I’ve just discovered a new Alien Covenant trailer that I knew nothing about.
Oh my word…
I’ve just discovered a new Alien Covenant trailer that I knew nothing about.
Oh my word…
I managed to go and see Logan, the new X-Men/Wolverine movie, this weekend. Here is a quick review with (I hope) no major spoilers.
The movie is set a few years into the future, specifically 2029. But this isn’t a future with flying cars or anything like that. Instead its a very recognisable future much like our own present, the only major difference being the occasional sight of driverless (and cab-less) trucks on the roads.
The reason for the future setting is that things have gone wrong for mutants in general and the X-Men in particular. For whatever reason a frail Professor X is hiding out in Mexico assisted only by albino mutant Caliban (played by an unrecognisable Stephen Merchant) and Wolverine, aka Logan. Logan is a shadow of his former self with beard, a limp and a drinking problem. More seriously his healing factor isn’t working as it used to as he’s gradually being poisoned by his adamantium skeleton.
Soon a mysterious girl called Laura (played excellently by Dafne Keen) enters their world and Logan is forced to go on the run with Professor X in order to protect her. I won’t go into her origins too much except to say comic fans familiar with the character X-23 will know what’s going on.
The movie is a character piece more than any of the others. There is a very somber melancholy tone through the movie because of course the theme of the movie is about growing old and, inevitably, death. To be honest I found it a little upsetting to see Sir Patrick Stewart playing such and old and infirm Charles Xavier. But having said that it was nice to see the good professor get so much screen time along with Hugh Jackman’s Logan.
But along with the character stuff there is a good amount of action. One of the stand out sequences was a desert-based car chase where Logan is trying to escape the bad guys. For just a moment it channeled a Mad Max vibe for me and I can’t think of higher praise than that.
Another sequence that made a big impression on me involved Professor Xavier unleashing a kind of psychic bomb to stop the bad guys. It was an unsettlingly effective sequence as Logan has to effectively fight through invisible barriers to get back to the Professor and Laura. It was probably my favourite sequence from the movie and was very well done.
Be warned this is a very adult X-Men movie. Right from the start there are lots of f-words throughout from both Logan and, surprisingly, Sir Patrick at times. And this is a very, very, very violent movie. Lots of slicing and dicing and decapitations. Seriously, I kid you not.
So in summary the movie is very recommended. Just keep in mind it’s very different from the others in tone. And better not take the kids.
This long clip from Ridley Scott’s Alien Covenant appeared a few days ago. At almost five minutes long it shows the surprisingly large crew of the Covenant having their “last supper” celebrations before going into hibernation for the long journey to their destination planet.
Watch out for Michael Fassbender as Walter, a different android from David who appeared in Prometheus. And listen out for a line of dialog from a famous moment in the original Alien movie.
It’s nice to see a character-based scene set around a dinner table in the ship. The dinner table scenes in Alien are among the moments that make it so memorable.
I don’t know if this is a special web prequel that won’t be in the movie or not. Time will tell. And suddenly May isn’t that far off.
The first trailer for Ridley Scott’s Alien Covenant had arrived. This is the second prequel to the original Alien and follows 2012’s Prometheus.
And it looks suitably scary and horrific…
Alien Covenant is released next May and is on my must-see movies list for 2017
Well without any hyperbole 2016 has certainly been the worst year of my life. So I take whatever small pleasures where I can.
Rogue One is certainly a pleasure.
I will try to avoid any major spoilers but I will allude to things shown in the trailers.
So to start with here is the most basic of backgrounds. The Empire is completing the Death Star. The Rebels find out and recruit Jyn Erso (played by Felicity Jones) to contact someone who has vital information. Why her specifically? Because her father Galen Erso (played by Mads Mikklesen) has reluctantly helped the Empire build the thing. So begins the adventure and along the way Jyn and rebel officer Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) gather a “Dirty Dozen”-style group to go on the mission.
