So a few months back I made a comment about the trailer for SPECTRE looking so urine yellow that I wondered if Sam Mendes hadn’t just opened up the camera and pissed into it. Well, it turns out I was wrong as having now seen the film it turns out he took a massive shit in it instead. So with that in mind let’s take a look at the cinematic equivalent of gastroenteritis that is SPHINCTER… I mean SPECTRE!
Now I don’t normally go through the plot points in a film as I hate giving anything away, but this time I don’t care and have a lot to say so I’m going to spoil the shit out of this fucker, so let’s get on with this “film”.
Directed by Sam “author of all our pain” Mendes and containing a plot as tightly and tautly structured as a prolapsed anus, the film opens with Bond in Mexico City for the annual “ripping off Touch of Evil Day” when Bond realises he needs a breath of fresh air and climbs out his hotel window to stop some bad guys blowing something up. He accidentally blows them up and, presumably, kills a number of innocent people and immediately we know this is a Bond that is great at his job and we can be confident he’ll do the right thing and never fuck up. A dramatic fight then ensues on a helicopter between some visual effects artists and the limitations of green-screen until Bond steals a man’s jewellery and fucks off in the helicopter as the strains of a cat being fucked in the ass on helium and set to some Japanese Hentai fill the screen as our credits roll.
After the credits we find out that Bond has gone rogue A-FUCKING-GAIN!!!!! and that he is grounded. Judy Dench then skypes him from the grave to drive the plot forward seeing as Bond clearly has the IQ of a moron and must always be told where to go next. Bond is then introduced to C when he… hang on! Bond ISN’T introduced to C. He is introduced to someone he then unilaterally decides to call C. So I guess superiors code names don’t really count for anything in this world. Jesus Christ… moving on!
So Bond travels to Rome where he threatens and then sexually assaults a grieving widow on the day of her husband’s funeral then pretty much leaves her to her death whilst also leaving the audience in a state of suspense as we are left thinking “What sort of morally horrific event is Bond going to get up to now?!” Anyway, Monica Bellucci tells Bond where the baddies are meeting so the plot can move along. Bond manages to gain access to the meeting by flashing his magical Green Lantern ring at them whereby he is shown inside to a highly top-secret conference attended by only the select few of SPECTRE’s inner circle… along with a couple of hundred audience members, butlers, accountants or whatever the fuck all these people are or are supposed to be doing at this heavily attended private fucking meeting. There was a reason that previous SPECTRE meetings were between only a select few and were only identified by numbers to maintain anonymity: because it really gave the feeling of secrecy. This just feels like Bond has wandered onto the orgy scene of Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shu… oh, its Mendes going for a Kubrick vibe isn’t it? I get it now. Well, it just looks like people sitting around waiting for dinner. So Bond finds out practically nothing of importance at this meeting apart from the possible location of Mr White and the fact that there is a henchman, played by David Batista, who kills people using his French nails. Why? Because he’s on fleek and why not because you know, YOLO. (Or should that be YOLT) Christ, I fucking hate this film.
However before the soup can be served, Bond is spotted and escapes and what follows is a car chase containing all the sparkling lethargy Mendes can muster and throw at the screen. And all shot in glorious shit and piss yellow/brown! This car chase is so dull, so boring and shot in such an ugly way that it feels more like a Top Gear segment than a Bond set piece. It’s just mediocre beauty shots of expensive cars zipping about a European city intercut with close ups of dashboards and medium shots of cars sliding about with some gags that fall Clarkson-level flat thrown in.
Meanwhile back in London, Nick Fury, played by Ralph Fiennes, discovers that SHIELD is compromised and that Government surveillance is bad and decides to confront C about why they seem to be in an episode of Spooks.
Bond, meanwhile, has managed to find the cellar in Austria that Jesper Christensen has been hiding in to avoid being in this movie. He then tells Bond that he is a “kite”… wait, a what?!… “dancing in a hurricane” (oh, he must have meant “kite”) and the location of his daughter before killing himself after reading the rest of the script.
