Take a Drink: every time Bond does (or wants to)
Take a Drink: for every classic Bond reference
Take a Drink: for octopi
Take a Drink: for every reference to ‘C’, whatever
Do a Shot: for every big explosion
By: Henry J. Fromage & Oberst von Berauscht (Four Beers) –
Henry: Well, with the release of Spectre this weekend, we see the culmination of my and Oberst’s several month marathon of every single one of the previous 23 EON Productions Bond films as well as every Bond-adjacent film that we could find.
Some a lot less adjacent than others…
In Spectre, Daniel Craig’s James Bond nears the end of his unraveling of a massive global conspiracy that also happens to be intricately involved with his personal history… and the history of the Bond franchise at large.
Oberst: A little bit from here, a little bit from there, with 23 flavors to pick from, why would you want to choose only one?
After a mission goes horribly wrong in Mexico City during Day of the Dead festivities, James Bond’s investigation reveals an uncomfortable truth from the past. Someone whom he has long believed to be departed from this mortal coil is not only alive and well, but the head of an organization whose capabilities threaten the stability of world governments!
Henry: Well, Spectre certainly starts off with a bang, with a seemingly one-take stunner of an action scene that begins above the crowded streets of Day of the Dead-celebrating Mexico City, turns into a explosive chase sequence, and ends in a death-defying helicopter stunt bobbing and weaving over people-packed Zocalo square.
Oberst: The film is jam packed with impressive practical stunts and epic set-pieces, including a ridiculously fun alpine sequence involving an airplane “falling with style” (to borrow a phrase from Toy Story). Spectre marks a notable (and much-needed) return of humor to the franchise.
Henry: Some reviewers have likened this installment to Roger Moore’s more self-aware/goofy run, but here’s the thing- it’s both true, and it works pretty damn well. The sense of humor after three almost entirely dour films in a row feels like a welcome reprieve in the first act or two. Also, the relative lack of product placement is positively refreshing.
It’s no clown suit, thankfully
Oberst: As this film’s requisite lead Bond Girl, actress Léa Seydoux plays a strong individual whose independent streak Craig’s Bond has to crack. As the main villain, Christoph Waltz is dependably flamboyant and cunning with his line delivery. And yet, there is something I just couldn’t shake from their relationships with Daniel Craig…
Henry: Daniel Craig has shockingly little chemistry with either his leading lady or his very intimately familiar villain.
Oberst: For a film that opens with such a sense of humor, Seydoux seems to be in a totally different movie, at least after the Alpine sequence ends. And the “personal angle” of the story, where Bond discovers that he knows Waltz’s character from childhood, almost feels like the kind of creative decision George Lucas made in the Star Wars prequels (convenient coincidence as a form of storytelling).
I’m going to go ahead and reveal something from the story here, because the knowledge of it won’t affect your enjoyment of the film. (skip to Henry’s next comment if you are intent on avoiding Spoilers) Christoph Waltz’s character Franz Oberhauser, a former childhood friend of Bond’s, is actually Ernst Stavro Blofeld, Bond’s most famous nemesis. The marketing campaign in the build-up to this film seems to have gone out of their way to conceal this fact, even going so far as to deny it outright. This stinks of the same failure to understand fandom as the way producers botched the reveal of Khan in Star Trek: Into Darkness.
Nobody who knows the character Blofeld had any doubts that he was going to be in this movie and Waltz would be playing him, so why not just admit that he’s in it? In fact, the better reveal would have been to have this mysterious man named Blofeld reveal at the pivotal moment that he is a childhood friend of Bond’s. (Even that is tenuous, but it seems to flow somewhat better dramatically.)
Henry: On an unrelated note, I know you all have heard Sam Smith’s title song, and I do have to admit it plays better in the title sequence than on the radio, but still…
Henry: A lot of the reason for the lack of general sparks between the characters is the writing. After Skyfall, Sam Mendes and John Logan originally envisioned an epic two part finale for the Daniel Craig era. This was shot down for reasons unknown, so apparently they (and banes of the franchise Neal Purvis and Robert Wade) decided to stuff it all into one over-hurried script. The paces they feel necessary to put their film through leave no room for plot details to breathe, instead rushing through (should’ve been) complicated character backstories and burgeoning romance. I’m almost certain Seydoux tells Bond she loves him and tells him she can’t be with him in consecutive lines (sandwiched around a long action sequence and time shift, of course).
Oberst: In the special features on the Skyfall DVD director Sam Mendes describes the storytelling approach in the film’s opening sequence as that of a Russian Nesting doll. As soon as the audience thinks it knows what it has, they open it and find a new thing inside, and another, and another. Spectre‘s script seems to be going for this same layered style of storytelling, but is less like a Nesting Doll and more like an onion- in that each new layer just reveals more onion, and cutting through each one just makes you cry a little more…
Henry: At 2.5 hours, Spectre is looonng, and feels it.
Oberst: Only 10 mins longer than Casino Royale, which never felt particularly lengthy, owing to a tight story that owned every minute of its run-time. Spectre contains numerous extraneous action sequences- such as a train fight sequence- which extend the length of the film and never give the audience a reprieve. If you are going to make a long movie with a lot of action, there has to be regular moments where the characters stop to absorb their surroundings. Without many of these, the film feels paradoxically rushed, and yet also overlong.
Henry: That wink, wink, triple nod to From Russia With Love train fight sequence is just one of the many, many references to classic Bond films that this script is overstuffed with. Coming from John Logan, who’s practically made a career for both good and ill out of referencing other films and pop cultural properties, this is hardly surprising, but he goes overboard here.
Forget “Greatest Hits”, this is the 10-disk Time Life Collection of Bond Tropes
Oberst: Logan’s screenwriting propensity for referencing things from the past paid off in droves in Rango and Hugo… maybe the movie should have been called Spectro?
Henry: That joke hurts my soul in places I didn’t know I had places…
Oberst: Spectre is an acronym which means Special Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion, which makes roughly as much sense as G.R.O.S.S. (Get Rid Of Slimy Girls)
Henry: Spectre has a lot of good ideas on paper, but no original ones.
Oberst: Spectre‘s ghostly presence is quite a bit like being in a bad haunted house; mildly amusing, but you’ll never believe that you’re seeing the real thing…