Sunday, February 7, 2016
Video review: "Spectre"
It’s been said that when selecting a president, American voters seek the opposite of the incumbent, of whom they’ve grown tired. I think that holds true for James Bond actors, too.
The Pierce Brosnan Bond films were the epitome of breeziness, a celebration of the unflappable joie de vivre of the British superspy. Arriving in a grittier, scarier era, Daniel Craig’s Bond has been defined by his dourness. Here was a man to be taken seriously, and Craig was a skilled enough actor to let slip the pain that lies just behind the eyes of the icy killer.
But time marches on, and in his fourth outing, “Spectre,” the heavier nature of these movies is starting to wear down the franchise like a repetitive stress injury. Craig has mused publicly about tiring of playing Bond, and there's a lot of animated chatter about Idris Elba or Tom Hiddleston or (insert latest rumor here) sliding into the role.
The plot is… the usual near-unfathomable twist of threats, high-wire action sequences and hiss-able villains. In a not entirely convincing bit of revisionist history, the titular shadowy consortium is revealed to have been behind nearly all the troubles our man has encountered.
Christoph Waltz plays the group’s chief, a sneering manipulator named Franz Oberhauser, who has an intimate connection to Bond. He’s the best thing about the movie (which is something you can say about most films with Waltz in them).
Less successful is this iteration of the “Bond Girl,” played by Léa Seydoux. She’s the daughter of an infamous villain we’ve seen before, and gets caught up in the intrigue. (Why is it so many female characters in spy movies are the daughter of somebody important, instead of just being important themselves?) The script doesn’t give her much to do, but Seydoux is still rather drab.
The movie, the second in a row directed by Sam Mendes, is entirely watchable, and parts of it are even thrilling.
But there's something missing here, a vital essence that seems to have drained away. This iteration of the Bond legend feels tired, grumpy, chippy. It senses the anticipation for the next thing, even shares it, but isn't quite ready to let go of the Walther PPK and Aston Martin.
Bonus features feel a mite miserly. On the DVD version there are seven video blogs from production, including one by Mendes. Others touch on typical making-of topics like constructing action scenes, musical score, assembling the cast, etc.
Upgrade to the Blu-ray and you add a gallery of still photos and the making of the supposedly biggest opening sequence ever for a Bond film.