While we are in a new year the remnants of our previous year still remain. More specifically the best, the worst, as well as the most disappointing things of the year.
First, the good things: I really enjoyed the pre-titles sequence, and I loved all of the kinetic crowd movement and explosions of colour of El Dia de los Muertos. The action overall is decent but the PTS was the best by far. I thought Sam Smith’s song improved considerably when played over the hentai-tastic title sequence (and I got a kick out of seeing Vesper and Le Chiffre again in the titles). The MI6 gang of M, Q, Moneypenny, and Tanner got some more things to do this time around (they also got some of the best one-liners) and that was pretty cool, although by the end they were starting to remind me of Ethan Hunt’s entourage of helpers in all of the Mission Impossible movies. I absolutely loved Dave Bautista’s Hinx (great fight on the train with Bond) and I wish we got more of him. The lobotomy scene was fascinating, although I think it would have been more effective if Bond had actually suffered some adverse effects because of it. There were a bunch of subtle nods to Ian Fleming’s original stories, like the Hildebrand safe house, which brought me untold amounts of joy as a Bond fan.
Unfortunately there was also quite a bit about SPECTRE which did not wow me. I think I’ll have to see the film a few more times before I can comfortably rank it somewhere against the other Bond films, but right now it doesn’t come anywhere close to the greats like Casino Royale, From Russia With Love, and GoldenEye (in my opinion).
One of my biggest issues with this film is the incredibly unconvincing and contrived romance between Bond and Dr Madeleine Swann (played by one of my favorite young actresses, the gorgeous Lea Seydoux). The film insists that she is The Love of Bond’s Life (which apparently transpired over the course of a few days of travel) and it weakens what would have otherwise been a somewhat interesting character; there’s a lot they could have done with her being a psychologist and the daughter of Mr White. Though Seydoux did a decent job with what she was given, the character of Madeleine was inconsistently written; the “I love you” had me laughing and then it had me a bit cross because it seemed like barely ten minutes ago that she had been sarcastically pointing out the idiocy of falling into Bond’s arms. In any case, I still hold the relationship between James Bond and Vesper Lynd as the gold standard for romance in a Bond movie, and not only does SPECTRE openly invite comparisons to that relationship (both by mentioning Vesper and by practically duplicating certain scenes from CR) but there’s nothing between Bond and Madeleine that even comes close to the emotional depth of – for instance – the shower scene from Casino Royale in this movie.
I was also quite disappointed with the other members of the supporting cast (minus Bautista and the MI6 team), whom I think I expected more from given the talent involved. Monica Bellucci looks great as always but she’s in this movie for maybe five minutes and then never seen or mentioned again; it really made all those claims of the series breaking ageist barriers in Hollywood seem laughable in retrospect. Andrew Scott phoned it in and portrayed the most generic villainous bureaucrat I have had the misfortune of seeing in recent memory, and I can only pray that with his (hopefully) hefty SPECTRE paycheck, he can be free to do work he actually gives a shit about for the next decade or so. Denbigh is basically in this movie so Ralph Fiennes’ M can be a total badass, which is okay but also a complete waste of the very talented Andrew Scott.
And of course, the tuxedo-wearing elephant in the room: Christoph Waltz, as Franz Oberhau. But, he’s actually Blofeld because of daddy issues. I’ve probably experienced more surprise waiting for electronics that I ordered off AliExpress than I did with the so-called twist in this film. The movie attempts to leave you astonished with the Oberhauser/Blofeld switcheroo and the reveal that Blofeld orchestrated essentially everything bad that happened to Bond in the previous three films, but it feels more like a bunch of strategic name-dropping exposition (a Le Chiffre here, a Silva there) than a confusion-riddled situation of epic proportions, and it’s not helped by the fact we already heard him say “The author of all your pain” in the theatrical trailer. Waltz isn’t bad per se but he comes across as a watered-down Hans Landa rather than something refreshingly original, and it’s nothing to write home about in terms of Christoph Waltz performances, or even Bond villain performances in general. It just feels like something we’ve seen done before, but not quite as good as when we saw it done the first time which incidentally is how a lot of this film feels.
I liked many things about the movie, but its cons (mainly to do with the romance subplot and the wasted or underwhelming supporting cast) sadly outweigh its pros. I’ll be watching it a few more times in the coming weeks and I hope it improves for me upon re-watch but for now, I consider it the most disappointing movie of 2015.