There’s only one person’s movie recommendation I’ll take without question—my father’s. He never gives a great explanation for why I should watch something. When I saw him last weekend, he strongly recommended that I see Jason Segel’s End of the Tour. I asked him why I should see it and all I got in reply was, “It’s great. The dialogue’s pretty sophisticated.” This is all I can really expect from him when we discuss movies, but his small critiques and praises pack quite a punch. He loves films. He never fails me. If John Fuller asks me to watch a movie, you’d better be certain I’m going to see it.
Last weekend, I asked him if he wanted to see Spectre while he was in town. I got us our tickets and on our way to the movie theater we shared some of our favorite scenes of the British spy. For me, there was the scene at the opera in Quantum of Solace and my Dad shot back with the underwater sequence in Connery’s Thunderball. The sheer density of the theater we squeezed into ratcheted our excitement up. Luckily, we got there sort of early and found a good spot, because by the time Spectre started, there wasn’t an empty seat in the house.
The opening day-of-the-dead sequence didn’t disappoint. This scene exuded the essence of Bond superbly. There were glamorous women, exotic costumes, and an ambiguous whiff of evil that belonged nowhere else but in a Bond film. Then there were the stylized opening credits featuring a playful and ominous octopus and Sam Smith’s surprisingly excellent Bond theme, “Writing’s On The Wall.” It looked like Spectre was on its way to putting its wildly successful predecessor, Skyfall, to shame. Then everything went to s—t.
Spectre was by far the worst of Daniel Craig’s Bond films. Aside from the opening scene, Spectre abandoned the thrilling essence that it had initially captured. About half an hour in, I looked over to see what my dad’s reaction was. He was asleep. He fell asleep during a James Bond movie. But I wasn’t outraged or perplexed. Hell, I was nodding off myself. Almost everything about Spectre added up to a cookie-cutter James Bond plot that lacked anything like the tense action or the sophisticated Bond character for which Craig’s other films are highly praised.
That’s what made Skyfall so great. We got to see MI6’s indestructible agent torn physically and emotionally to shreds throughout the film. Several aspects of Casino Royale worked to the same effect. Neither of these films sacrificed style for substance either. And even if there wasn’t a really engaging scene between Bond and his cohorts, there was an excellent landscape or action sequence to keep viewers entertained. For all the crap it gets, Quantum of Solace probably has the best car and foot chases of any of Craig’s (and by extension, all) Bond films. These films took the campy spy that Brosnan had degraded Bond to and made him this beast of a man who, though pretty durable, could be shattered both physically and mentally.
Spectre seemed to forget that the previous installments in Craig’s stint had gone to such efforts to flesh out these qualities. It forgot about Skyfall’s attention to Bond’s vulnerability. It brought back the indestructible womanizer that fulfills the classic—now unbelievable—Bond stereotype that doesn’t belong in modern spy films. Some people might point to the film’s resolution and say, “But Chris, the end of the film puts a lot of your issues to rest.” If they didn’t understand the implications that ending is setting up for Craig’s Bond, I suggest they go see Spectre again and notice who all would still be around for the next film.
Aside from the unsophisticated character, the action was mundane and the plot was unbelievably predictable. Skyfall had me on the edge of my seat the whole time, wondering what would happen next. Spectre never had me fooled for a second. While the opening sequence was one of the most engaging action sequences in any Bond film, this scene was the only example of daring ambition in Spectre. One scene does not a whole movie make. In fact, the only scene that could’ve made the whole film more engrossing (the Spectre boardroom meeting) was completely defueled by trailers’ relentless use of it.
When my dad and I walked out of the theater I asked him what he thought of it.
“It was good,” he said.
“Yeah,” I quietly replied.
This time, his limited language wasn’t masking a sophisticated interpretation or appreciation for Spectre. We were both just trying to convince ourselves that we liked it. Days later, I realized we couldn’t.
Featured Image By Columbia Pictures