Saturday, November 7, 2015

I saw SPECTRE Retooled...

Ian Fleming's James Bond is back: that is, Daniel Craig's Bond, in the fourth entry of his 007 series. 

Directed by "Skyfall'"s Sam Mendes (and scripted by Jez Butterworth,  John Logan, Neal Purvis and Robert Wade), "Spectre" is aptly big, bold and nostalgic. Also, just as “Thunderball” faced the challenge of matching "Goldfinger'"s success, “Spectre” has been angled to rival the acclaimed "Skyfall". Against the odds, "Spectre" manages to hold its own and perhaps more than in the prior Craig outings, embraces its globe-trotting past, but with a masterful, foreboding glorification that accompanies the actor's stoic presence.

The evil organization, SPECTRE is familiar to Bond buffs, and its octopus logo (like Hydra's in Marvel) is iconic. However, an insinuated element is now attributed to the Connery-era agency, evident in the Day of the Dead prologue, where citizens sport skull personas. In appearance, they're reminiscent of "Live and Let Die'"s mystical minions, but by no means are they bad guys. They simply stand in lieu of SPECTRE's actual members: dead on the record books, but alive either in flesh or spirit, and because of their furtive influence, a danger to the world. 

As with any Bond effort, the villains are a notch above most, with Franz Oberhauser/Ernst Stavano Blofeld (the devilishly charismatic Christoph Waltz) leading the pack, assisted by Dave "Guardians of the Galaxy" Bautista as henchman Mr. Hinx. (Even Jesper Christensen's Mr. White makes a brief reappearance.) However, mobster Marco Sciarra (Alessandro Cremona) occupies the earliest action, brawling with Bond in Mexico. Even when Sciarra slips from view, his presence prevails through his fetching but beguiling wife, Lucia (Monica Bellucci). 

The primary Bond girl is Lea Seydoux (Waltz's "Inglourious Basterds" costar), who projects a cool, Hitchcockian sexiness as Dr. Madeleine Swann. She's Mr. White's daughter and harbors a secret, making Bond's romantic object of value and concern. 

The rest of the cast bridges their relationship nicely, with Ralph Fiennes now promoted to "M" status; Naomie Harris returning as Eve Moneypenny, along with Ben Whishaw as the quirky "Q". Andrew Scott enters the behind-the-scenes tension as British agent Max Denbigh (aka, "C"), who mirrors Bond's tenacity, though to an Orwellian fault.  

Alas, to its disadvantage, "Spectre" doesn't hit "Skyfall'"s psychological complexity (due to Javier Bardem's memorable Raoul Silva), nor does it offer the previous film's sentimentality (a result of Judi Densch's departure). It's really a straight-forward action piece, where Bond once more uses his superheroic resources to thwart opponents. On the other hand, it's not an utter rehash of prior efforts, despite its many nostalgic nods. It's too cynical and hardcore for that, and SPECTRE remains as troublesome as when last seen in "Never Say Never Again", but now more expansive because of its computerized reconstruction. 

As with any Bond film, "Spectre" is jammed with exoticism, allowing our hero to leap from one locale to another without much apparent cause, but on the plus side, "Spectre" may be Craig's most attractive adventure. Also, the gadget-laden action is on a par with this year's other stand-outs, including "Man from U.N.C.L.E", "Age of Ultron" and "Fury Road".

Where "Spectre" will rank in the franchise's long haul is yet to be seen. Still, in its imaginative scope and visual vigor, the sequel should please most fans. It also demands Craig's re-entry, even if (per recent rumor) that's not to be. This one will be a hard act to follow in any event, but then other Bond sequels have encountered the same circumstances, only to deliver in the end, and good, bad or otherwise, "Spectre" certainly confirms 007 will return!!!

1 comment:

  1. BTW: “Spectre” proves that a British “Avengers” connection continues in the Bond series. Ralph Fiennes portrayed John Steed in the “Avengers” movie remake. Patrick Macnee, the original Steed, costarred in “Octopussy”. Two of Macnee’s leading “Avengers” ladies have also appeared in Bond films: Honor Blackman in “Goldfinger” and Diana Rigg in “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service".