Spectre? More like SpecTURD. Hahahahabut no seriously. You remember when Sam Smith’s “Writing on the Wall” came out, and everyone was like “…Wow. This is really boring for a Bond song. I’m not really digging it.” Turns out, “Writing on the Wall” is fucking excellent, at least insomuch as it’s an accurate representation of the movie it’s for.
Spectre’s not completely terrible. The opening credits got unintentionally hilarious with implied tentacle porn, for one thing, and Ben Whishaw continues to be great as Q. Christoph Waltz and Dave Bautista were born to be Bond villains, of the criminal mastermind and hulking goon variety, respectively. Monica Bellucci is the Platonic ideal of what a Bond woman should be, for all that she’s only in the movie for 15 minutes. Some of the action setpieces are amazing, particularly one near the beginning of the film where a helicopter flies topsy-turvy above a Mexico City Dia de los Muertos celebration.
How, then, did Sam Mendes manage to get so much so right, yet manage to fuck everything else up so egregiously? The plot grinds along between action scenes, making Spectre feel much longer than its 148 minutes. There is not a single surprise or unexpected note to be found. Everything feels stale, notably an obviously villainous weaselly politician and a subplot involving a super-scary government surveillance organization. I’m sorry, didn’t we just see that in Winter Soldier? And… endless other movies? Endless other movies that were influenced by Bond, sure—Spectre comes out near the end of a year that has seen the release of Kingsman: The Secret Service, Spy, Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation and The Man from UNCLE— but the fact that the Bond franchise likes its reboots is an indicator that it knows it can’t keep doing the exact same thing indefinitely. Gritty, grimdark Bond may have been novel when Casino Royale came out and the franchise was shrugging off the spectre (sorry) of the silly ’90s, but now all that self-seriousness is dated and tiring.
The movie’s biggest fault, though, belongs with the relationship between Bond and his love interest du jour, Dr. Madeleine Swann. If Craig and Léa Seydoux had even a mite of chemistry, I didn’t see it. At one point, Swann tells Bond she loves him, and people in my theater straight-up laughed. Bond has ten times the warmth and sexual chemistry with Q, I shit you not. Seydoux has the class and sophistication needed for a Bond flick down cold, but she’s also something of a flat actress, and if you want us to believe that she and Bond develop some sort of deep romantic connection over a period of days, you need someone who can sell… you know… emotion. Her character’s a big ol’ nothing, which is particularly egregious when Rogue Nation showed us earlier this year what a female co-lead done well looks like. What makes it even worse is that elements of Spectre tie into the other Craig Bond films, so we’re occasionally shown images of previous characters… among them Casino Royale’s Vesper Lynd. To get a glipmse of her and then cut back to cut-rate Eva Green left me feeling cheated.
The fault isn’t all with Seydoux, either; Craig has made no secret of the fact that he doesn’t give a shit about the Bond franchise anymore, and hoo boy, you can definitely tell. The man is sleepwalking. It’s uncertain at this point as to whether he’ll return for one last movie—as far as I can tell, he’s under contract, but he’s doing everything short of visiting producer Barbara Broccoli’s house and pissing on her prize begonias to be let loose. Just let him go and give Idris Elba a call, already.