It being an immediate prequel to Star Wars the movie does include a few familiar faces in the ranks of the Rebels and Imperials. For example (I’m mentioning this one because it’s in the trailer) we get the reappearance of Mon Mothma, she of the Rebel briefing in Return of the Jedi. Genevieve O’Reilly had played Mon Mothma in Revenge of the Sith, but her scenes were cut. So it’s finally nice to see her appear outside of deleted scenes on a DVD.
And the trailer allows a glimpse of Darth Vader so no spoiler there. But I can’t say much about who else appears, but it’s great fun to see the unexpected faces who pop up. One face in particular was very unexpected and… Well I really don’t want to spoil that surprise.
Felicity Jones is brilliant as Jyn. I have to admit I’ve been a fan of Felicity since seeing her in an ITV adaptation of Northanger Abbey. It seems like it was five minutes ago but that was early 2007! It doesn’t seem possible that it’s almost ten years. Anyway Felicity sells Jyn. There’s a couple of scenes where she had to give speeches to convince people to fight. With any other actor it might have sounded a bit cheesy but Felicity’s earnestness had me wanting to sign up.
One of the standouts in the team is the reprogrammed imperial Droid K-2SO which I believe was a CGI creation. He’s played by Alan Tudyk who did similar duties with the main robot Sonny in the Will Smith movie I Robot. K2 kind of steals any scene that he’s in with his habit of blurting out whatever he happens to be thinking at the time.
On the opposing side is Director Krennic played by Ben Mendelsohn. He’s someone who may have started off as a bureaucrat who oversaw the construction of the Death Star but over time has become a power-hungry imperial officer. Mendelsohn glowers enjoyably through his scenes and gives Krennic a bit of three dimensionality to what could have been a standard one dimensional villain.
The movie does the usual Star Wars thing of setting down on various disparate planets across the galaxy. One of the most interesting ones was Jedah which seems to be some ancient planet of the Jedi. But that’s just background detail in a move which is very much set in the present. Well with one exception… Unusually for a Star Wars movie we get a kind of a flash-back scene of Jyn as a young girl on the day the Empire came for her father.
And I want to mention something that happens on Jedah. But I can’t. Because… Spoilers… But it’s brilliantly done.
A quick word on the visuals. There are a couple of shots of the Death Star seen from the surface of planets that are among the best shots in any Star Wars movie.
There’s a lot of action throughout the movie but things gradually ratchet up until we come to the the last chunk of the movie which portrays an extended battle scene on the ground and in space. And for once the grunts in the line of fire are the main characters and not the background extras.
There is something about the grittiness of the battle scenes and the overall tone of Rogue One that gives the movie a surprising weight and heft. Yes, it’s set in the fantasy Star Wars universe but it feels like it’s happening. It feels real. I can’t help but contrast it with last year’s The Force Awakens. Overall that was an entertaining enough concoction but in comparison to Rogue One it feels like a greatest hits remix of the original trilogy, a box-ticking exercise in what is expected to set up a new trilogy. In hindsight The Force Awakens all feels a bit cartoony.
Here there are no speeder bike chases. There are no force assisted jumps out of danger. The action for the most part is very grounded. And even when the action is in space there is a weight to it as the opposing ships slug it out. One moment of the space battle in particular was stunning.
The movie crept up on me. I mean I was enjoying it well enough to start with but in a slightly detached way. “Oh that bits good. Yes that’s good as well…” But gradually I was drawn in until I wasn’t so detached. I stopped thinking about it being a movie. Then towards the end there was a moment when I realised I was actually quite gripped in a sort of edge-of-my-seat way.
And the last moments of the movie… I can’t say what they are. But I obviously knew that the Rebels escaped with the Death Star plans because that’s how the original Star Wars starts. But even though I knew the outcome there is a desperation in those final scenes that I found almost unbearable to watch. That’s quite an accolade for director Gareth Edwards.
Taking a step back I think I like that Rogue One is standalone. There will be no sequels to Rogue One because the original Star Wars movie is already the sequel. Rogue One is constrained by being set during the days immediately preceding Episode IV and paradoxically that give the movie the freedom to expand on the already established details and characters. It’s not concerned with setting up other plot threads that will pay off later.
