In a profound historic announcement, Eon Productions released the teaser trailer for the 24th Bond film, Spectre, on March 27, 2015, 149 years to the day when the urinal was patented. For on a frosty morning in New York, March 27, 1866, Andrew Rankin patented the urinal, the culmination of his research in the geometry of male urine trajectory. Coincidence with Spectre? Most likely, although I suspect many fans imagined the sound of a flushing urinal as they watched the teaser.
Nevertheless, Spectre—also known in film studies as “Advanced Techniques in the Destruction of a Once Remarkable Film Series”—won’t be hitting cinemas until November 2015; but the teaser trailer gives us a sense of what the filmmakers are attempting to do: namely, play catch up with the recent trailers for the upcoming The Man from U.N.C.L.E, Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation, and, most importantly, Spy, featuring Melissa McCarthy (inevitably, the next Helen Mirren), who’s dramatic presence threatens to kick the effete Craig-Bond off the screen, thrusting him through the lobby and onto the cinema parking lot. Still, in the realm of Pureloonistan (ah, that most magical place where residents are reassured there is no need to question why things are the way they are), the Spectre teaser has essentially been hailed by the mainstream media as another Sam Mendes masterpiece; and I’ve even received a couple of emails from Craigyboppers (in their usual orgasmic praise) proclaiming that the teaser foreshadows true art, something akin to Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin. I must admit my reaction is far from worship, but then that’s why I don’t reside in the realm of Pureloonistan. If anything, the teaser strikes me as a sneak peek into another melodramatic movie-of-the-week you find on cable. For example, the Hallmark Channel is brimming with movies based on those Garage Sale mystery books by author Suzi Weinert, to which the great Mendes is saluting. Despite this oddity, I did notice the usual claptrap one finds in the Craig tenure: the solemnity in tone; characters mumbling “serious” dialogue in a dark room; somebody from 007’s past surfaces to betray him; and Daniel Craig has a bowl haircut.
Further scrutiny of the teaser suggests Spectre is a continuation of the idiotic Brokeback Skyfall while raising other disturbing elements. Let me count the ways:
I ought to add that the trailer subtly expresses another intention of the filmmakers: namely, a conscious effort to disassociate Craig from the traditional Bond/playboy image. Centuries ago, from what I can recall, a 007 teaser typically included an enticing scene of a gorgeous woman. For example, The Living Daylights teaser begins with a stunning bikini-clad woman sunning herself on the deck of a yacht—and it ends with Timothy Dalton's Bond, who has just landed on board by parachute, accepting her offer to stay a while. Years later, in the teaser for GoldenEye, the camera still has time to focus on some of the fine things in life such as Natalya Simonova's loose robe, uplifted in the tropical breeze, framing her bikini crotch (Fleming, I suspect, would have applauded all of that). These teasers are pure Bond, a male fantasy where the hero is in a world of fast cars, teeming with fast women in exotic surroundings, all told through tongue-in-cheek sexism.
We'll have none of that in Skyfall, I'm sorry to say.
A further note on this struggle to be regarded as an art film: suspiciously absent are snippets of the action scenes filmed thus far. I suspect it’s the filmmakers’ tactic to oppose the typical Hollywood action trailer. Not for us, Barbara Broccoli and Sam Mendes seem to say. You can have your Man from U.N.C.L.Es and your Mission: Impossibles with their cool car chases, action scenes, and tongue-in-cheek humor. We’re beyond all that, for heavens sakes. We’ve pioneered that style of spy adventure. Yes, we’ve got car chases and action scenes in Spectre, but it’s all rather second fiddle to our character-driven story and something you don’t need to be bothered with. All you need to know is that ours has a captivating story—a deep spell-binding story about Bond’s childhood and his dark inner tortured self. And, to take the art of drama to its zenith, all that story is tied in with the villain! Unfortunately, what Mendes and company can’t shake off is the tired, cheap, feeling to it all.
The last time the 007 film franchise had this aura was with A View To A Kill, a film emblematic of a series that has run out of gas. The refill involved a new Bond in Timothy Dalton, a brief surge of revitalization but not enough to carry the franchise, resulting in the creative decline that plagued Licence To Kill. This decline surfaced in aspects of the Brosnan films but subtle enough to be drowned out by glorious marketing campaigns. By the time the Craig tenure kicked in, the decline manifested itself in the inane reboot but shielded ever more by a glittering PR machine. Unfortunately, there’s only so much to go on this road, especially when you’ve got a film costing $300 million or so—one of the most expensive films ever, causing turmoil among the studio brass—and hampered by the leaden guidance of a witless director, while the producers succumb to the government of Mexico for attractive tax incentives in exchange for its dictates to the script. Case in point: the recent unveiling of Spectre’s rather cheap-looking teaser poster, in tandem with this bland trailer and the on-going troubled production, suggest that the Bond team is asleep with this one, cranking out something in which everyone was tired of dealing with the routine of making a Bond movie but were forced back into the breech for a hefty pay day. The likelihood that Spectre will result as a plodding pile of disingenuous filmmaking nears 100 percent. We’ll see.