The Rotten Tomato meter is nearly flawless. I tend to use it for most films and by-the-by, it’s about 80-90% accurate producing whether you’re about to watch a good film. However, there is one small issue, and that’s the time frame between the immediate 24-48 hours from when a film comes out, and a few days later when it reaches a more stable rating. Spectre is another to fall to that ‘temporal flux’. The day after Spectre came out, the meter read the new Bond film was around 84%, whereas now it has stabilised to around 63%. I made the mistake of seeing it too soon, because Spectre might be the most pointless film I have ever watched.
There are movies that are worse overall, but I can’t remember any that served as little purpose or that didn’t even bother trying to match up to or surpass previous incarnations in their own franchise or the action movie genre overall. You can find almost every action movie cliche imaginable, including predictable and boring helicopter fight scenes, predictable and boring plane fight scenes, boring train fight scenes and more scenes where we know nothing of consequence is going to happen to the hero Bond and that he’ll escape unscathed. Christopher Nolan worked magic with an inventive aeroplane opening sequence with The Dark Knight Rises, whilst Spectre doesn’t even bother to be anything different, following very formulaic and overdone motifs.
Credit has to be given to Spectre’s opening sequence, set during the Day of the Dead festival in Mexico, beautifully shot and choreographed, where you could instantly identify Bond even before he comes into the centre of the frame. Then we are taken on a wonderfully tracked one-shot take as Bond stalks his target through the parade, the hotel and on the roof. As soon as that one-shot take finishes, the movie only goes downhill and turns into a mundane action movie. Franz Oberhauser, Madelaine Swann, Max Denbigh and Mr Hinx were all forgettable characters. Dave Bautista, of Guardians of the Galaxy and professional wrestling fame, played the tacky, awkwardly smiling, passionless henchman Mr Hinx. He gets caught on a chain of barrels that is thrown out of a train, only with enough time for him to utter a cringeworthy and pointless expletive [“Shit…”] before going out with said chain of barrels.
Andrew Scott, known for playing Moriarty in the BBC series Sherlock, has proven to the world how great of an actor he is with his ability to play a villainous and if-need-be under-the-radar character. He had the opportunity to do neither here. From his introduction as the eventual new owner of MI6, Max Denbigh or ‘C’, you could tell he was a corporate stooge with another agenda, but there is no build up or dramatic reveal. He has the misfortune of delivering the expositional, overdone line that he and his organisation were trying to do what was best for the future, before falling to his Sherlock Holmes-like death. The only function he served was as the butt to a brilliant put-down by Ralph Fiennes’ M.
The action sequences were that much worse because you simply could not care about any of the characters involved. Lea Seydoux (who appears to be in every third film that’s coming out, including the brilliant dark comedy ‘The Lobster’ which was showing at The Watershed in Bristol) plays the role of Madelaine Swann, a.k.a. I’m not a Bond Girl but I’m a Bond Girl. Seydoux has such a distinctive and cold look, she’s a casting director’s wet dream; but in this film? She is aware of Bond’s misogyny and will not play his games or fall for his tactics, apart from when she eventually does. This is preceded by the aforementioned painful train fight scene with Mr Hinx and his chain of barrels. Once he’s removed, an exhausted Bond and Swann are left in the train, only for Swann to utter “what shall we do now?” before cutting to them making love in their bedroom. It’s not even original by a teenage screenwriter’s standards.
Most unforgiveable of all, is the waste of Christoph Waltz. They have managed to ruin the charisma and unique approach of one of the world’s finest actors by giving him the role of a movie villain with predictable motivations, executed in the poorest manner imaginable. The only enjoyable part was the directing, casting Franz Obenhauser in the shadows for as long as possible before his reveal – but even this went on for too long. In the trailer, we see him say “It was me James, the author of all your pain” and the story unveils to us how the newly christened, once Obenhauser, now Ernst Stavro Blofield, was behind all of the on-goings in the past 3 movies. Except this isn’t proven, there is no reveal all moment to prove he was behind it all. He just says that he was behind everything and later they show you pictures of people’s faces who were in the past movies on the walls. That’s unforgiveable.
As for his characterisation, there isn’t any. He is supposed to be feared and dreaded, but his 60s style Bond torture, looks fake and as gimmicky as possible. This is something you don’t expect for a film that was tied second for the most expensive film ever made at over $200,000,000. You want there to be a big twist, there isn’t one. You want him to have a dark, twisted reason for what he’s doing. There isn’t one. The build up is so long but we are waiting for the one thing that makes it all worthwhile… and there isn’t one. Waltz then gets emotional at the end, soppily so, like Al Pacino’s Michael Corleone mourning the loss of his family at the end of Godfather III, but this is for no real reason.
Even the opening montage to Sam Smith’s ‘Writing’s on the Wall’ was a little awkward. Most of it was quite good, it even won me over with the song, which beforehand I thought was a terrible X Factor knock-off. But in the music-video-like montage, it starts and ends with a naked Bond surrounded by women and flames everywhere. It feels like it belongs in a category of 80s music videos rather than the opening to a gritty and dark drama.
And speaking of music, the score is simply inappropriate at times with “this is really emotional” noise sloshing about in the background when it just isn’t necessary, and the same music for the action sequences is equally bad. There are times when the score builds suspension and thrill really well, but then the story doesn’t offer any threat or danger so it feels cheap (like it’s part of a bad “made-you-jump” horror film). They seem to have made more of an effort to find really nice-looking locations, fancy parties for schmoozing and plenty of people readjusting their jackets and vests constantly.
Spend your money elsewhere, don’t watch this film.