From the cosmic perspective to the existential, the universe abounds with the phenomenon of holes. We've all heard about black holes in the depths of space; and there are scientists who envision, most likely in a haze of cannabis smoke, that black holes could devour each other, expanding into superholes of billions of solar masses. Sir Paul McCartney, on the other hand, believes that he could go about “fixing a hole where the rain gets in / And stops my mind from wandering / Where it will go.” The mind certainly wanders, just as it does for the introspective narrator in Kundera’s Slowness, who remembers Guillaume Apollinaire’s deep reverie on the human posterior as “the ninth portal of your body” (95), which I ended up alluding to in my review of Casino Royale: it's the bodily part that “by implication, [is] the portal to the metaphorical void from which all the bullshit in the world emanates. Sad to say, Martin Campbell’s Casino Royale is from that void.” And, sad to say, Spectre is just about ready to emerge from the same astral door.
Based on the first full-blown trailer, the upcoming Bond film is what you’d get if Mötley Crüe delved into filmmaking and cranked out the big screen remake of Rescue from Gilligan’s Island, starring puppets made of scrap foam from a questionable puppet factory. But it turns out, it wasn't Motley Crüe; instead, it was a motley crew of filmmakers, drowned in their self-importance and overlooked the fact that they had made something about as dramatic as the dilemma of those shipwrecked castaways. Moreover, what we saw last spring was but a mere prelude to this nonsense: Spectre’s teaser was released (if anyone still recalls) and proved to be quite the dud, wrapped in low-key hype, especially in the wake of the massive spot light for the Star Wars trailer. In its struggle for relevance, the Spectre teaser emphasized a melodramatic plot point about a dark childhood past for the Craig-Bond. Now, as the official trailer suggests, Spectre continues this maudlin origin-story motif that the filmmakers have been batting around since the start of the Craig tenure. And why it took this long for the Bond makers to unveil the trailer (without any sonorous hype) is bizarre in itself. Apart from the members of the Bond fan forums, we can be virtually certain that most people would not have been keenly aware of the trailer’s release on July 22nd or so. In my case, I happened to be in the Northern Rhone, admiring the cellar of Maison Paul Jaboulet Aîné, when my smart phone chimed with emails from alert fans. This Spectre thingie certainly dampens the spirit of the moment, just as you’re about to taste a fine glass of Hermitage, and news breaks that Vladimir Putin Craig is wearing a white dinner jacket. To see the image is quite startling, about as unnerving as, say, forgetting to wear the parachute during a skydive or inadvertently joining The Javier Bardem Fan Club after swigging one too many bottles of inferior Syrah from Lodi, California. Nevertheless, in about two minutes, the Spectre trailer struggles to stir excitement for a new Bond film, and we sense the same problem since the reboot with Casino Royale: once again, we have a series that wants to be something, assert something profound about itself, but its handlers have no idea how to achieve it.
Though it has the usual slick pace of a Hollywood production, the trailer is remarkably bad. Nothing about it stands out to be distinctive from other action fare, and it gives off the feeling that we've seen it all before. I’ve noted many times that the producers have blatantly reused the dark imagery in the recent Batman films, and this trailer only underscores their intention, although they’ve tossed in bits of the Fast and Furious car chases (including the slanted camera angles) and snow scenes that could pass as outtakes from The Living Daylights. A barely-awake Daniel Craig returns to his trademark cardboard secret agent. Disturbingly, he’s aged drastically, looking decrepit, bleary-eyed, with the lines in his face accentuated by the heavy makeup. The discrepancy between his withered mug and the vigorous actions handled by his stuntmen is hilarious. The producers have also struggled, from the moment he was cast, to present him as a dashing figure; but, as the trailer reveals, his discomfort in the role is reflected in the sartorial indignity that he’s put through: Bond in a tight-fit dark-blue overcoat? Yes, if the actor is a Moore or a Dalton, who both look distinguished in such garb in Live and Let Die and The Living Daylights, respectively. Craig, on the other hand, resembles a leprechaun who got a gig as a hotel doorman at a luxury hotel. Craig should always wear loose-fitting close to offset his diminutive stature. In one scene, the white dinner jacket thrusts him into the sublime, looking portly like a reinvented Peter Lorre or even Steve Coogan’s Dr. Terrible. Craig, as always, suffers from the problem of appearing with zero confidence in formal attire. He remains, we must admit, a consistent stinkeraoo in the role, just as he was in his last three efforts. He’s wooden in the dialogue scenes and cannot make us forget that he lacks the swagger and panache required for Bond.
Other disturbing aspects of the trailer:
There's a tired feel to it all in this bloated $350 million production (excluding advertising costs)—and to think this is what the filmmakers concocted during the three-year gap since Brokeback Skyfall. The digital effects have the same quality as those used in The Thunderbirds puppet adventures—but, hey, this is a series made in the tradition of the Punch and Judy shows, as the great Christophe Waltz explained, so it’s not surprising to see such homage. Moreover, the plane crashing through the trees is certainly cheap-looking, about as realistic as 1960s animation. There are budget animation software from CNET readily available for download that you could use to achieve the same effect. Even traces of the soundtrack from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service suggest obvious desperation to invigorate this blasted piece of shit by associating it with one of the classics in the series. By the time the title of the film appears near the end, we realize this is nothing more than a spectacle of asshole filmmaking, led by Mendes, who you'll recall is quite the authority on self-absorbed movies, featuring narcissistic asshole characters. Fortunately, as the trailer suggests, this assholeness seems to be kept to a minimum because the line “I'm Mickey Mouse, asshole” (Sargent), as revealed in the Sony email leaks, appears to have been removed from the final shooting script. Not that it matters: in the end, no one will dare criticize the film anyway, and the media elites will be complicit in praising the glorious work of their favored leftist, Sam Mendes.
Yet something tells us that all is not well behind the scenes. Comrade Mendes has already proclaimed, well before the film's release, that he would not return to helm the next entry. A translator on the Moroccan set supposedly described, on Instagram, that Craig was quite the asshole. By early July, revelations surfaced from the so-called Enty (a notorious entertainment lawyer) alleging that Craig has demanded, ahem, special favors from a female costar. Meanwhile, Sony executives have been scrambling to salvage their distribution rights to the series. The production itself (again, widely publicized during the Sony email scandal) has been troubled, underscored by an out-of-control budget and the lack of a solid script as filming began in November 2014. A pitiful, useless mess is on the horizon; but a super asshole marketing blitz of 765 bajillion dollars will woo a docile public into saving this film from the scrap heap.
|*||Although the first novel in the series, Casino Royale is not an origin story for Bond. Fleming’s hero is already an established secret agent and has doubts about his profession, so much so that he considers resigning—not exactly the traits of a young fledging agent eager to carve a career in espionage. As the series progressed, Fleming sporadically inserted fragments of biography for his agent, culminating in a brief summary of the agent’s life presented in an obituary in You Only Live Twice.|