Bond then travels to a clinic on top of an alpine mountain which, despite what I have just described, didn’t make me think of OHMSS even once because it never ever felt OHMSS, so he can talk to Mr White’s daughter and walking Proust metaphor with tits, Madeline Swann. Q appears, for some reason, and in an almost incomprehensible sequence they find out, through the One Ring, that all of Daniel Craig’s adversaries have the same taste in bling accessories. But Madeline is captured by the baddies forcing Bond to use the Green Lantern ring to make a plane magically appear and rescue her in some rather underwhelming action and leaving the audience with the shocking realisation that despite all the nods to OHMSS that this film will contain NO FUCKING SKIING AT ALL!!
Madeline tells Bond what to do next and they get on a train where Madeline orders a “dirty martini” which is pretty appropriate as this film feels like a Bond cocktail with a turd floating in it, have a fight with Mr French Nails (which is actually pretty decent) and now that Bond has saved her life twice she can finally open up her lady garden and let him water it. They reach their destination where Bond struggles with his alcoholism and, whilst sitting alone drinking in the middle of the night sees a mouse scurrying acro… whoa!! Hang on, are they tipping their hat to The Long Weekend here? Oh my god yes, this is awesom… oh no, it’s just a mouse showing Bond what to do next. Fuck me in the ass.
So after getting the location for Oberhauser’s base from Agent Squeaky, they set off into the desert where they are picked up by a Goldfinger reference and taken to a base located in the crater of a meteor impact. This base is actually incredibly well designed and really has that old-school Bond feel and that wonderful Frank Lloyd Wright with a bronze glow that Ken Adams was so good at capturing. Also… wait a minute! What the hell was that? Was that… was that a pan and scan reference? Did Mendes just do, in a modern day theatrical release, a pan and scan nod? Did that camera move deliberately keep panning along just a little longer than it needed to, just like in Diamonds Are Forever when it was shown on TV? If that is the case, if there is even a small chance that I am not reading too much into this (and chances are I SO am) and that was a nod to pan and scan in Bond on TV then I will happily get on my knees and declare Mendes a genius and that that particular shot one of the greatest in cinema history. And considering the number of extraordinarily obscure, subtle and nuanced references to Bond history then I wouldn’t be surprised. Either way, the pull up to Blo… Oberhauser’s lair is a wonderful, brilliant nod to the pull up to Slumber in Diamonds. Nice Mendes, very nice indeed.
We then meet the villain of this film, Franz Oberhauser, where he gives a brief lecture on astro-geology in front of the oldest metaphor to strike the Earth when he tells Bond that all of his previous adventures — you know, how a story about financing terrorism through a game who’s winner is almost impossible to predict, or the death of Vesper that would have been almost impossible to contrive or practically execute in any way whatsoever, or the Bolivian water whatever the fuck Quantum was about, and the death of M which kinda seemed more like an accident — well all of these events, all of these chaotic and totally uncontrollable events have been manipulated behind the scenes by Oberhauser purely to torment Bond. Sweet fucking god. This is the point where the entire franchise almost collapses frothing and foaming at the mouth like a horse in the Grand National. The sound of the crow barring of previous Craig films purely to give this film a plot and “continuity” (something Bond films actively rejected in the past!) almost drowns out the sounds of the drills being plunged into Bond’s skull. The only saving grace is that they didn’t give Oberhauser some sort of stupid fucking back-story.
So anyway, Oberhauser keeps torturing Bond and then we find out that his name is actually someone called Blofeld and we then find out that Blofeld is actually James Bond’s foster brother and that the whole reason for SPECTRE destroying and toying with Bond’s life is that Blofeld’s dad never taught him how to ski and… and… hang on… (cough)…
COME ON DOWN MENDES AND CLAIM YOUR PRIZE!!
That’s right Sam, you did it. You finally managed to come up with the most god-awful moment in the entire Bond franchise, the stupidest, most idiotic piece of film to bear the Bond name. You know that bit in Moonraker with the double-take pigeon? Well, take that bit and combine it with the CGI surfing sequence from Die Another Day and the swanny-whistle from Golden Gun and you might, you MIGHT, come close to matching the fucking idiocy that is this moment in SPECTRE. Yes, you did it Sam. You came up with a moment that is so stupid and cynical that it could potentially retroactively ruin the entire franchise with its implications and all done for the sake of “if they have a family connection then that equals depth.” If I had not already known about this plot “twist”, if I had not already had the chance to prepare myself for this reveal and had come to this part in the film cold then I could have quite possibly went totally fucking tonto.
