‘Spectre’ is no ‘Skyfall’, but entertains audiences

Nic Baggetto, Copy Editor

After the ultimate critical and financial success of “Skyfall” in 2012, director Sam Mendes swore he wouldn’t return for another Bond movie. Fast forward three years and “Spectre,” directed by Sam Mendes premiered on Nov. 6, starring Daniel Craig in his fourth outing as 007. In the new film, a message from Bond’s past sends him down the path to unraveling the secrets of the organization, Spectre and its leader played by Christoph Waltz.

I’ll be perfectly honest. I’m usually pretty good at predicting film scores and box office numbers, but “Spectre” came completely out of left field to me. When you pair a masterful, award-winning director like Mendes with production hell and endless rewrites, what do you get?

The movie stepped off on the right foot. The stylistic choices in the opening scene alone were impressive. The first few minutes of the film were all part of one long tracking shot. It reminded me somewhat of “Birdman (or the unexpected virtue of ignorance),” which won the Oscar for best picture this year. Perhaps Mendes was inspired? Either way, the entire sequence gleamed of great production value and promised the audience a memorable experience.

Unfortunately, “Spectre” didn’t keep that promise. Don’t get me wrong, “Spectre” is like “Citizen Kane” compared to 2008’s “Quantum of Solace,” but it doesn’t have the sheen sense of realism or flow that its predecessors had.

The problem with “Spectre” is not in its directing. Mendes knows how to frame a shot or craft an interesting looking action scene, particularly one taking place on a train late in the second act of the film. The problem lies within the script written by John Logan, Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and Jez Butterworth. The movie feels unbalanced and underdeveloped, as if it was constantly being changed and patched together through rewrites. We know this to be true thanks to last year’s Sony hacks.

The biggest problem with the script is in its handling of Waltz’s character, Oberhauser. It pains me to say this because I’ve loved Waltz in films like “Inglorious Basterds,” but he had absolutely nothing to do in this movie and was completely wasted. His character had no memorable scenes, didn’t pose much of a threat and paled in comparison to Javier Bardem’s villain, Silva, from “Skyfall.” The twists that were revealed about his character, if you can call them that, could be seen a mile away.

One scene in particular near the end of the film can only be described as awkward. The filmmakers approached a situation that had the opportunity to really flesh out Bond and Oberhauser, but opted to only have a single, poorly written conversation between the two while Bond is being tortured before immediately moving on.

Also, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss Roger Deakins, the director of photography of “Skyfall.” “Spectre” has this odd sickly yellow coloration to it that turned me off immediately. Something about the color grading of the film isn’t right.

“Spectre’s” saving grace is the way it tied together all of the movies in the Daniel Craig Bond anthology. Craig has stated in interviews that he would rather “slash [his] wrists than play Bond again,” so it makes sense that “Spectre” would act as a natural conclusion to Craig’s Bond story if he chooses not to return. The way “Spectre” links each Bond villain back to one organization gives Craig’s run as Bond a more epic scope. In what other 007 movie will you get a reference to the Bond girl from three movies back?

Speaking of Bond girls, this one is played by Léa Seydoux. Her performance is slightly understated intentionally in a way that makes her seem equal to Bond instead of like a sexual object, the way Bond girls are usually portrayed.

She even saves his life at one point during the film. Seydoux’s character is in some ways a rehash of the independent Vesper Lynd from 2005s “Casino Royale” portrayed by Eva Green, but that doesn’t make the experience any less enjoyable.

When it comes down to it, “Spectre” is an entertaining movie that is weighed down by script issues and a distinct lack of originality. The reason that Craig signed on to play Bond in the early 2000’s was because he wanted to help reinvent the character after the giant catastrophe that was “Die Another Day,” with Pierce Brosnan.

In Craig’s first outing, everything the audience knew about Bond had been changed. When asked if he wanted his vodka martini shaken or stirred in “Casino Royale,” he replied, “Do I look like I give a damn?” In “Spectre” everything has reverted back to a more formulaic Roger Moore -like atmosphere. Perhaps, if this truly is Craig’s last Bond, it’s rather fitting that he’s taken the series full circle.