Spectre chess

Time/place: 4:30 showing at Aliso Viejo 20

I was never a James Bond fan.  The suave, campy, lady-wooing spy just never spoke to me… neither the classic movies nor the more modern Pierce Brosnan versions.  Then Casino Royale came out and really caught my eye.  It was fun and Bond-esque, of course, but it was also a more interesting take on the series to me.  The next movie was something I’ve all but forgotten, but then my BFF (not literally) Sam Mendes helmed Skyfall and created a very powerful and fantastic movie… out of James stinkin’ Bond.

So, knowing that Mendes was behind this latest one, and knowing that Christoph Waltz was in it, had me again piqued to see if the prior outing would be topped.  Well, it wasn’t… but Spectre is still pretty fun.

I avoid seeking out any information/reviews on movies I’m interested in seeing, but I did notice someone online mention that Spectre pushed aside the “darker, emotional” era of the past few Bond movies.  So, I went into the theater today with that in mind.  I wouldn’t say that point is entirely true, though; this is definitely the final, concluding part to the last several movies as a mini-series, and in that way the character of James Bond has grown and shifted into his “classic” self, but it still carried its somber tones and grit.  The ripples of the much darker Skyfall storyline play out through this new movie, but it certainly never reaches the same emotional depth.

First of all, let me say that I love Sam Mendes.  I haven’t loved every movie he’s made, but that’s only due to story.  I adore seeing his work… camerawork and pacing that always just feels so soothing.  He strikes me as very confident in what he shoots, and most of the smiling I did while watching Spectre was simply due to the fact that it’s just such a great-looking movie.  The opening scene/shots all but made me giggle with pleasure.  I’m not an action fan, necessarily, and Sam Mendes isn’t exactly a big action director, but there is just a lot that I can appreciate in how even the grand set-pieces of this movie are staged.  Sam Mendes continues to please the heck out of me, and I’ll always look forward to what he does next.

To the story-at-hand, though, Spectre offers a mix of highs and lows.  It’s certainly a fun movie, I thought, but the final act was a bit disappointing.  These reviews are always spoiler-free, of course, but I’m content to say that while the villain is wonderfully teased and built-up for most of the movie, his final reveal and the ensuing resolution just aren’t all that they could be.  If Skyfall was The Empire Strikes Back, Spectre should’ve been Return of the Jedi… maybe not as “good,” as its predecessor, but emotionally rewarding and a great satisfactory conclusion to the tale.  Instead, though, for as many great little bits and payoffs as Spectre has, ultimately I was left a little wanting.  For a movie that really took its time and paved a great path throughout most of the movie, there were a number of points about the end-choices that just didn’t quiet deliver.

Of course, I did walk out playing the James Bond theme in my head and walking with an uncontrollable extra dose of confident swagger, so ultimately it still delivered plenty of cool ;).

A few quick-mentions before I go:

  • Lea Seydoux really held her own, and regardless of her character’s dictated performance-requirements, I really enjoyed how she played things.
  • The opening credit-sequence was mostly brilliant, with dashes of over-the-top silliness.  Yes, silly even for a James Bond intro.
  • Christoph Waltz was very sadly underused… not just in terms of his character’s on-screen time, but in what he was called on to do.  Again, many of his moments were fantastic, but then there were several times when it seemed like he was without direction and just delivering lines.

Spectre is a fun James Bond movie that, in terms of story, is a great logical conclusion to the tale that’s been told over the last few movies, but in terms of emotional satisfaction, it left me a little cold.  It was fine for what it was, and many of the choices were spot-on and smart, though it could have been much more.  Skyfall is still easily my favorite Bond movie, and it’s a little disappointing that this follow-up missed a number of opportunities to keep up with its predecessor.  Until the last third of the movie, Spectre is all but perfect, and it’s really only in its final act that things wavered and lost me a bit.

Spectre waiting at train station

Grade: B


About Mark Mushakian

Just a man who loves God, women, kids, dogs, movies, and every other lovely thing in life :)
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