Spectre: A case study in unrealized potential

As a longtime James Bond fan, I counted down the days to the release of Spectre, in early November. I was excited to see that Sam Mendes was back in charge of the 007 franchise, after previously directing the incredibly successful Skyfall installment in 2012. Unfortunately, Spectre did not live up to the lofty expectations set by its predecessor, with the movie falling flat on all ac- counts. The combination of a rambling storyline, weak characters and a length that sits at two hours and twenty minutes makes this one of the most disappointing Bond films to date.

Witty dialogue, interesting villains, and a beautiful woman in whom Bond seemed to have a solely physical interest highlighted the vast ma- jority of Bond films before Daniel Craig stepped in. The younger, darker, and more relatable Bond breathed life into the franchise and successfully broke away from the template that had worked wonders at the box office before.

What made Casino Royale and — even more so — Skyfall so intense and memorable was Bond’s never-before-seen reaction to the death of someone he cared about, with Javier Bardem’s character, Raoul Silva, demonstrating remarkable prowess at toying with Bond’s emotions. Their interaction stuck not only with me, but with many other viewers long after Skyfall. Although the title of the newest film, Spectre, hints at a return to the famous plotlines of Bond movies of old, it was disappointing to see that Mendes decided to bring back the simplistic formula as well.

Perhaps the biggest disappointment of the movie was Christoph Waltz — the main antagonist of the film. Fans were drooling over the thought of Craig and Mendes teaming up with this famous German two-time Oscar winner, but a weakly written persona combined with little screen time led to Waltz’s character being a massive flop. Waltz’s Franz Oberhouser spends the film in the shadows as he attempts to avenge perceived slights he received at Bond’s hand long ago. He also tries to gain access to immense amounts of international intelligence, but his motivation nev- er becomes clear to the audience.

In a similarly dissapointing vein, Oberhouser’s henchman, Mr. Hinx, falls prey to the same half- cooked writing that derails his boss. Played by Guardians of the Galaxy breakout star Dave Bau- tista, Mr. Hinx is a strong but bumbling man who chases Bond from country to country with some- what unclear intentions, failing to mutter more than one word throughout the entire film. While not a terrible character by any means, Mr. Hinx is also not developed or used to his full potential, both in terms of plot development and characterization.

While the review may make the movie sound unwatchable, I will admit that there are redeeming qualities. If only for the massive scope and beautiful cinematography of the film, Spectre is still worth watching, for hardcore Bond fans and first time viewers alike. The opening scene in Mexico City on the Day of the Dead is spectacular in scope. The same can be said for both Bond and Hinx’s lengthy car race through the streets of Rome and the chase down the Alps.

At the end of the day, any movie with a $350 million budget, Daniel Craig, beautiful women, and Agent 007 himself is going to be better than the ma- jority of what is released in theaters nowadays, but Spectre is bittersweet to watch at best because of its failure to realize its potential.

One Response to "Spectre: A case study in unrealized potential"

  1. Eshawn Sharma   January 28, 2016 at 2:59 pm

    As an avid James Bond fan also, I felt as if this review truly represented the internal struggle in my heart that this movie was for me. Because of this, I believe Jake Leshem’s review of Spectre was a resounding success all around. As the review states, die hard James bond fans and casual movie goers alike have come to expect a James Bond movie with more than beautiful woman and intense action. This review highlighted one of the largest disappointments of the movie, Christopher Waltz, nicely. The writer was completely correct in his assessment; this fan was “drooling over the thought of Craig and Mendes teaming up with this famous German two-time Oscar winner,” and Waltz’s lack of air time was a bitter disappointment. As the review so perfectly says, “any movie with a $350 million budget, Daniel Craig, beautiful women, and Agent 007 himself is going to be better than the majority of what is released in theaters nowadays,” but it is safe to say this movie was a disappointment.


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