Whereas the sequel trilogy (i.e. Force Awakens onwards) which has the freedom of being open-ended is actually constrained by needing to construct the mythology of a new trilogy. The first movie isn’t allowed to have an ending. It can only try to raise some questions about the new characters that will I assume get answered somewhere down the line. And like I said earlier, it feels cartoony in comparison.
Where do I rank Rogue One? I’ll need to watch it a few more times. But certainly without doubt it is at least in the top four.
Well, let me tell you I’ve been having a dreadful year. So I’m always on the lookout for a small bit of good news to distract me.
In this case the good news happens to be that Ridley Scott’s second Alien prequel, Alien: Covenant, will now be released in May 2017, which is a whole three months earlier than the previous August release date.
This is very welcome news as the Alien series is my favourite space-base movie series along side Star Trek.
Also we have a teaser poster that gives little away. Apart from featuring an Alien-style Alien that is.
This prequel movie does promise to be more of an Alien movie than Prometheus. I mean, they’ve put the word “Alien” back in the title for starters.
In other related news Eaglemoss is bringing out an Alien and Predator figurine partwork. I’ll probably subscribe if the price isn’t too excessive.
I’ve not had much free time to write reviews. However I will make an exception and write something about Star Trek Beyond which I saw on the day it opened.
I will try to steer clear of major spoilers, but to be honest the footage in the trailers gave me a pretty good idea of what the overall story would be.
· Kirk is a bit introspective
· Enterprise visits fancy pants new star base
· Enterprise goes to some planet
· A Swarm of little ships kick the crap out of the Enterprise (which may or may not crash on planet)
· Crew gets captured by some aliens
· Some of the bridge crew don’t get captured but get separated
· Scotty meets ass-kicking alien lady
· Crew find another ship
· Crew fight the swarm again and presumably win
· Kirk does some fighting in the fancy pants new star base
And that’s pretty much what happens in the Simon Pegg penned movie. But I guess it’s not the destination that’s important but the journey. Or something.
So the Enterprise is almost three years into its five year mission according to the “captain’s log” voiceover that Chris Pine gives early in the movie. Things have settled into a routine, albeit a routine that has Kirk returning from an encounter with aliens on a planet and lamenting that he’s ripped another shirt. There’s a nice scene early on with Kirk and McCoy sharing a drink to celebrate Kirk’s birthday, no doubt a nod to Wrath of Khan. Although in this timeline there’s the added detail that Kirk’s birthday is the same day his father died on the USS Kelvin. (Also at the end of the scene I noticed they toasted having good eyesight – that may be another reference to WOK where McCoy gives Kirk eye glasses.)
I have to say I liked Chris Pine in this one. His character of Kirk has matured and feels more… Well, Kirk-like. Also it’s nice to finally see Karl Urban’s McCoy get lots of stuff to do. (Other than slap his head and exclaim “Khan’s magic blood!”)
The Enterprise arrives at the fancy pants new star base Yorktown, which honesty is pretty OTT with skyscrapers pointing in all directions and rivers running over the top of star ship docking tubes. While there it transpires that both Kirk and Spock have independently started having doubts about their future in Starfleet.
Word comes to the star base of a ship needing rescued on a planet inside a nearby nebula and Kirk’s Enterprise is dispatched on this mission. Only thing is I’ve seen the trailer so I know the Enterprise is going to get the crap kicked out of it. And it does. It’s a major sequence in the first act of the movie and the action comes thick and fast (and furious).
The being responsible for the attack and capturing most of the crew is Krall played by Idris Elba. He is looking for a plot McGuffin (that apparently is on the Enterprise) as part of a bigger goal.
Soon Kirk and the others are stranded on the planet and have to try to regroup and escape. Scotty meets a new character called Jaylah (played by Sofia Boutella) who is an ass-kicking alien lady with memorable white and black make up.
And she’s brilliant.
Jaylah is the best thing in the movie. That’s not to denigrate anyone or anything else in the movie. But she’s brilliant. I found her totally endearing and I just wanted to adopt her and go on space adventures with her.
