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Spectre ••

Spectre_posterStarring: Daniel CraigChristoph WaltzLéa Seydoux
Director: Sam Mendes
Screenplay: John LoganNeal Purvis
Action/Adventure/Thriller, Rated: R
Running Time: 148 minutes
Release Date: November 6, 2015


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Is there a ghost of a chance we’ll review Spectre, Scott?

(Dr. Scott Allison, Professor of Psychology, University of Richmond)

If the spirit is willing, Greg.  Let’s recap.

In the opening scene, James Bond (Daniel Craig) is chasing after some bad guys. After a thrilling chase, Bond finds a ring with an octopus on it. When Bond returns to London, the new ‘M’ (Ralph Fiennes) reports that ‘C’ (Andrew Scott) is shutting down MI6 and the double-0 program. So, Bond travels to Rome and has sex with the widow of the man he just killed, and she whispers sweet nothings about Spectre into his ear.

Bond then secretly infiltrates a SPECTRE meeting, where he encounters the leader, Franz Oberhauser (Christoph Waltz). When Bond is recognized, he escapes and is pursued by a SPECTRE assassin. Bond soon realizes that the octopus symbol is showing up at terrorist attacks all over the world. He convinces Eve Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) and Q (Ben Whishaw) to help him seek out Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux), who has crucial information needed to dismantle SPECTRE.

Scott, Skyfall was the culmination of a trilogy of excellent films which laid the backstory of James Bond. Spectre is a lumbering, undirected, nearly random series of action-events that has only the barest semblance of a plot. Needless to say, I thought this film was lacking. Just the second scene where Bond seduces the wife of a man he just killed lacked any intelligence. The woman is in mourning for her husband and a total stranger breaks into her home so the first thing she thinks to do is undress and share herself with him. It makes no sense.

Spectre is indeed disappointing, Greg. I’m a fan of the Jame Bond franchise but it’s pretty clear that this series is overdue for an overhaul. The same tired old formula doesn’t work any longer, especially since other movie franchises have appeared on the scene that meet or surpass the standards set by previous Bond films. I’m thinking of the Mission Impossible series and the Jason Bourne franchise, for example.

Spectre isn’t a bad movie; Daniel Craig is terrific, in fact. It’s just “same old, same old.” I often judge a movie by how much it sticks with me the day or two after viewing it. After watching Spectre on Sunday, I couldn’t tell you anything about the movie on Monday. To write this review, I had to rely on Wikipedia’s summary of the film’s plot. The two hours I spent in the theater were highly forgettable.

Well that brings up the question of whether Bond is a great hero. In Skyfall we get a deep look at what makes Bond tick, and why ‘M’ invested in him. He was an orphan and ripe for molding into an agent. Bond needed a mother image and MI6 in general and ‘M’ in particular gave him a home. That movie really gave us a hero’s journey. This one, however, is an episode in the series. As we’ve mentioned before, episodic heroes can be really boring. They lack a missing inner quality that gives the character an arc.

And I think that’s one reason Spectre falls flat. It’s just a roller coaster ride. We aren’t interested in seeing Bond become a better man. We’re supposed to be drawn in by the mystery of Spectre and how he’ll solve it. But it’s the same tired plot we’ve seen all year. The overarching organization is in danger and it’s up to Bond to solve the mystery and prove the value in the 00-program. We saw this in Avengers and Mission Impossible this year. It’s a tired plotline and it didn’t help Spectre.

This movie’s disappointment can also be traced to its clichéd supporting characters. Bond’s women are uninteresting and sadly rely on Bond to save them. In addition, as you point out, Greg, the women lack emotional believability. In any James Bond film, the villain should occupy a pivotal role. Alas, what we have here is a villain who is utterly lacking in charisma.

It turns out that Oberhauser is a sad and inferior re-tread of past Bond villains. For example, on not one but two occasions Oberhauser could have easily killed Bond and thus ensured the success of his evil plan. Instead, our villain devolves into a stereotype or caricature of villains in this genre by, in the words of Austin Powers, “placing him [Bond] in an easily escapable situation involving an overly elaborate and exotic death.”

So true. The ‘good guys’ are the new ‘M’ who represents a sort of mastermind character. He’s the one giving Bond his “henchman” orders (many of which Bond ignores). And there’s ‘Q’ who is a youngster in this incarnation who gives Bond few toys this time around. And then there’s Moneypenny who is Bond’s “inside man”. Devoted and brilliant. It’s a nice little crowd of supporters.

There’s not much else worth saying. Let’s hope they get it right next time. I can only recommend Spectre for the most diehard James Bond fans, or for fans of the very talented Daniel Craig. There’s not a speck of the spectacular in Spectre. I can only award this film a measly 2 Reels out of 5.

The hero’s journey is by-the-numbers plain and ordinary. There are some fun parts but by and large there’s nothing original to be seen here. James Bond films aren’t supposed to follow the classic hero’s journey and Spectre is no exception in this regard. I give Bond a rating of 2 Heroes out of 5.

As for the supporting characters, there isn’t a whole lot to say other than they are as unmemorable as the rest of the film. The villain put me to sleep and most of the rest of the characters left no real impression. Again, I give this group 2 rating points out of 5.

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The only Spectre here is the ghost of Bonds gone by. The story is pretty dull and is merely a patchwork of set up situations. There’s hardly any plot and the finale is forced such that we get the origin story of Bond’s nemesis. I’ve heard that Daniel Craig is not returning as Bond. In my humble opinion he should have quit with Skyfall. I also give Spectre just 2 out of 5 Reels.

As a main character, Bond is the classic episodic hero. He doesn’t have a missing inner quality to overcome. So, there’s no arc to the character. He’s going to be the same character in each episode. For me, that makes Bond a dull boy. Still he’s the rugged, independent, competent, super spy we all expect him to be. So I give him 3 out of 5 Heroes.

Sadly, this is really the origin story of Bond’s super nemesis. I say sadly because we get more of an insight into the pain that created the villain. As you’ve often pointed out, Scott, the difference between the villain and hero origin story is how the villain deals with pain. Heroes overcome their hurt and villains succumb to them. The other characters are pretty forgettable so I won’t rate them this time around. For that reason I give 3 points out of 5 to the villain.

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