With Ralph Fiennes as the new M, it’s hard not to picture the intelligent Moneypenny (Naomie Harris), the awkward Q (Ben Whishaw), and the trouble-magnet Bond (Daniel Craig) as grown up Potter kids flanking Voldemort the reformed public servant. He Who Must Not Be Named, now M 2.0, does everything in his power to keep these three, talented agents on the payroll: everything from attending local assemblies to attending international assemblies to being angry at missing the most recent local assembly. Thankfully M’s slashed funding still offers ample room for undercover Austrian spa getaways and an impressive wardrobe for MI6’s most elusive agent. Does Bond even still work for MI6? When was the last time he accepted a mission from his superiors? Seems to me like MI6 is blindly leaving money and resources within the easy reach of an exceptionally dapper kleptomaniac.
Sporting more tightly tailored suits than one could possibly need in the African desert is your favourite manic alcoholic and public menace: James Bond (Daniel Craig). You’ve seen him sweating at poker tables, Home-Alone-ing Scottish cabins, and befuddling the Quantum hell out of someone’s Solace, but you have yet to see him juggle all the classic Bond clichés in one blockbuster film. Spectre starts with a bang (and little shock to us) before bobbing through the motions we all know and recognize: find a lonely girl, sleep with her, get some info, get into trouble, make a mess, find another girl, sleep with her, get into trouble, make a mess, etc. Every conversation Bond has with M starts with, “Do you know how much money you’ve cost me?” And ends with, “Don’t do it again,” before Bond runs off and, with no surprise to
anyone, anywhere, ever, does it all again. Spectre follows the classic James Bond pattern to the letter. It’s predictable from the first chase scene to the inevitable foiling of the villain’s plot (including the expected helicopter photobombs). It’s one of those mouth-the-line-before-they-say-it movies.
Spectre’s stunts also follow the pattern. They start flashy with some – ahem – eye-popping action, and a ballsy stunt involving the side of an aircraft and an iron grip. Gentlemen, just because Tom Cruise hangs off the side of a plane in his movie doesn’t mean everyone has to do it. If Tom Cruise jumped off a cliff would you… Forget it. Spectre also delivers its fair dose of muted, claustrophobic, fist fights, and the blowing up of evil layers. Moua-ha-ha. Spectre practically hangs a flag behind the EVIL GUY and his board of shadowy figures while putting our hero in a tux with pocket-hidden, women-sensing pheromone misters.
Spectre has to tick the action boxes, however, and it certainly does – the problem is it does so with little creativity. Spectre mixes a surprising amount of humour into an investigative mission/love story. The fight sequences are squint-worthy with plenty of concussions and broken glass – but it’s all stuff we’ve seen before. When the bursts of action take a pause, Spectre stretches its budget to include a cute CGI mouse, a cute CGI gecko, and a real, live, fluffy kitty. Hold on to your seat. Spectre is really a Telus commercial in disguise.
Other than flinching every time Bond hits the man-wall (Dave Bautista), my greatest moment of emotional distress came when the gorgeous, priceless Aston Martin DB10 met its admittedly expected end. A single tear was shed in conjunction with a betrayed gasp of shock and mourning. I can only assume – since the setting immediately jumped from Rome to the Austrian Alps – that paying to recover the car from its final resting place was cheaper than the cost of custom winter tires.
Spectre isn’t necessarily a “bad” movie because it does include everything you expect to see. But that’s just it: it doesn’t go outside of the box. It feels very formulaic, following the same structure we’ve seen oh so many times before. Spectre is an easy-flowing action movie with plenty of everything you expect but nothing really new to offer. It’s 6 perfect shots hitting 10 barely moving targets.