Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Daniel Craig's Time as James Bond Ends with A Flop

                James Bond is an icon; an eternal character too large for one man.  Thus every actor’s stint as the suave British agent with a license to kill must come to an end.  Connery, Dalton, Moore, Brosnan…their times have all come to a close and with the release of Spectre, Daniel Craig’s chapter as the tuxedo wearing, martini drinking, Astin Martin driving spy is now part of the pantheon of greats that have come before him.  But that’s the problem.  Throughout the course of Craig’s four Bond films the character has become a shadow of itself.  Maybe it was a Bond for a new generation; a Bond with an edge who sacrificed the debonair attitude for some grit and grime.  I’d be able to accept that if the films were any good.
                Now don’t get me wrong.  I enjoyed 2 out of 4 of the Craig films.  Casino Royale was based on the first Ian Fleming Bond novel and thus had most of the elements of what we’ve all come to expect in a 007 flick: the Astin Martin, the martinis, the sex on the beach.  Quantum of Solace was a miss in my book, a continuation of the events of Casino Royale in a way that DID NOT feel like a Bond film.  Part of that comes from the fact that they were forced to create a plot without the help of a Fleming novel.  They took this “new” Bond which Craig had helped create – the kind that rudely says “I don’t give a damn” instead of “shaken not stirred” to the bartender – and thrust him into a new world.  While Quantum fell flat, Craig and co. turned it around with Skyfall, a film that in every way felt like classic Bond.  Diving deep into James’ past as well as his lifelong personal relationship with Judy Dench’s M was spectacular.  Javier Bardem’s villain was superb.  He was the classy, sophisticated psychopath you expect to try and take over the world.  I was blown away and had such high hopes for the follow up; which brings us to Spectre.
                What happened??  The film fell flat and was not the “go out with a bang” I was hoping for for Craig’s last iteration of Bond.  While Ralph Fiennes is INCREDIBLE as M, Christopher Waltz’s rendition of classic Bond villain Ernst Stavro Blofeld was bland and forgettable.  This is immensely disappointing as I’ve come to adore Waltz as an actor, particularly in the role of the villain and yet he is completely forgettable.  Gadgets are nowhere to be found and the sleek, bullet proof spy car only has a rear flamethrower...whoop dee doo.  The evil organization SPECTRE where the film gets it’s title does not come across as all powerful but instead a rather plain group of individuals ruled by…money? power? influence? force? It’s never abundantly clear leading you to not really believe the fact that they are “everywhere” so to speak.  Aspects of Bond’s character are almost non existent and make the film feel like a generic, run of the mill action movie with dark undertones.  If it weren’t for the Bond theme playing in the background, it would be possible to write off the film as just that.  Ultimately, it’s a poor and disappointing end to Craig’s time as the titular hero but ultimately, an accurate reflection of his version of the character from the beginning.
                Craig’s “rough around the edges” adaptation of 007 has never quite fit.  Something has always been a little off and Spectre seals the deal.  It reminds us that while his four films have elements and aspects of the classic Bond movies that came before, they never quite hit the mark.  Something was always missing.  Now that he’s moving on from the character the world will wait anxiously for a new Bond to take up the reigns.  Without the constraints of the Fleming novels the character could go in any direction.  But I’m holding out hope that after the raucous thrill ride that was the last four, we’ll see a return to form.

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