[Review/podcast] Spectre

It’s amazing that the James Bond franchise has endured this long.

Not only is Spectre the twenty-fourth film in a franchise spanning fifty-odd years and six different Bonds, but the end credits hint that the eternal hitman will be back yet again for another round.

If you’ve ever seen a James Bond film before, you can probably guess at the rough shape of the plot. Some cunning villain with an unplaceable accent is at large, Bond’s operational freedom is hamstrung by his dour and disapproving superiors and consequently he only has x or fewer days to save the world. And meet and seduce some women, of course.

It seems incredible to me that a series whose catalog consists of one idea repeated twenty-plus times can still generate so much hype.

Spectre really offers nothing new to the franchise, flashing by in a blur of high-speed high-budget car chases stretching through so many countries it felt like the film had location attention deficit disorder. Apart from the admittedly smooth and beautiful opening set in Mexico City during Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), none of the action scenes really stick out in my mind. As far as synopses go I can only offer cars, alcohol, and the usual assortment of groan-worthy one-liners.

One thing Spectre does have going for it is a clutch of fantastic cast members. I loved Léa Seydoux’s performance as the utterly heartless loner leader in The Lobster recently, and she is stunning again as the talented if sidelined Dr Madeleine Swan.

Following Judi Dench’s retirement from the franchise after Skyfall, Ralph Fiennes takes over as a somehow far less scary and far more vulnerable M, while Ben Whishaw offers comedic relief as the nerdy genius inventor Q. Disappointingly, Andrew Scott who played Moriarty in the Cumberbatch Sherlock series doesn’t get nearly enough lines or screen time to shine.

And Bond himself? Well, Daniel Craig’s okay.

Despite the lack of enthusiasm I’m conveying, I didn’t really feel cheated or disappointed with Spectre as a whole. Even if it is the same old thing, the mindless action’s alright and the spy-action thrill is still present. I suppose there’s a reason the cloak-and-dagger fast-car genre is so healthy. There’s just something about spies and secret dealings that’s very appealing as a cinematic proposition. So while it’s not great, Spectre at least held my interest all the way through which is more than I can say for the twenty-second season of The Simpsons.

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