REVIEW BY BURL BURLINGAME / Special to the Star-Advertiser
There are so many pleasures, guilty or otherwise, involved with a new James Bond film that’s it’s difficult to whine about it. But whine we must. And, but, you’ll still enjoy the film.
The ongoing problem with all character-driver plotlines is what to do with the character. Does the hero stay static, or does he grow and change with circumstance, and also with the times?
Some years ago, the Bond machine decided to go the Marvel route, meaning that there is a whole universe out there that affects to protagonist. The hero is no longer the center of gravity: he, like the rest of us, has to grow up or die trying.
In other words, if James Bond suffers a bump, it hurts. He’s not Superman.
This created the opportunity for an entire backstory for Bond, a canon that exists across the arc of several films. There is sound thinking in this, both from a dramatic point of view and from a marketing standpoint. That means each film is part of a whole.
The starter pistol for the new Bond was casting Daniel Craig as the character. Craig is capable of projecting immense toughness while also giving the impression of tamping it down (which is a quintessentially British trait). The smug sameness of the previous films were given the heave-ho.
It hit a very high point with the last film, “Skyfall,” with Bond coming to grips with a horrible childhood (motive and character development in a Bond film? What the what?) and pretty much a low point in the deliriously deranged “Quantum of Solace.”
“Spectre” is somewhere in-between. Again directed by Sam Mendes, who has a canny eye for location and choreography, as well as pacing, the new chapter finds Bond on the trail of a new super-bad guy, on the way narrowly escaping death, picking up a beautiful Bond girl and winding up being tortured by the bad guy, who, like all Bond bad guys, is way too chatty when he should be concentrating on simply killing Bond.
In other words, “Spectre” is the very model of a Bond film. There is a big-picture aspect to this, which I didn’t quite understand, that ties in previous story lines and has something to do with bad-guy DNA. Maybe I yawned at the wrong moment.
A real weak point is the Bond Girl, played here by pouty Lea Seydoux, who looks mighty fine in a bias-cut satin evening gown, although she’s supposedly a medical genius at something. I’m not quite sure what, as she’s tossed out of her profession within seconds of meeting Bond, and spends the rest of the movie being menaced and rescued.
Somehow, a relationship develops between Bond and the Bond Girl that is supposedly deeper than previous Bond Girl hookups, although the romantic arc is so carelessly developed in “Spectre” that Bond’s feelings come as a surprise. Perhaps to him as well.
Alas, her character is pretty dull.
“Spectre” is decent Bond; it’s right down the middle. It has enormous action sequences that really should be seen on the big screen, and a fair amount of cheeky humor, as well as nifty side performances by Bond’s MI-6 partners, particularly Miss Moneypenny — who reveals here an actual life outside the office.
And yet, the movie ends with a button capper that is so musty and old-Bond that the audience simultaneously groaned and squealed with delight. Which pretty much sums up all Bond movies.