Spectre fails to top Skyfall


Director Sam Mendes said earlier in the year that he wanted to top his work in Skyfall with the next installment to the 007 James Bond franchise, Spectre. It was bold claim, but creating a film as masterful as Skyfall to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the franchise proved that he was up for a challenge. Ultimately, Spectre is a disappointment in that respect.


The film opens in Mexico City in the heart of the Día de Los Muertos parade. It starts with a tracking shot (where the camera keeps moving around and following the characters without cutting) that spans about 6-7 minutes. It’s a very difficult thing to pull off, and Mendes automatically earns the respect of the cinephile portion of his audience. While the scene is certainly impressive, it is actually not done in one take. Mendes used the same tricks that Alejandra G. Inñaritú used in Birdman  to make everything seem like it was done in one take, when in fact, it was not (a technique actually conceived by Alfred Hitchcock). To be able to identify the nearly unnoticable cuts, check out this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FthEJGR61c8


After the vivid opening scene, there’s a visually compelling opening credit sequence, a regular feature in Bond films. There’s just a few issues with it. First off, there’s a bunch of octopi in it (yes, as in the animal), and there was no mention of an octopus anywhere in the actual film. Second, the song, Sam Smith’s “Writings on The Walls” is good, but doesn’t size up to Adele’s “Skyfall” in the the previous film.


The story telling for the majority of the film is pretty weak, which was not the case at all for Skyfall. I sat through an hour and a half of chase after chase, city after city, with nothing really being accomplished, until finally Bond gets to interact with the film’s villain, played by Christoph Waltz and there’s a little more plot to it for the last hour. Additionally, the villain was just not that great at all. Kingsman: The Secret Service wisely claimed that Bond films are only as good as the villain. Javier Bardem’s animation of Silva in Skyfall was arguably the best performance as a villain in a Bond film. Christoph Waltz, while he is a great actor, basically had no room to show off his chops when he played a villain who was unimpressive and unexciting and had almost no screen time. For the exact opposite, check out his performance in Inglorious Basterds.


It seems like Spectre is the official conclusion of the Daniel Craig era of James Bond films. There’s a scene that pays tribute to every villain and hero that perished in Craig’s time playing Bond where all their pictures are hung up on the walls in a scene where Bond pursues Waltz’s villain. I was under the impression that Craig was done playing 007 after Skyfall, which would have been fine. Skyfall was the film that gave us a look into Bond’s tragic, Bruce-Wayne-ish past. Spectre tries to give us more insight into what happened to young Bond after the death of his parents, but it winds up basically just being a mediocre sequel to Skyfall.
Spectre isn’t a horrible film. It’s still fun and exciting just as any Bond film should be. The recognizable loud and blaring trumpet theme will give audiences the same feeling it always does. But if you’re expecting a film that tops Skyfall, you’re going to be disappointed.