James Bond remains even when we, as a society and civilization, change into something a bit more enlightened than his halcyon days. While I wouldn't go so far as to describe the character as a remnant of a bygone era, there are still aspects of the series that play as out of touch to a modern audience—British, American, or otherwise.
Spectre was always going to have a hard road to follow after Skyfall, which was not only the highest grossing Bond film in history, but also the most critically acclaimed. Ever since Bond was rebooted in 2006 with Casino Royale, Daniel Craig and team have taken a similar approach to Bond as Christopher Nolan has taken with Batman. They made him serious. They got rid of the gadgets and overall goofiness, but kept some of the uglier aspects.
In Casino Royale, Bond fell in love with Vesper Lynd, only to be betrayed by her before she sacrifices her life to save his. This sends him on a subsequent spiral throughout Quantum of Solace and Skyfall where he is emotionally unavailable to the ladies, yet just as sexually voracious. Which becomes disgusting in Skyfall when he basically creeps up on a terrified sex slave in a shower where they then go at it. Bond has always been chauvinistic and sexist and rapey; hell, in Diamonds Are Forever, Sean Connery chokes a woman with her own bikini top because she didn't answer a question quick enough. This has been a part of the franchise since the very beginning, but what was the point in making Bond more human and believable as a character while still staying beholden to this outdated treatment of women?
All of this is endemic of the broken core of the franchise that continues on in this latest adventure, Spectre. The plot is the same as Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation with a little dash of The World is Not Enough. After Bond meets the absolutely incredible Monica Belluci and has sex with her (while she's crying, up against a mirror), she disappears for the rest of the film to be replaced by a younger model, the wonderful French actress Léa Seydoux. And, of course, they fall in love. Pretty gross.
Writers John Logan, Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, and Jez Butterworth want us to think that Bond is just a lonely man, searching for someone to connect with and all the rough sex and weird, grey-area permissiveness from women who catch his scent is because he isn't a real boy. But he is, because this new era of Bond made him that way. Even Daniel Craig thinks he's a pig.
Most people don't go to Bond movies to worry about this kind of crap, they go for the action and the film fails there, as well. After a bravura one-shot during the Dia de los Muertos in Mexico City, this film becomes one of the dullest Bond films in memory. The car chases are flat and phony, the finale is laughable, and everything in between is forgettable. Skyfall ended by setting up M, Q, Moneypenny, and all the things that made Bond fun. This has him back being a rogue agent, one film after being a rogue agent.
Spectre is a dull parade of clichés and pointlessness. Sam Mendes still knows how to frame a shot and cinematographer Hoyte Van Hoytema lenses the film beautifully, so it isn't a total loss. Yet the film is still a cynical and boring collection of callbacks to earlier, better Bond films, even as Craig continues to be one of the best Bonds yet. The film is almost as insulting to audiences as Bond is to women. Stay home and drink a martini instead.
Dir. Sam Mendes
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