Why People Didn’t Like “The Witch”

Film critics are up in arms over the general public’s general dislike of the film “The Witch”. They just don’t understand how people could find it boring and they blame people for expecting scares when horror is so much more than that. The critics have concocted all sorts of reasons why the people’s subjective take on the film are so objectively wrong. So I thought I’d take a few minutes to explain why I think the masses walked out of “The Witch” with such disinterest that the film got a C- Cinemascore.

SPOILERS FOR “THE WITCH”

1. False Expectations
If you treat people like they’re stupid, they’ll usually prove you right, whether they’re actually stupid or not. In this case, the studio thought that, in order to sell “The Witch” to a wider audience, they needed to portray it as a movie with big scares so they advertised it as having big scares yet, for some reason, they were then surprised when people came out of the film wondering where the scares were. Now, obviously, there are times when you can go into a film expecting one thing and be pleasantly surprised by getting something different but that rarely happens when people expect mainstream fare and are given an art film, which “The Witch” most certainly is. Basically, if you tell people they’re getting pizza and then you bring a salad, it really doesn’t matter how good the salad is; people are going to be disappointed.

Although, what makes this situation even funnier to me is that the critics deserve blame here as well. I’m sorry but, if you’re a professional writer, you can’t describe a film as scary and then get upset that people were expecting scares. You can write as many think pieces about how horror is more than jump scares but how about you put your vocabularies to work when actually describing the film and use words like haunting, creepy, disturbing, etc. It’s like describing a film as “The funniest movie ever!” and then complaining that people didn’t appreciate how clever it was because they were expecting Funny Ha-ha. Words can shape expectations and expectations often shape reactions. I find it insane that writers apparently don’t take much interest in being precise with their words when they’re trying to sell a film they love.

2. The Accents
“The Witch” is a film that evokes anxiousness more than fright and that approach requires people to really immerse themselves in the film and get into the world and into the characters’ shoes. That’s very difficult to do when you spend much of your time trying to figure out what the heck people are saying.

3. The General Public Doesn’t Care About Craft
“The Witch” is a very well-made film. And the attention to detail, down to the sets being built with period tools, is commendable however the general public doesn’t really care about that. When I was telling people about “The Revenant”, I always told them about how it was shot in natural light and how they could only shoot two hours a day and it was brutally cold but I still knew that, ultimately, that wouldn’t be what carried the film. If people didn’t get into the world or characters, the 40 minutes of Leo wandering around without saying a word of dialogue would be what they thought was truly brutal.
Similarly, “Hail Caesar” might have had some amazing set design and costumes and really nailed the feel of 50’s Hollywood but if the audience is wondering, “What the hell is going on?!” then none of that really matters.

4. Missing Mystery
Hitchcock said that there’s nothing scarier than a closed door. The Witch didn’t have many closed doors. Basically, it had one open door that people kept walking through to their demise.
In an early scene, a baby disappears. Kinda creepy. And then we see a witch (we assume) holding a knife to the baby’s throat. Then the witch is lathered up in blood. Super creepy! What’s next?!
Well, what’s next was what felt like an hour of a family drama while, somewhere in the woods, we know there’s a witch that’s… biding her time? This is where I think the public and the critics start to REALLY break ranks. Critics write stuff like, “The Witch makes the mundane sinister, from the tormented shapes of the corn husks in the field to the weird glow of pewter by candlelight.” But, to most people, it just had a lot of mundane shots while people with thick accents don’t seem all that panicked about what happened.

Critics dismiss complaints of the film not being scary as the rantings of people who need jump scares but the issue is that there was a distinct lack of tension. The father sells the story that the baby was taken by the wolf and nobody seems that panicked about this. For 90% of the movie, the daughter doesn’t even protest that that excuse doesn’t make sense. Nobody seems to be ringing the alarm that the Witch has left the woods once and could attack at any moment and they need to get out of there. The mother is broken up about her baby disappearing and people are upset that it died before being baptized but that’s not exactly edge-of-your-seat material.

When the horror film kicks back in, we see the son being lured towards the witch when she is in buxom lady form. It’s basically the shower scene from “The Shining” except in the woods. The set-up is painfully obvious so basically everyone’s waiting for the woman to turn back into the crazy old witch that we’ve already seen. Nobody expects the kid to turn away from the hottie. Nobody expects anyone to get there in time to stop him. And this is why, when the film did try to attempt a jump scare in this case, it failed. People were more waiting for the old hand to appear than they were nervous about what might happen.