The movie has the good sense to team up Spock with McCoy. The back-and-forth between those two characters was always a major factor in the original show and we get a lot of it here. There are many classic grumpy McCoy lines throughout the movie.
Through Jaylah Scotty discovers they may have a way to get off the planet and he soon regroups with Kirk, Spock and the others and they plan a rescue of the rest of the crew.
Then in the final act we discover that Krall is not exactly what we thought he was. It’s a nice little plot twist that I didn’t see coming and I’d like to see the movie again to look out for the clues.
I had read much about how the movie was going to feature a villain that would cause the Enterprise crew (and by extension the audience) to question the ideals of the Federation. Well, to be honest I’m not sure they came anywhere close to doing that. If anything I think we could have done with just a little more about Krall and his motivations. But the twist does make him a memorable character.
There is a lot of action in this movie. But sprinkled throughout are lots of character moments. Of the three reboot movies this is the one that most purely follows the original series template of having an “adventure of the week”.
Before I forget I want to have a word about the music by Michael Giacchino. To be honest I found it a bit lacking. Maybe it got lost in the midst of all the action, but it just sounded very samey, very Hollywood. I guess I just miss the kind of stuff James Horner and Jerry Goldsmith did on Wrath of Khan and First Contact. Memorable tunes that stay with you. Maybe when I see “Beyond” again some of the music will leap out at me.
What I did like about the movie is how there is a much better sharing of screen time across the main characters. I would say that Kirk, Spock, McCoy and Scotty all have equal screen time along with new character Jaylah.
Towards the end of the movie watch out for a very nice little tribute to the original cast.
So in summary Star Trek Beyond is a very entertaining and fast moving adventure that packs a lot into the two hour running time. It maybe didn’t have the 50th anniversary “spine tingling” moments I was hoping for. But it did have Jaylah. And that’s good enough.
Ah, I’ve been putting off doing my review for the new Star Wars movie. Well, here are some random thoughts about it.
As its been two weeks since it came out I will discuss the big spoilers so be aware that the big spoilers do follow…
To be honest I had a very strong suspicion that the story of The Force Awakens was going to mirror episode 4 based on the imagery of the trailers. For example we see a girl on desert planet looking wistfully at spaceship taking off. Then we have Han Solo doing Ben Kenobi duty and telling Rey and Finn about the force. Later we see X-wings attacking an Imperial type installation. Etc, etc, etc…
So I knew that was coming. And pretty much that’s what we got, a retread/remake/homage to the first movie.
Then again I recall that George Lucas did the exact same thing with the climax of Return of the Jedi and produced another convenient Death Star for the Rebels to attack and blow up.
And arguably Episode 1 does the exact same thing with kid Anakin in a Naboo Starfighter attacking the Trade Federation droid control ship to halt the battle on Naboo.
So I was prepared for all that and I found I didn’t mind too much. I do think the makers have done that deliberately in order to ease people into the story arc of the new trilogy and I expect the next two episodes to do something a bit more original.
At least I hope they do…
There was a lot about the movie I did enjoy very much.
Daisy Ridley was wonderful as Rey. The new trilogy is surely going to be about her character. She is the Luke of the new trilogy I think. I do like how they have left some unanswered questions about her, mainly who abandoned her on that desert planet and why. The most obvious explanation is that she is Luke’s daughter and it has something to do with his Jedi academy getting destroyed by former student Ren. Certainly her abilities with the Force add weight to that theory.
I did read some comments online that expressed annoyance that Rey developed her Jedi abilities so quickly. However I actually really liked that aspect of it. Otherwise the makers of the movie would be setting her up to be a Jedi and the audience would be two steps ahead of the story. I liked that her force abilities “awakened” and she was able to do all the Jedi stuff. And the Jedi Mind Trick scene with the Stormtrooper (Daniel Craig?) was great.
At the start of the movie I liked how they introduced Finn. He’s this faceless stormtrooper who sees a fellow trooper die and he gets the bloody handprint on his helmet. What I liked in that scene was even though you could not see his face you could tell by his body language how shocked he was at what the First Order troopers were doing and how reluctant to take part he was. That was very nicely done.
