intense, I had to close my eyes for a few minutes ’til things adjusted for me. That’s a first. And it sucked that I had to visually check out for several minutes of The Big Reveal. (No, Waltz doesn’t say “I expect you to die!” But he does a fantastic job [SPOILER ALERT] fluffy white kitty and all.
tl:dr? Spectre is a hoot and holler, but don’t expect to get swept away like you did with Casino Royale or Skyfall. Just lie back and watch all that beautiful destruction.
*Dear Hollywood Bigshots: please feel free to create a Scripts Against Humanity deck. Most of you seem to use a makeshift one anyway. Just credit dear little Atomic when you pass them out at your next moviemakers cabal.