It goes without saying: Daniel Craig has proven to be the definitive Bond of this generation. He has grown into the role masterfully, and that is truly evident in Sam Mendes’ Spectre. With the success of Mendes’ Skyfall, an enormous amount pressure was placed on Craig, and the team behind Spectre, to deliver another excellent film. However, Spectre failed to capitalize at the height of the franchise’s success, losing the emotional appeal and huge action spectacles that made Skyfall successful. But, was Spectre unentertaining compared to the movies before it, or was it just a disappointment as a film?
Let’s face it: when it comes to franchise films, it’s hard not to compare a film with its predecessors. Those that called the first Avengers the best comic book film of all time were ultimately let down by Age of Ultron. Was Age of Ultron a bad movie? No way. But, some saw it as a step down from the first installment, and others dubbed it a box office flop because it didn’t break the previous film’s opening weekend numbers. To those people I say, “$191 million isn’t a flop!”
So, am I comparing Spectre to the tremendous succes of Skyfall? The short answer is no. The longer answer is to follow.
Spectre had the potential to be something great. Sam Mendes, director of Skyfall, returned to helm this film. The cast included Dave Bautista and the incomparable Christoph Waltz. There were so many things going for it, where did it go astray? In my opinion, as I have found it in his other Bond movies, the villains are hardly fleshed out. Rather than presenting a legitimate threat to the hero of the franchise, the Bond villains always feel like mere obstacles that Bond must overcome. The one exception is Le Chiffre in Casino Royale. Mads Mikklesen portrays a Bond-worthy villain on multiple levels, but none other can manage to do the same.
Furthermore, the revelation that Christoph Waltz’s Franz Oberhauser is actually Ernst Stavro Blofeld, one of the most iconic Bond villains in the books, means nothing to the audience. Up until this point, the audience has never heard of the name “Blofeld.” So, when Oberhauser reveals his new name, the audience is unaware of the significance. Only diehard Bond fans will recognize the name, and others will not think twice about the line. This is the major downfall of the film: the climax meant nothing. The franchise’s build to the secret organization that has been behind every film is ultimately unimportant.
I was also surprised by the film’s inability to “out-do” the opening scene. The action in Spectre starts off with a bang, but the film’s subsequent action scenes don’t seem to top the initial one. One of the lesser pitfalls of Spectre is the attempt to establish Léa Seydoux’s character as a love interest. As with every Bond film, there must be an attempt to establish a woman as his love interest. This doesn’t work in Spectre because of his promiscuity throughout the franchise. Sure, that may be who Bond is, but the attempt to get the audience behind “the love of his life” is simply futile.
In conclusion, a film’s strength or weakness lies in its believability. If the audience believes, they’re hooked and engaged for the duration of the film. Without that belief, the film becomes laughable and outlandish. While Spectre walked a fine line between the two, it is still worth seeing.