It’s a pity Max Von Sydow wasn’t in the movie for a bit longer. Because, hey, it’s Max Von Sydow. I always loved him in Dune and he was one of the best things in the first Judge Dredd movie. (The other being Diane Lane.) He can do the gravitas.
Early on there’s a shot of Rey sitting on the desert planet. She’s leaning against a big round metal object. Then we get a different higher angle and see it’s the foot of a toppled at-at. I loved that.
There’s a scene where Ray and Finn are running from attacking Tie fighters towards a ship they intend to steal. Finn suggests a ship we don’t see. “That ones garbage,” says Rey. When her first choice is destroyed they have to made do with the garbage. And I just knew it was going to be the Millennium Falcon. I’m sure I detected a little frisson of excitement in the cinema when the Falcon was revealed.
And while I’m on the Falcon, what about that targeting display on the Falcon turbo lasers! It looked exactly the same as it did in episode 4! Imagine if George Lucas was doing that now…
A word on supreme leader Snoke. At first I thought he was an actual giant guy and then of course it turned out to be a hologram. Some folk online are speculating it’s like the Wizard of Oz and he may actually look nothing like that. The rumour is that it’s either Palpatine or Darth Plagueis who I believe was Palpatine’s former master.
The movie had a lot of Han Solo. Clearly the makers wanted their money’s worth from Harrison Ford. And they got it. But the result of this is that the main characters in the movie are Han (and Chewie), Rey and Finn. Leia is hardly in it. And as for Luke…
A week or so before I saw the movie I had inadvertently read a rumoured spoiler that apparently Han Solo was going to die in this movie, more or less mirroring Ben Kenobi’s death in episode 4. That was slightly annoying but in hindsight it shouldn’t be a surprise to see Han exit. Remember, Harrison Ford apparently wanted Han to die in Return of the Jedi. Quite likely that plot development got him on board the movie.
I felt that the “Death of Han” sequence was well done because it’s got a bit of Greek tragedy going on. Earlier Leia asked Han to try to save their son. (Didn’t I mention, the evil Kylo Ren is actually Ben Solo?) So Han sees Ren in the Starkiller base. He could have escaped but instead he confronts Ren. Ren had been set up as a very conflicted character trying to follow the dark side but having doubts so there’s some nice double-meaning to the dialog spoken as he asks his father for help before killing him.
I do think that Chewie should had gone more berserk though. Like ripping some stormtroopers apart.
While I did enjoy the movie there were a number of things I didn’t like.
First of all I’m not thrilled at how the Starkiller base worked. So, do I have this right… It sucks energy from a star to charge up? Then fires laser beams across the galaxy (one assumes at faster than light speed) and destroys multiple planets? In moments? Huh?
So the first time they fired it at the New Republic worlds did the sun vanish as well? I don’t recall that happening. And then do they have to move the Starkiller base (i.e. planet) to a new star or can it fire to anywhere in the galaxy from the one spot?
No, I don’t like any of that. It’s just =spluttering noise= silly. I could just about accept the Death Star as it would have its own power source and it moves to the planet it is going to destroy.
(Actually I can feel myself about to get annoyed at the use of Warp Speed in the JJ Abrams Star Trek movies so I think I’d better stop now.)
It was also disappointing to only see a glimpse of Luke at the very end, especially as so much of the movie had been about the search for Luke Skywalker. But I think that will pay off with the next movie.
Also, what happened to John Williams? Yes, it was nice to get all the reprises from the Original Trilogy, but I don’t think there was a single new theme that has stuck in my mind. Certainly nothing like the Imperial March.
Surprisingly there are very few new ship designs. The First Order Tie Fighters are just updates of the old design. The same goes for the Resistance X-Wings. Apart from Rey’s Speeder and perhaps Ren’s Shuttle there are surprisingly few memorable designs.
Well, those are my random thoughts on the movie two weeks on. Overall I enjoyed it. It felt like an old-school Star Wars movie with real sets. And there was enough unanswered questions to provide a hook for Episode VIII.
