‘It’s funny, all that excitement in Mexico City rang a distant bell. And now, this evening, it made perfect sense. Welcome James! It has been a long time, but finally here we are!’
The words of Earnst Stavro Blofeld aka Franz Oberhauser in the early scenes of Spectre, James Bond’s last movie iteration, capped one of the finest pieces of characterisation ever captured on film.
We all know who Bond is, but it wouldn’t be a Bond movie without an other-worldly scene to introduce his exploits at the beginning, would it? That’s what Mexico City was all about. Then the question is – who is Bond against?
You find your answer in Rome, at a place Bond was advised not to go because it is ‘beyond mercy’: a meeting of members of Spectre, a criminal organisation led by Blofeld. Being Bond, he went. So, after you have been introduced to what the organisation entails, through a myriad of weird criminal achievements that makes Don Corleone’s Mafia feel amateurish in comparison, you get treated to a horrifying display of cruelty within the organisation. Then Blofeld is introduced: even among those criminal masterminds he is a towering figure – powerful and to be feared. Brilliant work of direction to deliver that effect. Then he utters those momentous words – and Bond’s unwelcome presence in the meeting is unveiled!
I watched Spectre while it was still on cinema in 2015. I felt that it had to be enjoyed in a way the producers had intended – in a theatre. The theatre’s DTS 7.1 surrounding sound did great justice to the movie’s 100 minutes soundtracks. Watching Bond movies, one gets used to be spoiled by their unbridled creativity. That evening was going according to plan – until I observed a bizarre flaw in the film’s plot development.
The plot takes one from Mexico City to Rome, to Altaussee, and then to Hotel L’Americain, Tangier, a town in Morocco, where Bond and Dr. Madeleine Swan – the Bond girl – finally stay. The globe-trotting Bond makes it possible for viewers to be treated to a feast of exotic sceneries of streets, cultures and architectures that on its own makes one’s eyes glued to the screen.
At L’Americain Bond determines the location where Blofeld can be found, a stronghold in the middle of the Sahara Desert. And this is the point where things start to go weird.
Firstly, Bond agrees take Madeleine to the stronghold, a very irrational move given that she was going to be a liability there. But, it’s fiction – this kind of irrationality serves to create drama, so we will give it a pass.
Secondly, they board a train to go to this desert location. From the station they are chauffeured to their destination by a 1948 Rolls-Royce. They are met with people who have been expecting them, they are disarmed and are taken into their rooms.
This is the point where one feels like – what the heck?! How do you go to your enemy’s stronghold, with an intention to destroy him, without an element of surprise, and they receive you as if they are running a frigging B&B? Is the new Bond suicidal?
Finally, that Blofeld character was puffed up for nothing. A few witty statements aside, the character was quite pale – completely detached from the build-up. Even under attack he didn’t show any authority to justify why he had to be feared. And his capture – since when does a helicopter has to follow a river channel to get away from a boat? Poor.
The plot was forced – instead of being developed effortlessly to lead to a climax. Blofeld was no Goldfinger, nor Franscisco Scalamanga. He was passive – as if he had nothing to lose.
When we watch Bond movies, we know that facts will be stretched. So Bond’s bedroom magic will turn enemies the likes of Pussy Galore or Goodnight to his side. He will escape from daunting situations such as in Live and Let Die. We know it’s the work of fiction. But to be effective, those creative devices must be deployed through a believable plot. When the plot fails all that remains is a disconnected series of dramatic scenes. One may as well watch a 1980’s kickass movie starring Jalal Merhi or Bolo Yeung!
But, after a long time, finally, here we are! The new Bond movie named ‘No Time to Die’ is expected to be released this October. The cast includes Daniel Craig (who will be starring in his last film as Bond), Rami Malek (the adversary), Lea Seydoux (as Dr. Madeleine Swann) and Christoph Waltz (as Blofeld, the archnemesis). Will the movie deliver?