And the film never recovers from this point on and descends to levels of inanity of mythic proportions. So Bond reaches for his explosive watch as the audience reach for the vodka and citalopram to process what the fuck they’ve just witnessed and manages to incapacitate Blofeld and free himself. Bond and Swann escape and Bond destroys Blofeld’s base with, and I am not kidding, one bullet. One well aimed shot at a pipe’s valve and BLAMMO, the entire complex explodes and only for the reason that they can have an “impressive” fireworks display that is so desperately aping the Joker blowing up the hospital in Dark Knight that it might as well just start swinging on a tire and eating its own shit. It is a scene even more ridiculous than Quantum of Solace’s exploding hotel (do architects in the Bond universe construct all buildings out of explosive materials?).
We then jump to London, for reasons that aren’t entirely clear, and they decide to shut down C’s surveillance program. They set off but as they are driving through a concrete underpass they are unexpectedly ambushed by Blofeld’s men in a totally expected way because Blofeld’s henchmen have been watching The Dark Knight on dvd and thought it was cool.
They kidnap Bond and drive him to a secret destination where Bond immediately escapes but decides to go into the abandoned building anyway… making the previous five minutes totally fucking irrelevant!!!!
So in an obvious nod to Scaramanga’s funhouse Bond enters the crumbling MI5 building where the Joker has left clues and weird shit for Bond to follow. And I really must admire Blofeld’s henchmen as what with having to protect Blofeld and capture Bond we find out that they also have had to make masks of previous Bond villains as well as having some basic grasp of interior design and arts and crafts.
Bond finally finds Blofeld and, in what must be the worst, the most anaemic, anodyne, boring, uninspired and just plain downright shit ended to any Bond film, we can sense SPECTRE lurching and limping to the finishing line.
Bond finally finds Madeline tied up with silly string and the two of them escape the building before it blows up, race down the Thames after Blofeld in his fleeing helicopter with the House of Parliament beside them in a sequence Danny Boyle did better four years ago, when Bond shoots the helicopter in its exhaust port causing it to crash into London Bridge where Blofeld crawls out and gives himself up and Bond and Madeline drive off into the sunset. And that’s the motherfucking climax! AAAARRRGGGGHHHH!!!
In the name of Chubby Broccoli’s bumhole, what the shit did I just watch?! I can completely understand why some fans reacted negatively, very negatively, to this movie. We have been waiting for years for the return of Blofeld and for it to be handled in such a sloppy and patronising way is a crushing disappointment. Blofeld was MUCH scarier when he was just some guy who wanted to take over the world. It genuinely made him feel like a psychopath. But to boil it down to daddy issues and, again, family connections, just makes a total mockery of this greatest of all villains. And what was SPECTRE’s plan? Seriously, what is it they are actually up to? If all this is, as the film seems to imply, to ultimately destroy Bond then the name of the organisation is a total misnomer as it isn’t engaged in revenge or extortion or counter-espionage at all. It is simply all about spite. And that’s shit.
And yes, the opening sequence is technically impressive without a doubt but it is by no means the best Bond opening by a long shot (no pun intended). It doesn’t have the thrill of The Spy Who Loved Me and it certainly doesn’t have the pure sense of fun and great stunt work of the opening of Moonraker (Bond getting thrown out of a plane without a parachute? Now THAT’S how to start a movie!) Likewise, the fight on the train is great. It’s genuinely exciting with some superb punctuation moments and beats. But it’s over oh so quickly that the ultimate effect is one of disappointment.
