The Spectacular Spectre

It’s Kevin and Lance here, weighing in on Daniel Craig’s fourth, and likely final, stint as 007 in Spectre, Sam Mendes’ recent addition to the Bond franchise. The film centers on Bond’s search for the conspirator behind the murder of the former M (Judi Dench). Bond’s vendetta takes him from London to Rome, Austria, Tangiers, the middle of the Sahara, and into the arms of the lovely Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux). During Bond’s search, C (Andrew Scott), the newly elected and data-crazed director-general of a branch of national security, eliminates the 00 program. Without much help from Q, Moneypenny, or the new M (Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris, and Ralph Fiennes), Bond has to take down the mastermind behind the villainous SPECTRE organization (Christoph Waltz) with good aim, debonair looks, and classic Bond ingenuity.

Lance: So what do you think of Spectre?

Kevin: Well, as someone who was unfamiliar with the Bond genre, I can say that watching Spectre was very satisfying! It was dazzling compared to other action films that have been coming out all year long, like Fantastic Four and Insurgent, which have cheapened the genre. I was able to appreciate Spectre for its individual mastery in capturing a solid plot and, in effect, my attention. I think a large part of this intrigue is definitely because of Daniel Craig’s performance as Bond. Again, I haven’t seen any Bond films before this one, so I can’t compare his acting to his predecessors’. But for Spectre to stand alone, without the baggage of the previous films, is very invigorating, and Craig makes sure to convey that.

Lance: I loved it. It was the best “Craig” Bond. Don’t get me wrong, Casino Royale and Skyfall were good movies, but Spectre was a great Bond movie. In Craig’s first three Bonds, he was miserable all the time. Sure, that’s realistic given how horrid his circumstances usually are, but Bond isn’t about realism. Bond is the most suave spy, maybe man, in history. Finally, Bond is getting back to that. He has charm again. He smiles and he’s funny. Like when he looks to Madeleine, and asks “What next?” and then, boom, cut to overdone sex scene. Stuff like that is classic Bond. Spectre really was hilarious.

Mendes, the director, really seemed to be lampooning Bond. Luckily, Bond as a genre is ripe for lampooning. It’s not a serious subject; it’s just a source of hyper-masculine, cheap thrills: girls, guns, gadgets. They really got into the cheapness of it, showing it as just that, and I thought the result was refreshing. So seldom do we see someone not take themselves or their project too seriously, and for Mendes to do that with this sort of big budget ($245 million) took some guts. Hats off.

Kevin: Yeah, it was great to see Mendes make a playful film out of explosions, destructions, and action. I think that may be a reason why other action films haven’t stood out to me recently: they take themselves too seriously. And yet, even a movie with such great qualities has its slight flaws. I’d say the flaws in Spectre are in the writing: for example, there is the instance in which Madeleine uncharacteristically decides to leave Bond to his perilous crusade all on his lonesome, making her susceptible to the antagonist’s plan. Another off-putting scene: when Q and Moneypenny try to convince the head honcho, M, to endorse Bond’s mission as if M were aware of Bond’s plan. “Tough to swallow”: these are the words I’d use to describe the writing behind these plot choices, but I cannot fully say that such lapses are in poor taste. Since the archetypes of the Bond genre are a mystery to me, I’m not sure whether or not this is simply a matter of deep nostalgia for the previous Bond movies. But the screenwriters (John Logan, Robert Wade, and Neal Purvis) could have done a better job avoiding these two faintly fishy flaws.

Lance: And I guess all the quirkiness can be excused as intentional. I noticed some technical issues, some janky cuts, but only in a couple of spots, and it’s really just me being nitpicky and sort of prudish. The movie was too long, and the cheapness was a bit overdone, but the hilarity of it, the self-referential irreverence, far outweighs that.

Kevin: I wouldn’t say that any of these faults make the movie fall through the cracks, however. In fact, the movie still rises supreme, making nearly $700 million so far. As far as I can see, I agree with you: the positives outweigh the negatives by a long shot, almost as long of a shot as Bond’s risky choice to rescue Madeleine at the end of the film!

Lance: With that being said, grade?

Kevin: I think this movie is somewhere between an A and an A-, but definitely more toward the A side. That it made me want to watch all the previous Bond movies in a dark corner in my dorm is probably a good testament to the film’s quality. What would you give it?

Lance: A, but I won’t fight the A-. I think there can only be one Bond-parody Bond, and I’m thrilled that this was the one.

Grade: A/A-

Be sure to catch Spectre in theaters before it’s too late. Daniel Craig ends his Bond career with a bang.