Autumn is the time of falling leaves, crisp air, football and Oscar contenders. Spectre is none of these. For many reasons.

The 24th “official” title in the series that now spans some fifty-four years shows the age of the series. Not only are the plots old and tired, even the villains are creaking with age or are references back to earlier films of decades ago. Is the muscleman Hinx, an ex-professional wrestler named Dave Batista, actually descended from Odd Job of Goldfinger fame, or does he just look and act that way? By having him battle Bond to the death on a train, do they intend to make a reference to the greatest of Bond films, From Russia With Love, where the greatest of Bond villains, Grant, played by Robert Shaw, battles the greatest of Bonds, Sean Connery? To continue with the parallels, Daniel Craig, who had not said the magic words in some of his films, says them in this one: “Bond. James Bond.” (Anne Hornaday of the Washington Post wondered if “Bore. James Bore.” would have been more accurate.) Is that significant? How about the break with tradition, when Bond drinks a dirty martini instead of one that is “shaken, not stirred” as he orders earlier in the film? Such questions dominated my thinking as I tried desperately to flee the plot absurdities and mimic Craig by not falling asleep. I succeeded. I’m not sure he did.

For years, no one has gone to a Bond film expecting anything really new except a new Bond, when one of those has appeared. Daniel Craig has said publicly that he would rather slit his wrists than do another Bond film, but Spectre informs the viewer who stays to the end of the credits that “James Bond will return.” (No scenes by the way, just this announcement, so don’t stay unless your best friend was an assistant junior editor, and you want to see her name in the list.) Who knows whether Craig, who has been a serviceable Bond, but not a particularly good one, will be drawn back into the fray by the money? But I digress.

Spectre finds Judi Dench as M dead of course, but replaced by the great Ralph Fiennes. Fiennes simply never seems to mail it in, and he and Ben Wishaw, who has played “Q” for a few films now, play the joke out admirably, as do Léa Seydoux, as the Bond girl, and the delightful Christoph Waltz as Ernst Blofeld. Waltz may be back, as he is the one in this movie who regularly performs the miracle of rising from the dead, and he would be welcome. The reveal about him at the end of the film is drowned, as is any semblance of thoughtful story and plot, in the non-stop chases, explosions, gun battles, explosions, love scenes, and explosions. Did I mention explosions? That’s too bad because if someone had decided to make the daring decision to try to make a “clean” Bond film—in the mode of From Russia with Love by the way—without excessive explosions, etc., the elements are there for a really good story. Bond underground is not your typical Bond story from the start, and we find soon enough that he in fact is working for Dench via a note left to him before her death. The personal details about Bond revealed in the movie could have come more to the fore without all the glitz, and the movie could have been really stunning with the cast it has.

Unfortunately, Spectre is just cliché after cliché, and, if you like that, then they are all carried off well, and you can go and have a good time. As for me, I like a movie that I don’t have to work to stay awake in.

Drew Trotter

November 23, 2015

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