The Bond Identity
Licensed to Die
a kindly review of 007: Spectre
by David Clemmer
Spectre, the twenty-somethingth, umpteenth, whateverth installment in the (rebooted?) Sexist Misogynist Dinosaur franchise, is possibly the worst one ever. Of course, I wouldn’t really know, nor would I want to know, because that would mean drinking and distracting my way through a bloated and tired back-catalog of movies that have done nothing to serve our culture other than to glorify violence and virility.
Like, Oh, okay, that car’s supposed to be sexy. Or something. I’m supposed to’ve read about this car in some magazine or something, and discussed its virtues over some liquor I can’t afford at a men-only poker game. And that woman is supposed to be the very ne plus ultra of my every primal desire. I’m supposed to desire naught else but to ███████ her in the ██████ █████ ███████ ███ while ████ ████████ ███ ████████ ████████ then ██████████ █████ █████████ ████ ███ ██ █ ██████ █████████ ███████████ ███ █████ into a $1,000 pair of Vicuna socks. And the manner in which he dispatched those bad guys was top-notch gentlemanly, and his quip could fuel a sex-rocket to Alpha Centauri.
That’s why my interest picked up in the Craig-era movies. Because these tropes started to fall off like all the crisp skin flakes of all of Jimmy’s sexually-transmitted diseases. But now the infection is back, and it’s raging, and no ointment is going to erase the burn unless you amputate.
What, you thought you’d have to click ‘Read More’ before getting to a dick reference? I have my own tropes too.
If you didn’t catch it in the preceding paragraphs, I don’t really want a Bond movie to be ‘what a Bond movie is supposed to be’. Millennial Bond movies shouldn’t be what Bond movies ‘are supposed to be’. Even 1995’s GoldenEye knew this, what with the oft-quoted line, even in this review, ‘I think you’re a sexist, misogynist dinosaur. A relic of the Cold War.’ Courtesy of Judi Dench. Maybe she also happened to be in-character when she said it. But anyway, here are the things I could totally do without:
- The line of sexual conquests. ✘
- The Sterling Archeresque car boners we’re all supposed to have. ✘
- Villain monologues. ✘
- Over-the-top identity villains (that’s the guy with the teeth, that’s the guy with the hat). ✘
- Long sexy opening credits with long boring songs. ✘
- Q’s gadget exposition. ✘
- Moneypenny flirtation. ✘
The things that draw me to Bond films are:
- Globetrotting spy action. ✓
- Fast-paced vehicle fights, gun fights, hand-to-hand fights. ✓
- His ‘tude. ✓
- The escapist espionage melodrama of good guy vs. bad guy. ✓
Spectre, simply, doesn’t deliver in any way.
For one, we are shortchanged on our Chris Waltz payout. That’s Hans fucking Landa you have there, and you shroud him in so much thick, molassesy plot-dragging mystery that we don’t see him until a hefty time into the film, and then we don’t see him again for even longer. He was underused and terribly understated for the terrific character actor we all know him to be. That’s why we were excited that he was a Bond villain, letalone fucking Blofeld. Oh shit, that was, like, a big reveal. That he’s Blofeld. Maybe I shouldn’t have said that. Where’s my backspace key? How do I delete words on this thing? I mean, I know we all expected him to be Blofeld, but I probably shouldn’t just drop that there without a spoiler warning. Someone out there might care. Fuck, where is that backspace key? I thought this computer had a backspace key.
The action scenes, save for his fight with Dave Bautista—which was Bourne-level bee-ay—were either overlong, over-the-top even in comparison with latter-day Brosnan acts, or both. In one thrilling shitshow, James Bond has to rescue Léa Seydoux from Dave Bautista, who’s escaping down a mountain in an SUV. Bond has a plane. At one point, the plane gets its wings and wheels ripped off, and James Bond… *pinches bridge of nose, sighs; looks out the window for a little too long, sighs again*
James Bond is able to deftly control the plane in a breakneck-speed slide down a mountain, and through entire buildings, to ultimately succeed in crashing into the second vehicle and not the one with Léa Seydoux in… *pinches bridge of nose again, this one’s a screamer; is in real pain, having been abandoned by my brain, which vacated the theater for its survival*
The below .gif doesn’t seem so bad now.
I’m sorry, yes it does.
