Since the release of its first movie Dr. No in 1962, the James Bond / 007 series stands as the longest running cinema franchise. Star Wars: The Force Awakens may be coming out this December, but Ian Fleming scoffs that it took Lucasfilms almost forty years to churn out a meager seven movies. Four generations of my family have grown up watching the adventures of James Bond, spanning Barry Nelson and Sean Connery’s era to Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig’s. A franchise so ancient, especially in today’s ever-changing landscape of Hollywood, naturally begs the question: is it still relevant?
The answer is no, Dr. No (sorry not sorry). Not only does Spectre fail to live up to the franchise’s expectations (which, let’s be real, aren’t that high), it probably won’t live up to yours either. Despite its phenomenal budget and production value, it is at best a juicy piece of eye candy, at worst a tepid attempt to keep the franchise running. In fact, in the interest of saving time, I would like to redirect you to my review of Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol because they are functionally identical, except Spectre may be even more of a disappointment because it doesn’t have Simon Pegg.
The one part of Spectre that may be worth your ticket is the opening. Featuring a lengthy sequence through Mexico City’s celebration of Dia De Los Muertos and the classic (and admittedly badass) theme, it is exciting, well executed, and literally hits the ground running. The first half is also all in one shot that – dare I say it – makes Birdman (2014) look like a cakewalk. The swooping camera magnificently captures the flawless stuntwork and stunning parade, and it does a great job of getting your adrenaline pumping. It also cuts to various scenes from the trilogy of Bond films that preceded it. While this does feel rather gimmicky, it does a decent job of recapping the running plotline, if only because director Sam Mendes knew he had to tap into James Bond’s existing fanbase.
Unfortunately, the rest of Spectre is criminally generic. Supercars? Check. Supermodels? Check. Multinational and vaguely sinister terrorist organization? Check. Enough bullets for Sylvester Stallone to throw a Fourth of July celebration? Enough explosions to fuel Michael Bay’s wildest dreams? Enough plot twists to put M. Night Shyamalan to shame? Check, check check. I could go on, but suffice to say that if the audience showed up with action movie bingo boards, everybody would win in twenty minutes.
The acting is no better. I’ve always wondered why Daniel Craig isn’t in any notable non-Bond movies. That is, excluding two movies from 2011: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, which is based on an exceptional novel and attached to an exceptional director, and Cowboys and Aliens, which is exceptionally bad. At any rate, Spectre reminded me that Craig has much in common with a rock: chiseled, drab, and emotionless. His abs and jawline are certainly distracting, but not enough to justify him turning the movie into a two-hour-long game of Poker.
My last hopes were dashed when Bond finally encounters Franz Oberhauser (Christoph Waltz). From Sean Bean and Christopher Lee to Famke Janssen and Mads Mikkelsen, a variety of iconic celebrities have played a list of equally iconic villains in the 007 series. This list comes to an abrupt halt at Spectre, which is by no means a jab at Waltz’s acting; indeed, his Oscars for Inglorious Basterds (2010) and Django Unchained (2012) were well deserved. However, Oberhauser is eccentric, evil, and egotistical in a way that is reminiscent of Chudnofsky from The Green Hornet (2011). It may be unfair to compare Sam Mendes to Quentin Tarantino, but is fair to say that Waltz’ potential was left untapped.
Forced, formulaic, and foppish, Spectre brings nothing new to anything. This may be because everything has already been tried with James Bond, or it may simply be due to a poor script. Whatever it may be, as spy movies go, I’d recommend Bridge of Spies over this. James Bond may be the only thing that I have in common with my great-grandfather, but I’m going to be the last Park to watch a 007 movie.
Written by William Park