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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

Nov 11, 2015

Spectre Review: James Bond At His Most Boring

FIRST OF ALL, what is Spectre? It stands for Special Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge & Extortion. It was created by Bond author Ian Fleming in 1959 and has appeared in earlier Bond films like "Dr. No", "From Russia with Love", "Thunderball", "You Only Liv Twice", "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" and "Diamond are Forever", with criminal genius Ernst Blofeld as its leader. After "Diamonds" in 1971, it was not used anymore in the next Bond films because there was a copyright dispute between the Fleming estate and the producers of Bond movies. Spectre is now resurrected in the 24th Bond movie in the series and it's used as the film's title no less. It intends to achieve world domination through global surveillance.

Since the franchise was rebooted with Daniel Craig as 007 in "Casino Royale", "Quantum of Solace" and "Skyfall", 007’s stories have become more and more dramatic, delving into Bond’s past like in “Skyfall” and now, even more so here in “Spectre”. As usual, "Spectre" starts with a spectacular action sequence set in Mexico on the Day of the Dead, using hundreds of extras in full Halloween costumes and masks dancing on a street parade. This stylish opening scene is first shown in a marvelous tracking shot that follows Bond through the crowd, going up in an elevator, through narrow corridors and into the rooftop, all beautifully shot and technically impressive. Bond is after Marco Sciarra (Alessandro Cremona), who the late M (Judi Dench) has ordered him to kill. This sequence ends with the destruction of an entire building and with a daring helicopter stunt.

Back in London, Bond is reprimanded by the new M (Ralph Fiennes) for doing something unauthorized. M grounds him but, of course, he ignores it and goes to Rome to gatecrash a secret meeting of Spectre, whose existence he becomes aware of due to a signet ring he found in Sciarra. The shadowy organization is headed by Franz Oberhauser (Christoph Waltz), who everyone thought has died in an avalanche with his dad.
It's a role Waltz is used to playing after winning two Oscars for bad guy roles in "Inglorious Bastards" and "Django Unchained:. But first, Bond has to track down Mr. White (Jesper Christensen), first seen in "Casino Royale", whose daughter, Madeleine Swann (Lea Seydoux), helps him locate Oberhauser's headquarters in the desert. Oberhauser tortures him but, as we all know, Bond is unkillable and he gets to blow up the HQ spectacularly.

But there is a twist in the story. Oberhauser turns out to have just faked his own death (no wonder the movie starts with the epigraph “the dead are alive”) and is actually the super villain who has manipulated all the other villains before in other movies in the James Bond cosmos. And yes, he is doing this because he has a verypersonal axe to grind against Bond. You see, they grew up together as kids. Bond is an "ampon" of Oberhauser's dad and Oberhauser has this melodramatic daddy issues against his own father and Bond. And so, Blofeld is so bad and indulges in human trafficking and terrorism only because his dad prefers Bond over him? What nonsense, isn’t it? Totally ignoring the James Bond universe created before it.

This is a spoiler but we don't mind sharing it with you as it is so CORNY and doesn’t really make much sense! From here on, the movie goes downhill. It becomes such cumbersome viewing because it just goes on and on, it just wouldn't end. Director Sam Mendes (who also did “Skyfall”) comes up with scenes that nod at other past Bond films but, for two hours and a half, “Spectre” surely drags a lot. If you’re watching it on DVD you’d surely push the fast forward button. By the time it finally ends, we heave a sigh of relief. Salamat naman, natapos din.

Aside from being the most boring Bond ever, (even Sam Smith’s wailing title song is ho-hum) "Spectre" also has one of the least attractive leading ladies ever, French actress Lea Seydoux (last seen in the acclaimed lesbian flick, "Blues is the Warmest Color") is not that pretty and not that sexy. You'd really wonder why Bond falls for her when she fails so much in comparison to other Bond girls, like Sophie Marceau, who's also French, and the sultry Eva Green who sizzled as the deadly Vesper Lynd in "Casino Royale".

Craig gets better support from Fiennes as M, Ben Whishaw as Q, Naomie Harris as Moneypenny and Andrew Scott as M’s nemesis, C, who fires all his secret agents. Of course, there are the usual action set pieces for action fans, like car chases in Rome and in the Austrian Alps, plus a fight scene inside a train with wrestler Dave Bautista that will remind you of the fight scene of Sean Connery with Robert Shaw in “From Russia with Love”.

But all those action sequences are not enough to redeem the foolishness of making Blofeld’s personal grudge against Bond the biggest source of conflict of all Bond movies. So what will they offer in the 25th James Bond film? Mendes says he won’t do anymore Bond movies. Craig himself says he’s giving up the role so maybe they’ll recruit a new actor and come up with a Bond that has a less complicated and less personal backstory like what they did in “Skyfall” and “Spectre”. When that time comes, it will just be business as usual and we won’t miss Craig or Mendes at all.