And next up is Rogue One…
Note: There are some general plot spoilers in the following review.
But then the trailers for the movie effectively spoiled the plot by revealing what happens to John Connor….
More on that later.
I had planned to see Terminator Genisys in the cinema this summer but frankly the word of mouth I heard put me off. From what I gathered it seemed to be an unnecessary addition to the series at best, but many opinions were considerably stronger.
So now that it’s out on blu ray I thought I’d give it a go. I was ready for it to be rubbish although I understood that apparently the first 40 minutes set in 1984 were supposed to be decent.
The movie starts with a future war segment where John Connor and Kyle Reese break into the Skynet facility that has the time travel device. We glimpse the first T-800 going through and then Reese volunteers to go back and save Sarah Connor.
So far so good. In fact I seem to recall a scene like this in the original T2 script. So it’s nice to see it actually on screen after thirty years.
Then the movie begins a fairly faithful recreation of early scenes from the 1984 movie involving the arrival of the T-800 and Kyle Reese in Los Angeles. There are some shot-for-shot recreations here.
But things soon take a different path and a second, older, Arnold Terminator arrives and we see the two Arnies fighting each other. The older Terminator we come to discover is “Pops”, a T-800 that was sent back to protect Sarah Connor in 1973. The name Pops is appropriate because this is the machine that had to bring Sarah Connor up after her parents were killed in 1973 by another machine.
Now that’s quite an interesting twist. Remember back in Terminator 2 how annoyed Sarah Connor was that her son John was using the machine as a father figure. Well now in this new timeline Sarah is doing the same thing.
Incidentally it is never revealed who send Pops back. We may find out if they ever make a new movie.
Emilia Clarke from Game of Thrones plays Sarah. She looks very young in the part but that’s totally appropriate because I believe the 1984 Sarah was only supposed to be 19 years old or something like that.
A liquid metal T-1000 is also in 1984 and goes after Kyle and the others. Again, Sarah and the machine have had ten years to prepare for the fight and take care of business.
So keep in mind that I was expecting the movie to be a bit rubbish based on that bad word of mouth. Well, during the 1984 sequences I did find myself having some edge of seat moments. There were some quite tense moments, especially when an endoskeleton was going after Kyle at one point.
After about 40 minutes the action shifts forward 33 years to 2017 when Sarah and Kyle jump forward to try to stop a new iteration of Skynet. Sarah actually wants to jump to 1997 to stop Judgment Day but Kyle has to convince her that the real threat is in 2017 based on something strange he experienced when time traveling. Sure enough when they get there it turns out that the 1997 Judgment Day never happened.
Which means that the events in the new 1984 have been enough to stop Judgment Day. I assume because the original Arnold T-800 was destroyed and Cyberdyne didn’t get its hands on it to use as the basis for Skynet.
I have to admit I’m a bit confused about the timeline. When Kyle and the original T-800 jump back to 1984 they arrive in a slightly different timeline because some other time traveling machines arrived in 1973. The only way I think this can work is if the travellers to 1973 left 2029 after Kyle did.
Later we discover that the altered John Connor went back from 2029 to 2014. So he must have jumped back to the newly established non-Judgement Day timeline later still. But I’m not sure that makes sense. Surely one can only jump back to their own timeline and not an altered one. I’ll need to think on this some more.
Some have criticised the convenient time machine that Sarah and Pops built. But I quite liked that. I was a big fan of the Sarah Connor Chronicals tv show and in the first episode of that Sara and John jumped forward from 1999 to 2007 in a time machine that had been built by time travelers from the future.
By the way when Sarah and Kyle travel forward in this movie they end up naked in the middle of night time freeway traffic. This is what happened to Sara and John in the tv show.
Another thing I liked about this time travel story device is that they use it to explain how Pops is being played by a much older Arnold. He has exposed metal so he can’t time travel with them and has to take the “long way round”, i.e. wait 33 years for them to appear in 2017.
