I really must learn: never look forward to anything, assume everything will suck. Because the lower your expectations the better than chance you won't be disappointed.
Lady Chocolat and I went to see "SPECTRE" on Friday. I had, indeed, been looking forward to this film a great deal, after enjoying "Skyfall" immensely. I hadn't bothered to read the reviews going, and have now done so, and they raise a question: did the reviewers see the same film as I did?
There will be spoilers from here on out. So if you don't want to know, you should probably skip to the end, where I list two more books I've finished.
The film starts very well, with a lovely action sequence in Mexico City followed by a very impressive opening sequence - I particularly enjoyed the nods to the previous Daniel Craig films here. Good stuff.
And then the film continues very well, the Bond being grounded by 'M' for his antics in Mexico, then the revelation that he has a hidden agenda (which was great), and then he's off to Rome. And Monica Belluci is great, too, for all of the ten seconds she's on-screen (or so it seems).
And then Bond is off to the grant meeting of the ultra-secret Secret Evil Organisation. In a secret location. Secretly.
Indeed, it's so secret that they film the evil bad guy in the shadows, so we totally can't see that it's Doctor Evil. Though the effect is somewhat ruined by an appearance by Frau Farbissina.
Anyway, the Secret Evil Organisation's main order of business is the selection of a secret assassin to kill "The Pale King" (ooh, mysterious!), and then it turns out Doctor Evil knew Bond was spying on them all along. And so we have an Exciting Chase!
The next bit is actually quite good again - the film starts to bring together lots of threads from the previous Craig films, weaving them into a coherent whole. Good stuff. And, yeah, some of it doesn't quite work, but it's not particularly objectionable.
After following the plot for a good long time, and dealing with the Secret Evil Organisation's deadly WWE assassin, Bond and his latest love interest complete their train journey. They've tracked Doctor Evil to his hidden lair, and are all set to confront him.
The big problem with this is that it's an obvious trap and Bond equally obviously has no plan beyond "go in and get captured". Seriously, that is the full extent of his cunning approach. Basically, it's exactly the same problem as in Skyfall, except that this time it's Bond, rather than Silva, who gets himself captured for no reason.
But worse is to come. Because, in a rather spectacular show of self-parody, Doctor Evil proceeds to explain his Evil Scheme to Bond. He then places Bond in a deadly-and-yet-inexplicably-easy-to-escape situation. And then the BIG revelation. Actually, two of them: it turns out that Doctor Evil is secretly Bond's (adopted) brother all along! And, further, it turns out that although Doctor Evil has been going by one name all along, he's actually chosen to go by another. Yes, he's Khan!
Anyway, Bond escapes using the gadget that Q gave him way back at the start of the film. And, somehow, this causes the hidden lair the explode in a huge fireball. I can only assume it was secretly a Volcano Lair in disguise. And Bond and his love interest head back to good old Blighty for tea and biscuits. Good show!
(Oh, yes, one more thing: during the gratuitous torture scene, Doctor Evil declares that this will damage Bond's sight, hearing, and balance; while that will destroy his ability to recognise faces. In the event, both of those things do precisely nothing. Are we to assume, then, that Bond is actually made of rubber, like most modern action heroes? Or is it just that his mojo is so concentrated as to be beyond parody?)
So, we head to London for the final showdown, complete with obligatory bad-guy-falling-off-things, love-interest-in-peril, and buildings-exploding. It's all very exciting, I'm sure, though by this point I'd lost interest - the whole last hour seemed like something tacked on to the end of a better film.
And then it ends. Bond rides off into the night in his newly-restored Connery-era car with his love interest, with Doctor Evil safely stored for the next sequel. The end.
What's most annoying about "SPECTRE", in my opinion, is that most of it was a good film. Up until Bond gets off the train, I was actually enjoying it - lots of good spy stuff, lots of good action sequences, and fairly solid characterisations. Good, good stuff.
But that last hour was just half-baked. Indeed, it was pretty much "Quantum of Solace" all over again - they had part of a good script but it needed another few passes to make sense. Only where QoS has the excuse of the writer's strike meaning they couldn't get that extra work done (and is blessedly short), "SPECTRE" had every advantage lavished on it. It should have been better.
Oh yes, and one more thing: I'm now really sick of the movie approach of calling the villain one thing only to reveal them as another - as done with Khan in "Star Trek: Into Darkness", and again here with Doctor Evil. It's really not as clever as the writers seem to feel, especially when that big reveal was known over a year ago.
Anyway, that's that. And now I'm off to ruthlessly crush any optimism I have for the new "Star Wars" - it's critically important that I go into that one expecting "Attack of the Clones" all over again...
#52: "Louise de la Vallière", by Alexandre Dumas
#53: "Pathfinder: Dance of the Damned", by Richard Pett