Saturday, April 21, 2018
Things To Do

Review: 'Spectre' is a clumsy, disappointing stumble for James Bond

Has any franchise ever taken the tumble from one movie to the next that Spectre does from Skyfall?

I'm hard-pressed to think of one, and depressed to report that James Bond is alive and not doing well. Watching Spectre unfold, lumbering and slumbering, on the heels of a franchise high is a shock, so much talent coasting this time.

Spectre appears to wrap up Daniel Craig's era of Agent 007 fame; four films, now two disappointments counting Quantum of Solace. With Skyfall, Oscar winning director Sam Mendes set the myth on a new course that Spectre attempts to drag the first two Craig vehicles into. It isn't a nifty fit.

Mendes seems to have listened to anyone believing Skyfall didn't showcase enough Bond stunts. Spectre features several such set pieces, that Mendes hasn't displayed the chops for staging. Whatever plane, train, automobile or boat Bond can board (often without explanation) is ripe for a chase, crash or fisticuffs.

Just like every other soulless blockbuster, this one more head-shaking than usual.

Spectre sets its customary big-bang opening in Mexico City, teeming with Day of the Dead celebrants. One skeletal reveler is Bond on an unauthorized mission, filmed in an extended tracking shot as he seduces his way into a woman's bedroom for a clearer view to a kill. One target escapes, leading to a foot chase then fist fight inside a helicopter spinning too long and gimbal-smooth for thrills sake.

A promising start, although that impression lasts only as long as it takes to strike up Sam Smith's falsetto dirge Writing's on the Wall, appropriately played over the worst opening credits in 007 history. Craig glowers at the camera, shirtless, muscular arms folded, while gloomy under-dressed women writhe around him, and octopi ripple like Rockettes. The sequence is beyond bad, bordering on stale Austin Powers parody.

Between the limbs and tentacles viewers will spot Spectre's villain, played by two-time Oscar winner Christoph Waltz. Take a good look. Four screenwriters couldn't figure out a way to get Waltz further involved in Spectre until far too late and infrequently for an arch villain to matter, even with a spoilable secret identity.

Spectre is about the ghosts of Bond films past, specifically Craig's era. The movie is chock full o' callbacks to stunts, gadgets and emotional and bureaucratic scars left by Skyfall's MI-6 apocalypse. Judi Dench's M is dead, and her successor (Ralph Fiennes) is on career support, his Double-Oh spy program deemed obsolete by a hot shot (Andrew Scott) derisively nicknamed C.

Bond's Mexico escapade was a prequel vendetta, leading to his suspension from duty. That doesn't stop Bond, still driven by grief over Vesper Lynd's drowning in Casino Royale, and MI-6's destruction. A message from beyond the grave sends him globetrotting, with hesitant assistance from Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) and Q (an invaluable Ben Whishaw).

Revenge will require an encore by Craig's least interesting adversary (Quantum of Solace's Jasper Christensen), the introduction of a rare Bond girl who doesn't entice (Lea Seydoux), and another who's actually a 50-year-old woman (Monica Bellucci), a first in maturity for the franchise.

Bellucci's sequence is among the movie's low points, not for her presence but how Mendes and the writers abuse it. She plays the widow of Bond's Mexico City victim, with information the spy needs. Within hours of the funeral Bond has her backed against a wall for what amounts to a date rape interrogation. She gives in, gasping what Bond wants to hear.

We last see Bellucci perched in bed, satisfied in lingerie like countless starlets before, and the objectification of women in Bond films gains another facet.

Another clumsy moment occurs after Bond brutally dispatches an assassin (Tampa's Dave Bautista) and Seydoux's minx asks: "What do we do now?" Jump to she and Bond playing tonsil hockey, in contrast to every humorless moment before.

In moments like those Spectre might pass for parody, except Mendes raised the stakes so high with Skyfall that lowbrow isn't becoming on 007, and might spell his end. Like Sam Smith sings, much too shrill for a James Bond movie: The writing's on the wall.

Contact Steve Persall at [email protected] or (727) 893-8365. Follow @StevePersall.

 
Comments
Mystery writer Lee Goldberg, author of ‘True Fiction,’ talks Agatha Christie, and more

Mystery writer Lee Goldberg, author of ‘True Fiction,’ talks Agatha Christie, and more

NightstandLee GoldbergGoldberg, the author of 30 books, has also been a writer and producer for several TV shows, including Monk and Diagnosis Murder. His new novel is True Fiction, an Ian Ludlow mystery. When we caught up with him by phone recently ...
Updated: 4 hours ago
RIP Avicii, an EDM superstar who helped break rave culture in America

RIP Avicii, an EDM superstar who helped break rave culture in America

Here's all you need to know about this decade's explosion of electronic dance music in America.In September of 2011, Swedish DJ Avicii played a late-night show at a nightclub on Ulmerton Road in Clearwater.By June of the following year, he was headli...
Published: 04/20/18
Tampa Theatre is showing ‘Reefer Madness’ tonight on 420 Day

Tampa Theatre is showing ‘Reefer Madness’ tonight on 420 Day

The campy gem known as Reefer Madness is screening at 10:30 p.m. tonight at the history Tampa Theatre, a perfect bit of programming on 420 Day. Today's day is 4/20 and it has beeen adopted in some circles as Weed Day because of the numeral code used ...
Published: 04/20/18
Producer and DJ Avicii has been found dead

Producer and DJ Avicii has been found dead

Avicii, the Grammy-nominated electronic dance DJ who performed sold-out concerts for feverish fans around the world and also had massive success on U.S. pop radio, died Friday. He was 28. Publicist Diana Baron said in a statement that the Swedish per...
Published: 04/20/18
Top things to do in Tampa Bay for April 22

Top things to do in Tampa Bay for April 22

American Stage in the Park: The Producers: Mel Brooks’ classic cult comedy sees a down-and-out producer and his accountant scheme to produce the most notorious flop in theater history. Through May 13. 8 p.m., Demens Landing, 100 First Ave. SE, St. Pe...
Published: 04/20/18
Top things to do in Tampa Bay for April 21

Top things to do in Tampa Bay for April 21

Kenny Chesney: The tight-jeaned country superstar is making his first return to Tampa in five years and will be joined by country music’s hottest, new act Old Dominion after the release of their sophomore album Happy Endings which debuted No. 1 on Bi...
Published: 04/20/18
Underoath’s Spencer Chamberlain talks breakup, reunion, getting sober and returning to St. Petersburg

Underoath’s Spencer Chamberlain talks breakup, reunion, getting sober and returning to St. Petersburg

ST. PETERSBURG — HGTV fanatic that he is, Spencer Chamberlain sees a metaphor for his band in the ever-evolving St. Petersburg skyline."When you go downtown and you look at the ONE, that used to be a dirt parking lot," said the singer, referring to a...
Published: 04/20/18
Four new restaurants to try in Tampa Bay

Four new restaurants to try in Tampa Bay

Here's whats new, including a Brazilian steakhouse, Chinese, juice bar and more.
Published: 04/20/18
Freefall reveals 2018-2019 season with comedies and a pair of musicals

Freefall reveals 2018-2019 season with comedies and a pair of musicals

In the coming season, Freefall Theatre is rolling out a world premiere, a different take on Christmas, a sharp comedy and a recent work by Pulitzer winner Lynn Nottage.
Published: 04/20/18
Record Store Day 2018: Your guide to deals, free giveaways and parties in Tampa Bay

Record Store Day 2018: Your guide to deals, free giveaways and parties in Tampa Bay

Here's where to go and what to see for Record Store Day.
Published: 04/20/18