Movie Review: ‘Spectre’ proves predictable but still enjoyable

Andrew C Shermoen

The “James Bond” franchise has always been one of my personal favorites, and for good reason, too. The Eon Films seal of approval has not always necessarily signaled the epitome of spy movie quality, but the Bond films are so firmly ingrained into our culture that they have influenced countless other spy franchises, including several films that came out this year. “Spectre” is no different from its Bond brethren. It involves a plot that questions the government’s intervention in matters that might seem dubious, and of course is filled with plenty of great action sequences but falls flat in terms of its predictability and an imperfect story.

MI6 has been merged with MI5 and Max Denbigh (Andrew Scott), the new Chief of the Joint Intelligence Service, wishes to shut down the ‘00’ program in the process and favors drones and surveillance as his preferred method of security. The recently hired M (Ralph Fiennes) is attempting to stop the shutdown while he uses the help of Eve Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) and Q (Ben Whishaw) to track down Bond (Daniel Craig) who has just created a panic after an accident in Mexico City, but they are helping Bond track down a mysterious organization and something called “The Pale King” after he finds a strange ring baring an octopus on it, the symbol of an agency known as SPECTRE.

Bond eventually gets into a meeting where he meets the deadly and domineering Mr. Hinx (Dave Bautista) and the leader of the organization, a man from his past, a man called Franz Oberhauser (Christoph Waltz). Among all of this, Bond recently has been charged with protecting Madeline Swann (Léa Seydoux), the daughter of one of his enemies. Bond is facing one of his most colorful villains yet, and he will need his strengths and his wits to defeat SPECTRE.

The players from “Skyfall” are all here and a few new faces as well. Much of the movie is devoted to the blossoming relationship between James Bond and Madeline Swann, which sadly puts many of the entertaining and familiar characters such as Q, M, and Moneypenny on the sideline.

Seydoux proves herself to be a competent actress, as she has in many films before this one, but her character is difficult to connect with and her relationship with James Bond feels shoehorned and flat, especially compared to the incredibly well-faceted relationship of Vesper Lynd (Eva Green) and Bond in “Casino Royale.” I found myself enjoying her screen time, but ultimately wanting more from the storylines of other characters.

Without spoiling anything I will say that the film attempts to make a shocking revelation about a character in the film, but this twist means nothing to the different people that will be viewing this film. Informed Bond fans who are knowledgeable of past films will know exactly who they are as soon as they see him and new fans of the genre who are unaware of the history of James Bond will be totally unresponsive to the twist. They will sit in the darkened theater wondering if they are supposed to know something they don’t when the character reveals their true machinations in such a dramatic fashion. Imagine the twist of “The Dark Knight” in terms of Harvey Dent. Fans of the comic series familiar with that name knew he would become Two-Face, but were unaware this transformation would occur in the film and viewers unaware of this revelation were able to experience true shock after Harvey’s mutilation. This is an example of a twist that works perfectly for both types of viewers. You cannot establish a twist that will be naturally shocking to both types of viewers if you do not establish some form of common ground that will actually clue viewers into the background of the character.

“Spectre” delivers exactly where you want it to and that is its greatest weakness: the film is very predictable. A few key moments will be easily identifiable to even the most latent Bond fans and beyond that there are characters and plot point so easy to see coming that when they happen it is totally unsatisfying.

There were twists, turns, and shocking moments that were at play in past Bond films, “Skyfall” and “Casino Royale,” which were clever, unique and highly unpredictable. “Spectre” in contrast has predictable twists, but ultimately works as another fun addition to the Bond canon.

If you enjoy the James Bond films, especially the Daniel Craig films, then I’m sure you will like this one. Despite my critiques, I would be lying if I said I didn’t like it. It has plenty of fun and inventive action scenes in it, but its story and characters fall short compared to many other entries in the Bond series. I can’t believe I’m saying it, but when it comes to spy thrillers, this year’s “Mission: Impossible” had better action and storytelling than this year’s James Bond film, which a few years ago would seem an improbable thought.