Conversely, the most effective moment in the film is when the mother wakes up to find her two dead children in the bedroom. It’s a scene that is filled with dread as you know something’s not right but don’t know what exactly is happening or what the mother is getting herself into. When it finally cuts to show that what she thinks is her baby breastfeeding from her is actually a crow pecking at her bloodied breast, it’s a moment that will likely live forever in the minds of horror fans and anyone who sees the film.

But that is really the only scene in which we’re wondering what will come next rather than just waiting for it to happen already.

5. Archetypes Rather Than People
For a family drama, there’s really not much to the family. Yes, you can read into the characters as making statements on feminism or religion but you need something on the superficial layers to grab the audience and there wasn’t much to hold onto there. There’s really not a ton of tension. It takes the second kid to disappear for the mom to say she wants to go back but even then it’s more of a general “I hate America” than a “We gotta go! Now!” The daughter sits back and plays her role until she finally lashes out at her father but until then, she doesn’t do much to fight the fact that the “The baby got taken by a wolf” story was nonsense. For the most part, she’s a completely passive hero and the times she breaks from her passivity isn’t very heroic – she freaks out her sister and blackmails her brother into taking her into the woods (where she just rides on the horse to wherever he’s going.)
And “The Witch” is basically a witch. No motive that we know of. No nothing. Just a witch.

6. Lack of Hero/Villain Conflict/Goal
Not only was The Witch just a generic witch that we know nothing about, but there really wasn’t a ton of conflict actually involving the witch in this film. There was a witch. People didn’t like to talk about the witch. Nobody seemed all that pressed to find out why the witch was doing what she was doing or how she could be stopped. She was just out there. If you think the title “The Witch” is generic, wait until you get a load of the actual witch. To add something to the film, the people I went with started wondering if one of the family members was actually the witch. Nope. Just a bunch of witches doing witch stuff.
Honestly, I would have preferred this movie if there was no witch at all and it was just a drama about a family dealing with the father’s decision to accept banishment from the colony, his realizing that he’s a failure, and his daughter bearing the brunt of it as the family crumbles around her.

7. It was an Art Film
There’s an old saying, “Be careful what you wish for because you might just get it,” and this is a perfect example of that. Critics were thrilled when “The Witch” got a wide release but then seemed stunned when the art film played poorly to the general public. This was not a popcorn movie. There’s little to it that plays to the crowd who goes to the film to be entertained rather than see a film and then sit and talk about it and see it again so they can better break it down.
And what frustrates me the most is how critics treat wanting entertainment value as a negative. The fact of the matter is that it’s much easier to make an art film than it is to make a great piece of popcorn cinema. I’m always frustrated when our great writers and directors act like finding the alchemy to make a film that amazes both cinephiles and passive filmgoers alike is easy.
Critics like to pretend that their beloved indie films don’t have as many tropes and clichés as popcorn movies do. But they do. Especially indie horror.
The bottom line is that many people go to be entertained and “The Witch”, to me, was more of a film to be appreciated. Which is fine but don’t be pissy when you sell it as more than that and people walk out expecting more.

In the end, I’m just not sure how critics are surprised that “The Witch” wasn’t a crossover hit. I’m not sure what they saw in it that they thought was going to wow the general public. For instance, Slate’s Katy Waldman couldn’t BELIEVE that the masses didn’t embrace the film’s “commitment to unrelenting, ambient dread” that “helps it evoke the mindspace of its Puritan characters. Rarely have I seen rendered so powerfully the paranoia and terror of Calvinism…” I honestly have no idea how you can type out those words and still wonder how the film might have veered away from the general public.

Vinyl: aka I’ve heard this record before.

One of the first scenes of HBO’s new show “Vinyl” shows a seedy rock’n’roll show of the early 70’s. The locales seems like the kind of place that makes you believe that the saying, “There’s a million stories in the naked city” is probably underestimating how much is going on. There’s people of all walks of life. And who do we follow? The older white dude who is standing in the middle of it all, not moving, and “discovering” (or rediscovering) the moment.

And so “Vinyl” takes us down the road far too often travelled and brings us the latest example of rich white guy problems. Now, I have to come clean here and say that I tapped out after the first out of the two hours premiere (I still never understand networks forcing people to sit through two hours of a new show) and there were hints to other side’s of the ledger but the main focus is a record exec who fleeces his acts trying to fleece a bigger label by selling off his dying label. And not that that couldn’t be a story worth telling. As a tighter, focused movie, it could be an interesting contained film about the crazy week of an exec trying to save himself (and he sees all the people he stepped on to make it up while he’s on his way down.) Or something. But when it’s extended out to fill a two hour premiere of a longer show, there just wasn’t enough there.

