There is a spectre haunting Old Man MacPherson…
Was anyone producing this movie? No, I’m seriously asking.
No sane producer, for example, would approve the choice to fill the iconic Bond music-video intro with lovemaking and octopi. “That’s going to come off as tentacle-porn, and creep out the viewers,” a sane producer would have said. Yet, as writhing tentacles entwined with Daniel Craig’s naked body to Sam Smith’s “Writing on the Wall,” I found myself thoroughly creeped out.
The ridiculous stunt sequences littering Spectre were clearly pitched to the studio first, and written into the script second. “So the bad guys kidnap the girl and they’re driving away,” I imagine some breathless screenwriter explaining in an elevator, miming the scene out with his hands, “And Bond shows up flying a plane! No, never mind how he got it. Then one of the wings gets blown off, but he’s still able to chase them for, like, ten minutes! Then the other wing gets blown off, but he drives the plane around like a bulldozer, smashing through ski-lodges and shit! It’s gonna be sweet!”
The film’s other big-money stunt involves a helicopter doing flips and rolls above a crowd, while Bond wrestles non-dramatically with the pilot. Now I have seen footage of stunt helicopters showing off, and I have also seen footage of helicopters genuinely out of control. If you can make the fairly simple distinction, the scene comes off as silly rather than tense and dangerous.
Spectre also features the lowest-stakes car chase in any movie, ever. Remember the incredible chase scene that opened Quantum of Solace? Bond was defensive the whole time, ducking to avoid hammering gunfire while his car was shot apart under him. In Spectre, the chase is simply a chance for Aston Martin and Jaguar to get their contractually promised screen time. Despite the pursuit being meant to establish one of the villains as a deadly and dogged threat, Bond is able to make phone calls (plural) while drifting around Rome, evading pursuit. And then he gets away on a goddamn jetpack. Seriously, let that sink in.
At this point, if you’re thinking, “I could write a better Bond movie than this drivelous pabulum,” you are neither alone, nor wrong.
Normally, it would go without saying that Bond wears great suits. In Spectre, however, they actually became distracting. I missed some dialogue when I leaned over to my friend to ask, “where did he find that perfectly-fitting white dinner jacket? They’re on a moving train in Tangier, and he only found out about dinner just now.” The Bond fashion show is on in full force, and while the suits are remarkable (how does he run in trousers that tight?), they pulled me out of the film more than once. Worth noting, however, is that Bond’s Day of the Dead tailcoat and top hat were out of goddamn control, and fairly ached for more screentime.
Christoph Waltz is maybe the most charismatic actor working today, and even he couldn’t sell this horseshit plot. As the head of the titular evil organization, Waltz tries to bring his signature dark humour to bear, but is hamstrung by the script. Alas, the plot requires him to care more about ruining Bond’s life than world domination, making the character appear both petty and non-threatening.
Oh, and Jaws is in it – sort of. Dave Bautista (who you remember from Guardians of the Galaxy) plays Waltz’ henchman. Despite a promising introduction, he’s not scary, and for Bautista, that’s saying something. The writers build the character up as Jaws by giving him steel thumbnails, and having him never open his mouth, leaving viewers itching for the reveal of the iconic steel teeth. Despite this setup (and a clever reference to Spielberg’s Jaws involving a chain of barrels), when Bautista finally opens his mouth, his teeth are disappointingly normal. In the credits, the silent character is named “Mr. Hinx.” They should have called him “Mr. Cocktease.”
The final nail in Spectre’s coffin is the endless winking at the audience from director Sam Mendes. “We get it Sam,” frustrated viewers will lament, “you included a white cat, and recreated the torture room from Goldfinger. Now can you please include some characters or a plot that we care about?” Mendes fails to realize two important things: references to older Bond movies are not enough to hold up his new one, and people don’t like being winked at when they’re already in a foul mood.