Tuesday, 10 November 2015

More toys for the boys

Jenny on Spectre

When my sons were small, it was forbidden for boys to have proper dolls, though now you can buy baby dolls with convincing male genitalia, which is jolly nice and only fair to girls. Then, boys had to make do with Action Man and Star Wars ‘figures’ as their dolls. Action Man came with multiple enticing outfits and opportunities for dressing and undressing, though alas, ultra-masculine though he was, he did not have anything much under his camouflage pants. Talking to my older son about all of this, he reminded me that he had also been very fond of a certain white James Bond car.

It suddenly came to me watching Spectre that of course Sam Mendes and his crew must all have been small boys at much the same time, and now, how wonderful, they get to play with the action figures for real! This probably accounts for the constant homage to earlier Bond films. Fluffy white cat with sulky expression? Tick. Train? Tick. Villain’s strangely retro Space Age Evil Lair? Tick. Villain’s Nehru jacket? Tick. I’m not sure if we are meant to see these references as giving us a wink of sly humour or whether they are deadly serious. What is certain is that this is a Fanboy tribute of an attentive and loving kind.

This movie is stylish and clever. The pre-credit sequence is set in Mexico City on the Day of the Dead and it is as good as or better than any other film in the Bond canon. It has a long tracking shot of staggering virtuosity and I’m still trying to work out how it was done. The production design is consistently brilliant. Bond survives his ordeals, as ever, without a scratch, so for instance having been tortured by having his skull drilled by Christoph Waltz, with one bound is he free in an immaculate freshly ironed white shirt. Naturally there is no sign of blood, gore, brain damage or the smoke and debris from the massive explosion he has just caused. The final reel, set spectacularly in London, is beautifully made, CGI blending invisibly with the real thing.

My problem is the one I have always had with the Bond franchise. I have no interest whatsoever in guns, bombs, handcuffs, cars, helicopters, planes, trains, explosions, spies, fights, car chases, buildings-demolition, murders, gadgets or action-driven plots. So I dozed off in the second reel and may have missed some nuances in whatever sketchy plot there was.

I did notice that Daniel Craig is not required to do much in the way of acting. All those doubting persons who thought him too short, too blond, too ordinary etc to be JB have certainly been proved wrong in a big way. But fine actor that he is, all he really has to do here is pout, give piercing stares from his lovely blue eyes, make manspreading poses and point a gun. The love scenes are embarrassing. He looks as if he can barely disguise his distaste for them so thank goodness we were spared anything explicit.

And now I’m a little concerned for Daniel. In my other life as a career coach I have worked with people who have got all the money, fame and fancy titles that they ever dreamed of, yet their lives feel empty. He has let slip that he does not want to make another Bond and I can see why. He must want to get back to something that will show off his depth and range and not just his gymbod. But that is going to be so difficult when the world, and not least Ms Broccoli, will press hard for him to go on being Bond.

As for me, these exciting super-hero boy-films are not my cup of tea. Give me a nice slow French family melodrama with terrible subtitles any day.