There’s some nice nods to Arnie’s age plus an enjoyable little scene with Kyle and Pops loading ammo into guns that turns into a competition.
Now I’ve already alluded to an altered John Connor. This was the movie’s big plot twist that would have been surprising to say the least. If only the trailers had not revealed that John Connor had been altered into a shape shifting Terminator.
This is a very neat plot twist with Skynet realising that they have never managed to defeat John Connor so who better to carry out their plans. But the trailers revealed all. That’s a great pity.
Many have objected to the use of humour in the movie. There seems to be particular annoyance to the numerous uses of the “Arnie smiling” gag. It’s fair to say that the sight of Arnie grinning in character as a Terminator pushes lots of buttons. But I discovered that I really didn’t mind. James Cameron introduced the gag in his original script for Terminator 2 where John tries to teach the machine to smile in order to fit in. That’s good enough for me.
So in the end I enjoyed the movie very much it for what it was. It was quite tense in places and effectively done.
Viewers just have to accept that this is a franchise action movie with CGI effects instead of the original’s low budget grittiness. I have to admit that the helicopter stuff towards the end looked very video game-y. But the stuff with the bus on the Golden Gate Bridge was well done and had some tense moments.
So in summary watching this movie was a very pleasant surprise. It’s certainly miles better than T3.
I had been looking forward to Daniel Craig’s fourth Bond movie Spectre for some time. So I made a point of going to the first available show on the first night it was on.
For the most part my review below will stay clear of major plot spoilers. However I will reference scenes if they have been shown in the various trailers. And there are probably one or two mild spoilers below.
The movie opens at the Day of the Dead carnival in Mexico City with what must be the most complex opening shot they have done on a Bond movie. In a long single shot the camera pans over crowds of people in costume and then closes in on what turns out to be Bond wearing a macabre skull mask. The camera follows him into a building and then onto the roof where some mayhem will soon follow.
Actually it looks like the shot was done in at least three segments and seamlessly joined together to make one longer shot. But it’s still damn impressive and thrilling to watch.
As seen in the trailer Bond was on an unauthorised mission to Mexico City and when we find out why it’s a nice little bit of business. He then enlists Moneypenny and Q to help him as he continues his off-the-books mission to Rome where he meets the Monica Bellucci character. Much has been made of her being a Bond girl at 50 and also that she’s not actually in the movie that much. But she plays her roll well as someone who fatalistically knows her days are numbered.
This leads us to one of my favourite scenes in the movie: the “Boardroom scene” that has been shown in the trailers. Here rich and powerful men and women are meeting in a dimly lit room to discuss their criminal enterprises in business speak. It is a genuinely creepy and menacing scene. It’d say it’s is one of the best “villain introduction” scenes done in a Bond movie. Ever. It makes the concept of an organisation like Spectre all too horribly plausible.
As well as a glimpse of Christop Waltz’s character Oberhauser we also get a introduced to Dave Bautista’s character Mister Hinx. He will keep popping up to plague Bond through the course of the move. Bautista is great casting as he makes the character feels like a real threat to Bond.
It’s Hinx that chases Bond in the movie’s main set piece car chase through the streets of Rome. Bond of course is in the new Aston Martin DB10. I’m not sure why but the car chase seemed a little bit flat to me and lacking jeopardy.
Also seen in the trailers was the reappearance of Mister White from Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace. I always enjoyed Jesper Christiansen as one of the best things in those two movies so it’s nice to seem him return and with a different dynamic with Bond.
Around the mid-point of the movie Lea Seydoux appears. She plays Madeleine Swann who is the main “Bond girl” of Spectre and has information that Bond needs to get to the mysterious organisation he has encountered. She is initially distrustful of Bond and wants nothing to do with him. Of course they end up working together. I have to say she’s one of my favourite Bond girls in ages. It’s always going to be hard to top Eva Green as Vesper in Casino Royale but Lea is very good.