In perhaps the most crushing irony, one of the driving forces behind the characters is the desire, hell, the need to find the next thing in music. To find the real emotion. Not just the same thing we’ve seen before. If only the producers and writers had done the same with this show. It offers little new and feels a bit like a waning breath of the anti-hero era.

After one hour, I decided to tap out and go back to waiting for “The Get Down”.

Politicked Off: Obama’s Options

I keep saying that I’m going to post more so here it goes.

Here’s what I think President Obama’s four options to fill the Supreme Court seat left by Justice Scalia’s death.

THE SURRENDER: I don’t think sitting back and doing nothing is an option so the best way to save face while conceding that nobody he nominates will be able to get through the Republican Congress is to make a recess appointment of Sandra Day O’Connor. O’Connor is a former Supreme Court justice and a moderate so it’s not like Republicans can make hay out of this appointment and any recess appointment comes back up for discussion in 2017 so Obama would basically be filling the seat for the rest of his term while leaving the actual full-time appointment up for the next President.
Now, the President could just go and make a recess appointment of anyone he wants but I feel like that will play to the Republicans’ strength in claiming that the Democrats are grabbing power left and right and making a mockery of the Constitution. Granted, it would have happened because the Republicans themselves outright stated that they wouldn’t do their jobs and even have hearings on anyone the President of the United States appointed but I feel like that sort of “He Said, She Said” usually favors the conservatives.

The “Sure Thing”: Sri Srinivasan has already cleared the Senate once and he did so by a 97 – 0 margin. He had bi-partisan support although some liberals might point out that the reason for that is that Srinivasan’s work while at Exxon and decisions might point to someone who leans towards corporate protections more than workers’ rights. Still, he’s a guy who Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio have already voted for once (not that flip flopping matters nowadays), and it would be interesting if people brought up that he wasn’t born in the US (he was born in India) to see if Cruz would be forced to argue against that. Also, Republicans might want to hedge their bets; could Sanders or Clinton nominate someone far more liberal if they become President?

The Screw You: The President just goes ahead and nominates who he wants, Republicans be damned. I’m not sure what this really accomplishes, politically, because it’s not like the Do Nothing Congress label has really hurt anyone so far. And in the partisan times that we live in, “Do Nothing” is often seen by conservatives as “Stopping Obama”. Also, it could hurt the person who is put up for the Court. Even if a Democrat wins the election, I could see the Congress sticking to their guns and saying that they won’t accept this nominee (as if to pretend that the nominee and not their hope for the White House was the issue.)

And finally, the least likely option:

The West Wing: If you go to Netflix and dial up The West Wing, Season 5, Episode 17, you’ll find a strikingly similar situation as we have now. A stalwart conservative justice passes away and President Bartlett struggles with nominating a safe bet that he can get through the Republican Senate. Bartlett eventually settles on a compromise where his staff convinces the elderly liberal lion of the court to resign, opening up a second seat. Bartlett nominates a staunch liberal and lets the Senate pick someone to fill the other seat. Now, with Ruth Bader Ginsberg getting up their in years, this might be a decent option for both sides to hedge their bets and get one seat each rather than gambling that they’ll get a potential shot at both seats. Again, it’s far fetched but I thought I’d throw it out there.

Diversity Watch: February 2016

The SAG Awards helped Hollywood feel good about themselves as they celebrated a diverse array of actors. But all of this attention on awards shows kills me because when an award show does give awards to a diverse group of actors, they’re really kind of celebrating something that doesn’t exist. The issue in Hollywood is that the films that are being made aren’t diverse. In fact, many of the people who denounced #OscarSoWhite weren’t really putting their money where their hashtags were. George Clooney spoke out against it, but his filmography is mostly whiter than a snowstorm.
So, to keep an eye on things so people don’t get all stunned again when most of the Oscar nominees are white again, here’s Diversity Watch for February 2016.

Below are the wide release movies (according to BoxOfficeMojo.com) for the next 29 days.

The Choice:
Nicholas Sparks. I don’t want to say that “Enough Said” but, I mean…
Sparks1
Sparks2

Hail Caesar: The Coen Brothers latest features a lot of famous white people trying to save another famous white person (but it’s not Matt Damon this time, so there’s that.)

Pride, Prejudice, and Zombies: We’ll probably have to wait for Malcolm X vs. Monsters or Roots with Zombies or Charlie Chan vs. Chupacabra to get some non-white people in one of these mashup films. But, on the plus side, this one features strong women fending for themselves!

Deadpool: Morena Baccarin is Brazilian! And she plays the love interest. Named Vanessa Carlyle. OK, so she’s playing a white girl but that doesn’t change the fact that she’s Brazilian! We’ll count it as diversity!

