Let it always be known that I’ve always loved the James Bond movies. I’ve been watching them since I was a little girl with my father, and they have been a source of comfort for me in a turbulent life. The balance of action, drama and humor was always something that I appreciated and sought after. It is pure escapism. Except, Spectre isn’t.
Don’t get me wrong, visually it’s stunning. Hoyte van Hoytema, who was the Cinematographer for the film, has to be credited with giving the film its dept of feel. It’s the subtle manipulation of colors and framing that really speaks to the quality of the film.
The performances are great, I really began to feel like Daniel Craig has settled into Ian Flemmings’ depiction of James Bond. Chistoph Waltz’s portrayal of Oberhauser is arguably one of the best Bond villains we’ve seen in years. He blends the measure of logical insanity, which when you think back on it is beautifully menacing and lingers with you. It’s a genuinely phenomenal performance. Léa Seydoux’s performance of Madeleine Swan is one I cannot be critical of either. I’m normally notoriously hard on the female actors in the Bond series, as I feel that they are often throw away performances. While I felt there was some dept to Madeleine, she seemed like someone who could handle herself in a fight and was not entirely at the whim of James. This is, of course, progressive in terms of a James Bond narrative, given Ian Flemming’s arguably chauvinistic portrayal of women. I couldn’t help but like her though, and that is a welcome change.
So what was so wrong with it you may ask? It suffers from something that I like to call a “stand alone complex.”
Stand Alone Complex
Some of you may recognize that term from a popular anime called Ghost in A Shell. For anyone who doesn’t know what a “Stand Alone Complex” is here is the working definition.
A phenomenon when a collection of similar, but unrelated, behavior by unconnected individuals creates a seemingly concerted effort.
Spectre is in many regards, a perfect visual description of the Stand Alone Complex taking form. James is hunting after a name and an idea. He has no idea, that as things unfold that the misery he has suffered prior has all be orchestrated for him into this crescendo – where he faces the person who has been the author of his misery.
There is this overwhelming feeling that you were more clued in than James for the majority of the movie, or worse, (if you had no prior knowledge of any of the previous films) no idea what was going on at all. It required previous knowledge, for it to be truly appreciated and I feel like this got lost in the midst of trying to appeal to everyone. Which could be considered to be a cardinal sin for a film in this series.
Bond films, for me have always been a series you could watch out of order and still feel fulfilled by the end. Spectre didn’t give me that. Spectre left me confused, and a little ambivalent.
There were plot points that didn’t make sense, and in many ways it felt like somewhere along the way the narrative decisions got changed half way through. Even now, after much consideration, I couldn’t tell you why James deviated from his main task at the beginning of the film. Maybe I just didn’t get it, but I don’t feel like that is a fault of mine.
Do I think its worth your time? Perhaps. While there are plenty of things to like about the performances, styling and cinematography, it still fails to deliver on one of the most critical aspects of storytelling… Then too, deciding whether or not it’s a Bond film is also up to you.