(Planet Me)
Friday, November 06, 2015

I've been asked for a no spoilers review : and I'm trying really hard not to spoil anything. But the script itself spoils enough things. But I'm no Bond expert. I've only seen all the films multiple times – and regard “Never Say Never Again” as the best fanfiction there is. I only saw a grainy recorded-off-TV version of “Moonraker” 11 times in the 6 week school holidays of 1985 alone. (No, I'm not lying). I grew up with Roger Moore's Bond. My first Bond in the cinema was “A View To A Kill”. I still remember seeing – alongside 14 other people - “The Living Daylights” in the enormous Big Room of The Birmingham Odeon, with 1,384 unsold seats. So, you know, I'm no expert.

There's always a tendancy to say the new instalment of anything is a disappointment. But since the mid 90's, and since “Tomorrow Never Dies”, Bond films have started to … decline in quality and scriptwriting. Aside from “Casino Royale” (2nd best Bond, 2nd best Bond film), the dip in quality of the plots, the writing, and the structure of the films hasn't been so much.. gradual.. as suicidal.

Honestly. I don't give a damn for the fucking backstory. Does anyone really think that “The Spy Who Loved Me” would be better, in * any * way, by a scene where Stromberg told Bond about his childhood envies? If I told you that the latest Bond film, “Spectre”, was hinged on the bad guy's Daddy issues and schoolyard ski instructor jealousies, would you believe me?

Because I fucking wouldn't. I'd laugh at you, throw into the slush pile, and tell you to come back when you've got a story worth telling.

Every film has a Bullshitometer in it. Every film, every book, every TV show and song has a expected quality bar within it, an expectation that, if we, as an audience are going to give our time to it, be it three minutes, or three hours, the creators have an obligation : a small, and short one, but an obligation. “Don't Suck”. By that basis, the plot of 'Spectre' is a stillborn act of self-parody at best. At worst, an act of deliberate sabotage by crazed fanction egotists.

On the surface, and in so many ways, “Spectre” is so near to being very very good. And yet, fails by the narrowest margin to walk the tightrope highwire, and plummets into redonkulous bullshit that pointlessly wastes the goodwill and potential of the entire Craig Bondography.

And this? I don't need to know the villains backstory, or his motivations. Nobody gave a shit about Drax, or Zorin, or Scaramanga. Their motivations? Who cares. They're baddies, they want to rule the world, or have power, and kill people. They're insecure. And probably overcompensating. And I'm good with that. James Bond movies have a set of tropes, which “Spectre” thoroughly disrespects.

It's like giving a monkey a typewriter, and calling then calling said mammal an author.

It's Bondfuckingbingo. In the way that made the equally risible “Skyfall” look like repressed act of mere eyebrow raising quippery. Shocking.

Big Bad Guy with secret identity, implausible (even by Bond standards) backstory, and bullshit outfit? Tick.

Good Guy Who Is Actually A Bad Guy? Tick.

Usual Attack on MI5 headquarters? Tick.

Boat chase, plane chase, car chase, helicopter chase, train chase? Tick. (There might not be a skateboard chase, though. Sorry).

Bond sleeps with human female who then dies? Tick.

Bond goes rogue, just like the last three films? Tick Tickety Tick Tick.

Pretty much the only thing it doesn't have is secret infilitration of MI5 and plot to take over the world through the manipulation of data and … wait. Shit. It's got that too.

It's almost as if someone wrote a list of all the key ingredients of a James Bond film, threw them at a wall, and randomly assembled them in a nonsensical order. There wasn't even a writers strike to blame for this, so you can't use the “Quantum Of Solace” defence.

From a plot perspective, and god forgive me, I actually do think about the plots of films to test them again the rules of their own internal universes. By that basis, “Spectre” fails. By that basis, Tom Cruise's “Mission Impossible III” is a better Bond film.

Sure, if you want chases, explosions, chases, explosions, girls, gunfights, fistfights, chases, girls, explosions, then you're fine. Did I mention explosions? Oh. Good. Don't want to forget them.

And there's what is meant to be a huge and important reveal that is handled so poorly that even “EastEnders” would reject it. The problem here is the Big Baddie is so pedestrian that even when he's handled by a great actor, the razorthin writing and motivations can't be disguised even on a first viewing.

As fan service, “Spectre” is a Bond's greatest hits, an amalgam, or remix of Bond's previous moments, all combined together in something that is part homage, part rip off, part satisfying cinematic junk food... but overall, and wholly, the least of the Bond movies in a very very long time. History will judge harshly, and it will be getting off lightly. It makes “Diamonds Are Forever” look like Shaft.

I enjoyed it. It was referential in a number of ways, but I thought playfully so (I especially enjoyed the reference to the Hildrebrand Rarity). Sure, the plot doesn't stand serious scrutiny, but since when has that been a criterion for enjoying a Bond film? I also enjoy the way that Craig's muscular portrayal of Bond has not meant that the films can't move away from the absurd, dated misogyny of the canon. This Bond has women in his life who are not just helpless victims, who make their own decisions. More importantly, this is a Bond who is able to show vulnerability and empathy; who can hold hands with someone when they are scared.

Yeah. I enjoyed it. But you know, you seem like a Roger Moore kind of a guy, and that's fine.

if it was up to me, I'd make a full-on period Bond film that is faithful to the books. Moonraker would be my choice. I really enjoyed the books, casual racism and dated imperial attitudes notwithstanding.

Which human female that he slept with died, incidentally?
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