Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Spectre, the seemingly most divisive Daniel Craig Bond movie yet. I've listened to pundits I respect praise and punish this film. I think I land somewhere in the middle. I found Spectre to be fun, but problematic. I feel like this movie tries to do too much, but I enjoy what it seems to be setting up.
Warning: The following is a spoiler filled reaction to Spectre. If you haven't seen it, your mission is to remedy that.
I had fun watching Spectre, but I think they attempted to move too fast. Maybe I'll think differently, but the movie seemed to be moving so quickly that it was hard to keep up with where we were and why. This seemed like a different pace then what we saw in Skyfall, but I may think differently when I watch it for a second time.
Speaking of Skyfall, I like the say Spectre was shot, but I really missed Roger Deakins. I had to repeatedly remind myself that different is not necessarily worse. The movie starts with a strong tracking shot (a Birdman tribute?), and looks nice through the whole picture. That said, I'm spoiled and I feel like I need another viewing to adjust.
As long as we're addressing the returning crew, Thomas Newman's score was a solid expansion of the Skyfall score, with a bit more of an atmospheric feel. I liked the score, but aside from the Day of the Dead sequence, it tended to blend in more often.
As for Sam Mendes' direction, I think he gave us his version of a traditional Bond film. By this point, we have less of the origin story to tie up, and Mendes crafted a movie that feel like a love letter to the franchise. I found it to be absolutely full of references to the Connery and Moore era. The train sequence felt a little forced (shy so dressed up?) but I thought it was great. The couch gag wasn't my favorite, but I appreciate the effort to bring in a hint of the cheesy humor of the 80's. Speaking of the Moore era, did you spot the Christopher Lee tribute on the wall of fallen agents?
Back to Mendes, Spectre doesn't seem as streamlined as his last film. In a way, Mendes' return to Bond feels like Christopher Nolan's return for The Dark Knight Rises. As fans, we all wanted to see lightning strike twice, but the director already gave us his best shot. Just like Nolan switched from crime drama (TDK) to giant epic (TDKR), Mendes seems to move from his ideal and well-crafted Bond film to his take on a standard 007 adventure (lets not forget that Skyfall had extra time in development due to MGM's business issues).
.... or maybe I just really liked Skyfall....
I think Spectre is good, but my initial reaction places it in the bottom half of Craig's tenure. Quantum of Solace was a clear step down from Casino Royale, and this is a similar dip. Quantum is often derided, but is a serviceable double-feature with its predecessor. I do think Spectre is better than Quantum, but perhaps Spectre would also benefit from a similar double feature treatment with Skyfall. I think the serialization of the series is a good thing, but it seems that the movies that try to stick too close to their predecessors suffer. Maybe Daniel Craig's legacy will be like the Star Trek movies, causing endless debate over every other movie.
Interestingly, my biggest complaint with Spectre may be what gives me the most excitement for the next movie. I think they went way too fast, and wasted Christoph Waltz. It seems as if in the writers' and producers' excitement to reincorporate the Spectre organization and Blofeld, they forced an immediate fit unnecessarily. Tying all of the previous villains to Blofeld didn't make much sense, and even cheapened them to some degree. After all, Quantum claimed Le Chiffre. Also, didn't Silva claim to be on his own?
Even the addition of Blofeld felt rushed. I loved seeing Spectre meet in the shadows, and think it would have been more effective to tease Waltz for the next film. Instead his teased (and denied) like Kahn in Star Trek: Into Darkness and his reveal feels more liek fan service. For those who are unaware of Blofeld's franchise history, it's hard to understand what the hubbub is all about. In that case, all you'd have to go on is this unearned rivalry with James that just needed more time to develop. Rushing Blofeld's return hampered this movie.
However, rushing Blofeld also presents fascinating opportunities for the next film.
The also fast-paced relationship between James and Madeleine Swann sets us up for a potential rehash of On Her Majesty's Secret Service. The trailer music and father daughter relationship with Mr. White all point to this fan favorite. James appears to be moving past his relationship with Vesper, and moving on with Madeleine. If Blofeld were to take his revenge in the next film, that could mean further pain for 007. Could we be in store for a page out of the Timothy Dalton's book? We've seen Craig's Bond mature as a character, so what will he do if Blofeld pulls the rug out from under him? I genuinely excited for the next movie.
It is that excitement that drives me to watch Spectre again. I had a good time in the initial viewing, but I was bothered by how much of the story came together. Perhaps next time I can let go, and view it more like the classic Bond film it is meant to be seen as.