Also the soundtrack is actively dull and is easily the most god-awful “score” for a movie I’ve ever heard. The orchestration is shit, if almost non-existent, and that fucking Harry Potter choral work that has always felt shit and tired and has been used almost constantly since, especially by the BBC at Christmas in a pathetic attempt to create a feeling of magic and wonder… but ultimately is just clichéd, sub-standard composing. And it went out of style about ten years ago. And it doesn’t suit Bond. And a lot of this blame can be laid at the feet of the turgid theme song. Like nearly all the post John Barry scores it struggles with the same problem — lack of a strong melodic line. Barry could not only arrange gorgeous, lush pieces but could pull a truly memorable melody from out of what seemed like thin air. It gave his scores identity. But with the bland, ill-defined mewling of Sam Smith’s song, there is practically nothing of substance for the composer to work off resulting in a score that’s almost exclusively either repetitive bombast or brain-damagingly simplistic textural faff. As I said, this is easily one of the worst blockbuster soundtracks I have ever heard to the point where it explicitly has a negative impact on the film.
And the lack of large action sequences is a problem for me. Instead of running around London at night and resulting in nothing more exciting than being in the capital and trying to get a cab at night, why wasn’t the climax at Blofeld’s crater base… with a shit load of guards rather than the five men he shoots easily? Then they could have had Felix or whoever come in with an army and have a massive, Lewis Gilbert style ending. And we haven’t seen one of those in years!!!! That could’ve been awesome and would’ve been better than what we got.
But there is hope here in SPECTRE. Hope that, finally, the James Bond and Batman/Superman franchises will drop the whole po-faced, serious, “dark approach” along with the “all the characters need to be related because that equals depth” tedious crap. Having everyone related doesn’t equal depth. It’s unrealistic, short changes the audience and shrinks the scale of the universe you have created. The Bond franchise has, until recently, been very good at reinventing and realigning the series if EON feels a certain approach or style is getting tired or unpopular. It’s one of the reasons the Bond films stand up as a series because, despite the formula, there is variation and surprises.
SPECTRE is not, in my opinion, the oedipal wreck that was Skyfall and it at least, at times, feels like a Bond film and what with the arrival at Blofeld’s lair, which was gorgeous, and the fact that it genuinely feels that it is trying to be a Bond film then… oh shit, I like this movie don’t I? I actually liked it.
Yep, when all is said and done, despite the fact that it is a car-crash of a film and that it should, and must, represent the end of a period of a certain style of portraying Bond on screen, when it comes down to it I kinda liked SPECTRE. Grudgingly. Very grudgingly. It is bad but it felt more Bond than Quantum of Solace ever did (a Bond film that felt positively ashamed to be a Bond film and not a Bourne film), less po-faced and downright dull than Skyfall and anything would be better than Brosnan’s last three outings… which were unmitigated shit (apart from Die Another Die which is almost a work of insane genius if you are pissed enough). No, I’d happily put SPECTRE in the same camp as say The Man With The Golden Gun or Octopussy or even Diamonds Are Forever. They are, in my opinion, lesser Bond films but ones that do, at the very least, genuinely feel Bond-y in nature and have enough stuff going on in them or little moments, no matter how brief or rare, to keep coming back to. And that arrival at Blofeld’s base. I’m not kidding, I love that moment. Love it to the point that it almost, almost, saves the film for me. SPECTRE has moments, genuine moments, that I have waited 30 odd years to see in a Bond film. They are the points where Mendes throws out the references to other filmmakers — Nolan or Kubrick — and has the balls to give us some unadulterated, undiluted, pure Bond and when he does so it is staggeringly great. This shows that Bond can easily stand on its own. It doesn’t need to be ashamed. It doesn’t need, and shouldn’t, reference outside franchises. And the moments with the humour, fun and glamour are by far the things that make this film watchable and, at times, very watchable. It is po-faced, overthinking, faux seriousness that causes the film to fail spectacularly.
In conclusion, and I can’t believe I’m saying this after all the above, but I’d genuinely love it if Craig and Mendes came back and did just one more Bond film, but on one condition — that they threw out the Dark Knight fetish and embraced, fully embraced, the full on traditional fun of Bond. They have demonstrated they have the capacity to do it and do it well when they want to. So don’t be ashamed, don’t hide your PPK away, be loud and proud and go full Bond. Because that’s what the fans deserve… and want. It’s time to go full Bond.