Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Review: James Bond - Spectre

James Bond is back with this long-awaited follow up to Skyfall. But are we in 007th heaven with Spectre...?

I've been waiting for this one. Ever since catching Casino Royale, the first Bond film I saw, on TV and then seeing the premiere cinema showing of Skyfall, which turned me from a casual viewer into a fledgling fan, I've felt that Daniel Craig's Bonds were the best (minus Quantum of Solace, of course). And Spectre - named after Bond's arch-nemeses in the 60s - looked set to be the biggest and best one yet.

Well, biggest is probably true as the film boasts an array of beautiful locations and the plot centres around a plan for world domination that's been a long time coming. The best yet, however, it is not. Unfortunately where Spectre falls down, rather unfairly, is that it couldn't live up to the hype. Much like Avengers: Age of Ultron earlier in the year, it was tasked with matching a near universally-loved film. As such, Spectre is sadly not as strong as its predecessor. Perhaps because I viewed them with harsher scrutiny with my high expectations, the two tentpoles of the film - the romance and the threat - were not as sharp as could be. The relationship between Bond and Madeline Swann was certainly above the average Bondian fling but did not top my favourite Bond romance (Vesper Lynd is still the best 'Bond girl'). Likewise, despite having Oscar-winning villain actor Christoph Waltz on board, Franz Oberhauser isn't as good as you would hope. Although work is done to create a deeper antagonism between him and 007, it feels like this is not explored enough.

What Spectre does deliver is classic Bond from start to finish. The pace does sag now and then but there is always a lumbering silent henchman or gadget-laden car chase around the corner. On the other hand, it is probably too classic Bond for its own good. The amount of throwbacks and references to the Bonds of yesteryear, despite being what fans have been asking for since Casino Royale, arguably act to the detriment of the film. With these borrowings from the past and adherence to classic structure, it has less iconic moments of its own.

However, there certainly were some big plusses though. It is repeatedly very funny, with several jokes in my screening getting big laughs from the audience. Another highlight is the increased use of Bond's colleagues at MI6, to the extent that for the first time we see Bond have a gang. Naomi Harris gets less to do but still makes for a very modern Moneypenny, my favourite Ben Whishaw grabs more screen time as the gawkish Q and Ralph Fiennes has his own demons to face as M. In truth, I'm not sure I'm won over on him yet - but he does have huge shoes to fill in Dame Judi Dench. And while mostly lacking the shocks of Skyfall, there is, however, a brave and bold ending - potentially one even braver than Skyfall's, depending on how it is dealt with in the following film.

Speaking of which, is this the end for Craig's Bond? It would certainly be a fitting end as his era has been all about slowly reintroducing the Bond archetypes and Spectre brings that to its hilt by utilising every traditional Bond motif in full-force. Even if it doesn't turn out to be his swansong, I'll take the time now to say how brilliant Craig has been over the past ten years, reshaping the character into the sort of rounded hero modern audiences can get behind. The spectre of Bond's past may haunt this film but the ghost of Craig's Bond will surely hang over the character for a long time to come. 

SPECTRE want to get their grubby tentacles on the world once again in this baggy if enjoyable Bond film 

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