Creating story to a set structure is nothing to sniff at. After all, it’s worked for Bernard Cornwell all these years. But after the fresh of breath air that was Skyfall, the familiar ground covered in Spectre tastes stale. There are certainly aspects that the 24th Bond film gets right – the injection of humour (to, let’s face it, a very silly series), the conclusion of a slow-burning arc for this incarnation of Bond, some beautiful cinematography, and another solid performance from Daniel Craig – but the weaknesses far outweigh the strengths. What is left is a strangely formulaic, plot-hole ridden mess of a film that is entirely forgettable.
In Spectre, we see the culmination of Daniel Craig’s time as Bond, wrapping up all the villains and conspiracies into a neat bow. That’s right, everything is connected. All the previous baddies Bond has faced have been merely puppets performing to the strings of an organization called Spectre, headed up by mystery man Oberhauser (Christoph Waltz).
Story = plot, character, and setting
For Bond, defeating Spectre is personal, and for more reasons than M’s death at the end of Skyfall. The set-up gives Bond emotional motivation for his vengeance crusade while leaving the motivation of pretty much everyone else completely absent. Sure, this lack of ideology and motivation for Bond villains is nothing new, but I thought we’d moved past this? Hasn’t Craig’s Bond had a little more depth to the narratives (obviously not Quantum of Solace)? We are never even given an explanation as to what Spectre’s ultimate goal is – though we could easily assume it is ‘world domination’ in the vague sense that Salem the talking cat used to strive for. And why do any of those in Spectre (cause there’s a few key players in the organization facing off against Bond, including those played by Dave Bautista and Andrew Scott) work there/do what they do? Just because they are bad guys? Is it really so wrong for me to want to know why?
If the total lack of three-dimensional characters weren’t enough, there are plot holes galore. Of course, plot and character are inextricably linked. Without strong motivation for the characters their actions – and therefore the plot – make no sense. The audience is given very little information, if any, of how Bond has discovered the information, how he is getting about (seriously, how did he get that car from London to Rome? And with what money? There’s never even a mention of his passports/alternate identities being stopped… sloppy work guys!). Some of these issues aren’t necessarily plot holes, like the leap from Bond being in Rome to finding Mr White – just that the audience isn’t privy to how Bond received the information, why he is going there, etc. This makes for an incredibly jarring moment, leaving the audience to scramble about in order to catch up with what is going on.
While I understand (and love) that Bond is an action franchise, Spectre is more than that. The film is about uncovering the mystery, finally working out who is behind all of his problems. If this is the core of the film, then the investigation and discovery process needs to be part of that story. Instead, we are presented with a series of events without the context of how we got there, why this is a good idea, and so on. It doesn’t make for a fulfilling film-going experience.
If it works once, it will work every time
The Bond films, after 24 of them, have found themselves in a bit of a rut. I understand the writers wanting to ensure that it feels like a Bond film rather than a generic spy film, but that can be done in so many other ways than recycling the exact same plot structure over and over again. Spectre feels almost exactly the same as many other Bond films, such as Casino Royale and Tomorrow Never Dies. Open on some kind of big action scene (usually a chase), Bond is in trouble with his superiors but decides to defy them, has an encounter with a lesser baddie leading to a quick fling with a woman (who often dies, or at least is never seen again), follows another lead, meets the big love interest, faces off against the big bad, only to discover it isn’t all over just yet. And let us not forget the multiple opportunities the villain has to take out Bond, but would rather torture and grandstand instead. There you go, I just wrote the plot of any Bond film.
It just feels so boring and predictable now. In the opening action sequence I know he’ll get the guy, but that guy is only a pawn, but someone who will lead to the bigger, badder guy. I know that the first girl we meet won’t stick. I know that the big showdown isn’t really the final climax. And so on… Why not change it up? Surprise us? For instance, the very first girl we meet could be seemingly killed only to turn out to actually be the bad guy. There are a lot of options. And yet, they continue to give us the same plot with flimsy paper cut outs of characters.
Spectre is certainly not the worst Bond film I’ve seen but it is hardly up there with the best. Daniel Craig and Christoph Waltz are both excellent, but charisma and acting chops can only get you so far when your characters and plot have no actual substance.
Verdict: Disappointing Bond film that will likely be Craig’s finale. At least he gave us Casino Royale and Skyfall.