Spectre

November 9, 2015 at 10:23 am | Posted in 2015 | Leave a comment
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I was struck about half way through this behemoth 148 minutes (the longest Bond film to date) that I just wasn’t having that much fun. I realized, as I watched Daniel Craig fret and brood, how deadly serious his Bond series has been. The general trend in films and television over the past decade has been to make everything darker, grittier and more “realistic.” Even superheroes have not escaped this shift (think of the recent “Batman” and “Superman” films as well as shows like “Gotham” and “Daredevil”). I have strongly applauded this trend and am not backing away from that now but I have to admit that I felt a bit fatigued by it here. I loved Craig’s Bond at first but, as I look back over his last several movies, neither of us seem to be having much fun. His Bond has depth, with a layered backstory and ambivalence to spare. Likewise, the supporting characters are also more complex, the gadgets less ridiculous and the plots more psychological. In “Spectre,”  we are reintroduced to a classic Bond villain but, while there are a couple of nice homages to the original, this version is not hell-bent on world domination. Rather, he simply wants to ruin Bond’s life for the perceived slights of their childhood. The consistent theme of Craig’s Bond films from “Casino Royale” through “Skyfall” to “Spectre” has been to dig into the man and look at the psychology behind the hero. In this way, these films have had more in common with Nolan’s “Dark Knight” series than with any previous Bond. I don’t want to slight the story of “Spectre.” It’s a rich, dark tale full of almost Shakespearean themes. Craig and crew are fantastic actors and the tension between him and Christoph Waltz is electric. In fact, this film would have done well to have a great deal more of Waltz on screen. He does joyful creepy in a way few other actors can touch. However, as I said, I kept missing the fun. The Bonds of Brosnan, Connery, and especially Moore were larger than life. Nothing in those films felt grounded in the real world but that was part of the fun. Bond was unflappable and full of playful quips. His toys were ridiculous and his villains were so over-the-top that Mike Myers made a career out of parodying them. The WWE wrestler Dave Bautista (“Guardians of the Galaxy”) is a hot commodity right now as Hollywood hopes to make him the next Dwayne Johnson and he certainly has the size to be a formidable Bond villain. But that size (and his character’s silence) just reminded me of Jaws, who created real terror in his Bond films that just served to remind us of how grounded the recent films have become. Yes, Jaws was silly. As was Blofeld and Nick Nack and Oddjob. As were submarine cars and exploding pens and undersea layers. But they were all also so much fun. Craig is famously unhappy with his Bond role and wants out of his contract, which contains one more film. I say, let him go and let’s get back to what Bond once was: pure, simple, escapist pleasure.

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