A Bond film seems like an impossible thing to review. After 23 previous movies, everyone knows exactly what they are getting. Everyone reading this will already have an opinion on the franchise, and whatever I say here will be from my own. Therefore, if it doesn’t align with yours, you won’t care.
So I guess this review will make most sense if you know my own opinion on the franchise as context. As a child, I thought they were great fun. They were packed full of the kinds of things you look for in a film as a kid – larger than life, easy to follow, smutty innuendo you don’t actually understand. But as I got older I, along with what seems to be a lot of people, found them weirdly cringe-worthy and like a time capsule from a previous era. It’s like when I was watching Only Fools and Horses a few months ago (I have no idea why) and Grandad used the word “half-cast” to refer to someone of mixed race. If it wasn’t bad enough that the phrase was used at all, it was actually the punch line of a joke. But I guess it was just a different, less-enlightened time, much like the Bond franchise.
But with Daniel Craig and the move away from “Bond” and towards “Bourne”, I became interested again. Given the time that’s passed and the films that have followed, it’s impossible to remember how refreshing Casino Royale was at the time. The Bond film before that was Die Another god-damned Day. If you don’t remember it, it was the one with Halle Berry and Madonna. Yeah.
I provide this context as Spectre feels more like a Pierce Brosnan Bond film than a Daniel Craig one. Three different women get seduced, in a way that makes it seem as though they had no choice in the matter. Two of them he doesn’t even seem to want to sleep with. He was only after information in one case, and HER CONVENIENTLY LOCATED ROOM in the other.
When the main character wasn’t having sex, the rest of the film revolved around expository dialogue and extended chase and fight scenes. Most of these take place in ridiculous locations. This doesn’t make it bad (apart from the never-ending car chase in Rome), just different to what I’ve come to enjoy about Bond films. Hundreds of nameless baddies, lots of explosions, a baddie who insists on spelling out his plan before carrying it out. It’s basically what I imagine Goldfinger is like, if I actually bothered to watch it again.
With that said, the film does pick up when Christoph Waltz’s character enters the fray (as is the case with most action films, the protagonist is only as good as the antagonist, and it’s only when Waltz’s Blofeld enters that it gets interesting). It’ll be interesting to see how they can top Waltz and Javier Bardem in the next film, given they’ve pretty much scaled the highest highs when it comes to villainous actors.
I will admit that my experience of the film may have been ruined by the Star Wars: The Force Awakens trailer that played before the film, which essentially left me squealing in excitement until the end of opening scene. But I left the cinema with this nagging feeling that it’s time to evolve the Bond franchise a little further again. The “name’s Bond” line kind of feels forced. As do the references to Martini’s and whether they need to be shaken and/or stirred. And the excessively-gadget-packed cars. I get why they’re there, but if feels like the writers started with “what are the little things that need to be in a Bond film” and worked backwards from there. I mean, after 24 films, would anyone really miss him saying his own name?
I guess what I’m saying is for the most part this film comes down to preference. If you like the old school style, you’ll probably love it. It is good fun, the one-liners are often funny, and the action can be edge of your seat stuff. But I couldn’t shake the feeling that it wasn’t really the film I wanted to see. It wasn’t Skyfall, basically.
Spectre Rating: 007/10 (heh) if you’re a new Bond fan, A- if you’re an old school fan, call it in the middle and we’ll go with 3.5 stars.
Spectre is out now in all cinemas everywhere. Honestly, if you go to the cinema you can’t miss it.