How to Be Single: White girl problems. But with Damon Wayans Jr. and Jason Mantzoukas along for the ride. Mantzoukas is Greek, which might not count to many as “diverse” but c’mon, we need as many points as we can get here.

Zoolander 2: Penelope Cruz! And mostly a bunch of white people, sure, but who can notice any lack of diversity when Penelope Cruz is on screen!

Race: Boom! A bonafide non-white movie! The story of Jesse Owens. Directed by a Jamaican! Granted, a white Jamaican guy but kudos to Hollywood for finding a white Jamaican, right?

Eddie the Eagle: This and “Race” kind of say it all about Hollywood. For a black guy to get a movie, he has to win four gold medals in the face of the most evil dictator we’ve known and be one of the greatest athletes of all-time. Meanwhile, a white guy comes in last in two ski jump events at Olympics, becomes lovable loser to many because he’s so bad, and about 30 years later, someone makes a movie about him.

Risen: The director of Waterworld is bringing you the story of the Resurrection and I have to give him credit – he’s got actors from all over the place in this one. Including one man diversity gang Cliff Curtis!

The Witch: Indie movies are quietly an equal opportunity offender when it comes to diversity and indie horror seems to be one of the bigger culprits of the indie world. A funny sketch might be explaining that the reason black guys always die first in movies is because the ghosts get jealous that the white people are more afraid of the guy than then ghost. There’s something there. I think. Anyway, The Witch is a period piece which usually equates to mostly white people.

Triple Nine: This movie had a ridiculous cast and thankfully, it’s got a decent mix to it with: Casey Affleck, Clifton Collins, Jr., Chiwetel Ejiofor, Gal Gadot, Woody Harrelson, Anthony Mackie, Teresa Palmer, Aaron Paul, Norman Reedus, Michael K. Williams (OMAR!), and Kate Winslet. (This might be my Must Watch movie of the month although I’d say to avoid the trailer since it seems to give away a lot of the movie. But it’s about cops who are forced to pull off a heist.)

But then there’s…

Gods of Egypt: Starring… Gerard Butler? Geoffrey Rush? Nikolaj Coster-Waldau aka Jamie Lannister? They at least got Chadwick Boseman in there but this one really wipes out any points Hollywood might have garnered this month. Especially coming off of the heels of Exodus: Gods and Kings with Joel Edgerton and Christian Bale.

And in case you weren’t scoring at home, I believe that’s 12 wide releases and 12 white directors. On the plus side, we’ve got four films featuring females as leads so there’s some progress on that front, I guess.

March and April look a little better diversity-wise but next time someone complains about #OscarSoWhite, remind them that that is just a symptom of the diversity problem facing Hollywood.

02/16 Goals

OK, 2016 got off to a solid start but it could have been better. So here are the personal goals for February.

1. Lose 15 pounds
All told, I think I lost 12 pounds in January, which isn’t really saying much given that I had a lot of weight to lose. Also, I have 18 pounds to go to get me back to where I was a few years ago (when I was still too heavy.)

2. Work Out/Write in the Mornings
Waking up in the morning has been increasingly difficult so I really need to stop sleeping in and making my mornings productive.

3. Finish drafts of two projects – one screenplay, one pilot
I’ve been failing on this front. This was a goal for December. But I’ve made some headway on the screenplay so I think that finishing a first draft of these should be doable by the end of the leap month.

4. No More Message Boards/Twitter fights
Message boards can be good. They give you a place to vent or to discuss your feelings about a film or show or political development when your friends can’t discuss it or if you just don’t want to bore them with your take on things. But I spent way too much time getting in pointless discussions, especially on websites like AV Club or Twitter. There’s nothing to be gained. Sometimes, I’ve actually learned things during discussions on websites but more often than not, the prevailing attitude is the caustic communication of the 21st century – which is more about pointing out why people are stupid rather than actually discussing the matter at hand and possibly finding a solution or common ground. So, I’m going to try to quit those cold turkey.

5. Post More on SoulHonky / renovate the site
It might seem odd to quit commenting on other sites and, instead of putting that time to use offline, redirecting that energy to a different online pursuit but keeping SoulHonky.com up might actually have some benefits – building a bigger readership with more posts – and, truth be told, it lets me get stuff like list of goals off my chest without pestering my friends and co-workers about it.
Also, I’m not wild about the look of the site and have been wanting to change it up.

6. Try Out One New Place A Week
My overall goal starting last December was one new eatery and one new event/locale a week. But the fact is that I simply don’t eat out that much and given the amount of tickets I’ve been buying of late and my upcoming trip to New Orleans, I need to be a wee bit more frugal. So I’ll make it one new event/locale/eatery a week.

7. