Have you ever found yourself engrossed in a movie as the on-screen characters race to thwart a villain against insurmountable odds and as the hero is running out of time, he or she suddenly finds just what they need to save the day? At that point, did you think, well that was convenient.
Well, I must have said this half a dozen times during a recent viewing of latest installment in the James Bond canon, Spectre.
Like many other fans of the film, I grew up watching the films because my dad was an avid fan. He enjoyed the stories that the charming Sean Connery brought to the big screen, while I thought they were too slow and lacked action. He could watch a marathon of the Roger Moore films, where I couldn’t tolerate twenty minutes of those lame lines and ridiculous stunts. My dad’s persistence won out, however, and by the time Pierce Bronson took over the role I was a full fledged fan of Bond.
When Daniel Craig renewed the role, and story-line underwent a reboot, I agreed it was time for both, but wasn’t sure Craig was right for the role. I liked his fight scenes, but he had zero onscreen chemistry with his female counterparts. My wife disagreed.
She had also grown up watching James Bond films with her father, and was, now, more of a fan that I (yes, I’m a lucky man). When I suggest pizza and Bond, she was excited, and I received a few honey plus points.
The first ten minutes, heck, the first twenty minutes were well done, classic bond. My wife even said, “I really like that setup, it’s really intriguing.” After that scene, however, it immediately went downhill.
In an attempt to be fair to the film, and the Bond anthology, I think the director was trying to merge the old, classical Bond motif with the new edgier move in cinema. This, I’m guessing, was suppose to mirror the major theme in the plot (and the plot in the previous film SkyFall): out with the old, and in with the new. Instead of succeeding at this, meaning it was done like a seamless orchestration of character arcs and action sequences, we were treated to cacophony of explosions, painfully predictable plot points, and forced romantic arcs that are cliche even for Bond films.
Sadly it didn’t have to be this way.
I could literally go through the entire film and tear it apart but I’ll only use the last last fifteen minutes to prove my point.
- The main villain, who has been watching James’ entire career, and yet the audience has never heard of him, has capture our beloved blond hero and taken his handgun. He did not, however, take his watch. Has he ever dealt with a 00 agent? Was this pure hubris on the antagonists part? Nope, it was pure convenience on the writers part. The writers needed James to escape, and lacked the creativity to create something unexpected. If they wanted to use the watch any of the following would have been preferential: have the same watch create an organic shield around Jame’s skin, like a pseudo exoskeleton; have the same watch send an electronic pulse which disengages all computers and electronics; remove the watch but have it chip in James’ skin activate the watch. Whatever they decide there should be a cost to the use of these tools, because these gadgets are the magic system in this story, and free magic is boring. Even Harry Potter had a price for magic (they were outcasts).
- James has been guarding the love interest, Madeleine Swann, for half the movie and suddenly, just as there is about to be the final showdown, she decides to walk away, and James runs over and stops her, says “what are you crazy! This isn’t over yet.” Oh, wait…yeah that didn’t happen, he let’s her walk away, and I’m guessing it’s because he deems the city safe enough in the wee hours of the morning for an attractive young woman to find shelter for the evening? Sure James had dispatched of the villain, but that villain ran a syndicate, so one would think that there are a line of other villains (whom we saw only thirty minutes prior) waiting to take over the secret society. If Swann was so “safe” then why bring her to London, why not send her to a beach where the two will later rendezvous?
- James desperately races through a multistory building to find Swann hidden somewhere within before the building explodes. When he reaches the top floor, and still has not found her, Swann screams, so Bond rushes to a closet door, and finds her gagged. Some trick, yelling while gagged. If the writers were going to make finding her so easy, why not put her in plain sight and have James cross a room crawling with rattle snacks, or sharks with freakin’ lasers on their heads (everyone misses you Dr. Evil).
- James saves Swann by jumping from the top floor of the building through a giant hole, which is in the same place on each of the lower floors, and lands safely into a net on the first floor before exiting just as the bomb timer reads all zeros. Are you kidding me? Why not have the bottom of the building blow up, while James is comforting the frantic Swann who is convinced they are going to die, and then throw in a flashback of when Eva Green died Casino Royale, which throws James into panic mode, or 007 mode they’re interchangeable. As the building falls he times the fall or jump perfectly so they slam into the next building over, much like an earlier scene in the movie. The soundtrack plays and there is dust, debris, and destruction galore. James and Swann roll to a crashing stop, and James knows Swann is dead, though he has done all he possibly could to shield her. At the last moment she coughs, he is relieved his demons have been assuaged, albeit temporarily, but he is still pissed enough to get up and kick some bad guy arse.
I concede that with a Bond film there will be a cheesiness factor, and one goes into the film knowing Bond isn’t going to die, but did it have to be this way, no, hell no. The reason people flock to these films is they want to see how Bond escapes, how he saves the day, how he overcomes the impossible odds. Those escapes, and victories shouldn’t come easy and they sure as heck shouldn’t be convenient. One may argue that action movies are littered with convenience, take the beloved Star Trek reboot by J.J. Abrams: wasn’t it convenient that the old Spock and new Kirk happen to be deserted on the same planet. Sure, but no one cared because everyone wanted to see this. That’s a critical difference from the Bond flick — no one wants to see Bond find a girl in a closet when she mumbles / screams loudly. The audience wants him to reach the proverbial end of his human ability to save her, they want him to run across a room of broken glass while barefoot (aka Die Hard, with John McCain as the poor man’s James Bond).
This was the most expensive Bond movie ever made, so one might wonder why they didn’t focus a little more on the script. The problem wit ha convenient plot is that it’s predictable and emotionally unfulfilling for the audience. When film’s move us, and touch our souls, it’s the story, the conflict, and the characters. It’s never, ever, the explosions or CGI (if we learned anything from Star Wars Episode I, II, III it was this). This film, as convenient as it was still made nearly four times it’s production cost, so there’s little reason that the parties involved will change their way, which is unfortunate for the anthology and the fans.
My final thought, skip this one, the MI:5 movie is much better, and has the same basic plot (no really it’s the same plot).