Blofeld Is Back
by Jay Maronde
Despite all the hype about Star Wars Episode VII, the biggest movie of this holiday season is easily Spectre, the 24th James Bond film. Once again the excellent team at EON productions has returned with a seasoned cast and crew to deliver a movie that fails to disappoint. Spectre marks director Sam Mendes second foray into the world of James Bond and the fourth time that Daniel Craig has donned the world’s most famous tuxedo. But more important than the return of these two figures central to the movie, Spectre is a return to a very classic and historically significant villain, Ernst Stavro Blofeld.
Blofeld is not a new villain; he’s one of the original James Bond villains and appears in several movies before this one. However, in one of the most obscene examples of copyright wrangling ever, he was legally barred from appearing in the EON productions James Bond movies for several decades, but recent Hollywood mergers finally have him returning home. For those of us who are younger, you might be more experienced with the Austin Powers Dr. Evil, who is a parody of Blofeld. Waltz is terrific as the world’s most evil super villain: iconic, evil, and capable of making your skin crawl and toes curl; a Blofeld not soon forgotten. The decision to cast Waltz was absolute genius and in interviews Waltz describes how, having known Barbara Broccoli for a long time, she personally asked him to take the role. While on the topic of villains one can’t help but comment on the outstanding performance of Dave Bautista as Mr. Hinx, the evil brutish iron finger nailed henchmen that just won’t seem to die. Given the history behind Blofeld, I wouldn’t be surprised to see either Hinx or Blofeld return to the big screen to tangle with Bond again.
Waltz's sly, shrew, sneering genius is perfectly offset once again by Daniel Craig’s cold, cool James Bond. Grittier and more determined than ever, Bond triumphs in ways only he can--from escaping a building disintegrating around him with grace, to bringing down a chopper in the middle of London with a single bullet, Craig coldly shows how easy James Bond would make this look. Craig is excellent, and despite all the talk about this being his last Bond film, I suspect we will see him in at least one more, mostly because he got almost $40 million dollars to make this movie and that type of money makes people change their minds pretty quickly (ask Sean Connery). Pairing with Craig in this movie are two beautiful new Bond girls with Monica Bellucci starring as Lucia Sciarra and Lea Seydoux starring as Dr. Madeleine Swann. There was a great deal of hype before the release of this film that Bellucci would be the oldest Bond girl ever, even older than the actor playing Bond. This hype was all over blown. Bellucci is a gorgeous radiant woman, and was almost cast in Tomorrow Never Dies in the role that eventually went to Teri Hatcher, her beauty is undeniable but her part in Spectre is so short she couldn’t have detracted from the film even if she was 120 years old. The real gem of this movie is newcomer Lea Seydoux who plays Dr. Madeleine Swann. A seemingly endless bag of surprises is contained within her character and her beauty only serves to magnify Craig’s rugged masculinity. Her on-screen chemistry with Craig could be the best Bond has with any woman in any movie.
Returning to reprise their Skyfall roles were Ralph Fiennes as M, Naomie Harris as Eve Moneypenny, and Ben Whishaw as Q. Moneypenny and M are very likable allies for Bond. Once again Q has a very substantial role and Whishaw plays the role masterfully. As usual the Q branch has cooked up some gadgets for Bond including a very rare Aston Martin DB10 Prototype. The car and the chase that it's used in are stunning examples of the caliber of clout James Bond movies acquire: that car is so rare it will never be made again and the chase required huge sections of Rome to be shut down for filming.
My one complaint about this movie is simple and almost completely irrelevant: the Sam Smith title song is terrible. Slow, boring, long-winded, almost the entire song I thought to myself, “Well, let’s get on with the show.” There’s a good chance you’ve heard this song on pop radio, so I really don’t need to talk about it more, but there’s a rumor that Rihanna was considered and maybe recording the next title song for the as yet unnamed BOND 25. Worth further note: this movie is long, very long--by four minutes the longest James Bond movie ever, so use the rest rooms before you sit down. I found myself hoping it wouldn’t end, because it was just so good, but I definitely made straight for the bathroom as the credits rolled.
James Bond #24, Spectre, is a holiday blockbuster and a good time for everyone. The return of Blofeld is an excellent plot twist, and Sam Mendes seems to have done an even better job the second time. Spectre is globe-trotting action packed good time. I would highly advise seeing this movie in IMAX, as I did, because a movie this huge and outrageous certainly deserves a viewing on an outrageous screen.