The aspect of this film that bothered me the most was the fact that it spent so much energy fighting the Bond tropes, only to immediately reverse and glorify them.
A minor character (under)played by the brilliant Andrew ‘Moriarty to Cumberbatch’s Sherlock’ Scott exists as the foil to MI6. He merges them with MI5 and obliterates the 00 program in favor of what M not-so-subtly points out as an Orwellian nightmare. In his introductory spiel, Scott’s ‘C’ explains that the 00 program is obsolete—a direct and questionably-intentional comment on the Bond franchise—when the age of surveillance can more effectively keep the world safe. Ethical quandaries abound, sure, but if you look at the surveillance thing as a symbol for, simply, more advanced stories in more innovative films, the message becomes clear by the end: No, Mr. Newfangled Fancypants, actually, we dinosaurs are still the best option, and we always will be.
Then, in the film’s most egregious sin, Bond grief-bones and murder-bones the two female interests in the film with absolutely no setup whatsoever. And both are really uncomfortable in ways that I don’t think were intentional.
Though he does have trysts with minor characters in the previous three films, let’s first take a quick gander at the previous female leads. Casino‘s Vesper Lynd was not a conquest but a full-on love interest, in a story where that kind of thing actually had a considerable impact on the rest of the events. Quantum‘s Camille Montes had no romantic involvement with Bond, and a vengeance-fueled arc. Skyfall‘s female lead was actually M, supported by Moneypenny, in, again, fairly decent arcs directly related to the main plot of the film. This is rad. Good on these movies.
In Spectre, first Bond grief-bones Monica Bellucci after they’ve known each other for, like, an allotted three minutes. And it’s kinda rapey. Like, uncomfortably rapey. AND, she knows that Bond murdered her husband. At the point that Bond pushed Bellucci against the mirror, I thought, Maybe since they’ve spent a lot of time deconstructing Bond’s tropes, his rapey advances are going to earn him an awesome kick right to his James Bond Jr. and I am going to stand up and scream-cheer at the screen in front of all these people. But then, no, Bellucci just goes all heavy-breathed and starts rubbing her lips on Bond’s mouth. Then they bone. And I’m like, WHY. WHY THE FUCK. LITERALLY.
Later, Léa Seydoux has an interaction with Bond where she turns him down hard. Because it seemed like maybe her character was going to have an arc like Lynd and Montes did. (Spoiler alert: she did not.) But then, after the aforementioned kickass fight scene with Dave Bautista, Bond and Seydoux immediately murder-bone on the train. Like, Bautista makes a succinct assessment of what the film is, (his only line of dialogue is, ‘Shit.’), Bond and Seydoux look at each other, and it quick-cuts to Sexville. And I’m like, WHY. WHY THE FUCK. LITERALLY. AGAIN.
And it just gets worse from there. There’s an way-out-of-left-field ‘I love you’ that had me willing my soul to exit my body and abandon this lost little planet. She stops being relevant to the story long before she’s off-camera. Her relevance is glancing at best anyway. They could have spent way more time talking about the relationship between Bond and Blofeld (shit, uh, I mean Oberhauser), and their shared history, but no. We need someone for Bond to have sex with. Ugh.
On the film itself, it was pretty standard. They did the whole the first scene is one long continuous take thing, which I thought worked kinda well with the music and the Dia de las Muertas setting. I would’ve liked to see the continuousness continue into the action scene that followed, but, eh. Nothing else stands out other than the fact that someone forgot to turn up the brightness and contrast on the film. It’s the same music you’ve heard exactly 9,829 times in your life. It’s Bond; no ground broken here.
Should you go see it? No. Not even for the ceremony of seeing the new Bond movie. It’s the Tomorrow Never Dies of the Craig era (Quantum was okay, shut up). If you happened to be at someone’s house and it was on the teevee during, like, a party where nobody was really watching it, it wouldn’t kill you to occasionally glance at it. Unless it’s the rapey scene.
Oh, and before I go, did anyone else catch when Christoph Waltz said to Léa Seydoux, ‘I paid your father a visit once. I came to his house.’ And she said, ‘I don’t remember that,’ and nobody in the theater knew what the fuck that was supposed to be in reference to?
249.7/851 gallons of gin and vermouth
8/28 guilt-free sexual conquests
3/13 motor vehicles that are supposed to inspire erections
0/1 good use of Christoph Waltz