Another of my favourite scenes is one featuring a fight on a train. These train fights have been done quite a few times in Bond movies ever since From Russia With Love set the benchmark. However I think it’s been a while since one has been included. This is a brutal fight between Bond and his ongoing foe Mister Hinx. Initially the fight unfolds without music which emphasises the impact of each punch. But the lack of music here is also a nice respite. I’ll have more to say about the music later on.
As glimpsed in the trailers this Spectre has a proper old-school secret base where they are orchestrating their global mayhem. Here Bond finally encounters his nemesis and I’ll say no more about that. However I will mention a torture scene that I think had most members of the audience squirming a bit.
So the first three-quarters of the movie is very strong. There are a good number of global locations visited and lots of efficiently done action. Plus I found the partnership between Bond and Swann very pleasing.
Then we come to the London-based climax. I don’t what to say anything about what the villain’s plot was but I will say it was painfully obvious to me from very early in the movie what it was going to be. It’s almost as if the writers weren’t even trying to hide it. And maybe they weren’t. But in case it was supposed to be a surprise I will say no more.
But in terms of the action in those London-set climatic sequences I do have to admit as it went along it started feeling, well… Perhaps just a little bit… silly. The implausibility factor really started kicking into play. Which is a pity as the Daniel Craig movies have always seemed to err just about on the side of plausibility for the most part.
Having said that I am reminded that a Bond movie called Diamonds Are Forever exists and this movie really can’t out-silly that one.
On an Ian Fleming related note there is a nice little nod to the James Bond short story The Hildebrand Rarity. I wonder if perhaps the makers are setting up the use of that title for a future movie.
Other than the slightly silly ending and the super-obvious villain’s plot my main criticism of the movie regards the music. At best it is serviceable but at worse it’s really quite poor. Thomas Newman doesn’t provide any actual theme for the movie. Plus he lifts whole chunks of his Skyfall soundtrack and drops them in. It’s either the height of laziness or the result of a compressed post-production schedule.
This is disappointing as the trailers had very impressive music. The second trailer in particular had that wonderful arrangement of John Barry’s theme for On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. I had high hopes that this movie might adopt that theme for some of the action sequences, but alas we get generic noisy movie music to accompany the action scenes. That’s why I was pleased that the train fight had no music. Because honestly I think no music is actually better than the music in this movie.
There are a number of callbacks to Daniel Craig’s previous entries in the series. For example there are some images used in the opening credits to link Spectre to its predecessors. Also there are nods to the earlier movies peppered through the running time.
Overall Spectre feels like the closest the makers have come to a classic Bond movie since the original Sean Connery films. It actually feels like a 1960s Bond movie updated for the 21st century in the style of Daniel Craig’s Bond. It actually feels a little bit like a Bond movie happening in the real world, if that makes sense. So you have some of the fantastical elements done with a little bit of grit as opposed to feeling like pure film fantasy.
Well, until the final act and some of the silly stuff happens.
So overall I rate Spectre highly. Perhaps 4/5.
Just to round things off I’ll quickly summarise the other Daniel Craig movies so you can see how it compares.
Casino Royale remains the best for me as it had a whole Ian Fleming novel to use as the basis for the story structure. Plus Eva Green as Vesper is one of the best Bond girls ever, if not the best ever. Witness Bond and Vesper with their verbal parrying on the train. And Mads Mikkelsen as Le Chiffre is the best villain featured in a Bond movie for a very long time.
Quantum of Solace is the much unloved ugly duckling of the Daniel Craig movies. The editing is frenetic, it’s shockingly short and there’s almost too much action for the curtailed running time. But there are inspired moments when it tries to do things a Bond movie has never done before. I love the arty intercutting between the gunfight and what is happening onstage at the opera for example. Personally I’ve become very fond of it despite its flaws and it’s a favourite of mine. But I’ll accept that most people will put it at the bottom of their list.
Finally Skyfall was critically and commercially acclaimed. It’s a fine movie but I find it very hard to love. There’s something about it that I can’t connect with. I feel distant from the characters and what is happening on screen. And don’t get me started on the plot holes. For example, let’s have a showdown with Silva in the middle of nowhere. And. Not. Bring. Any. Guns. So personally I think that one is vastly overrated.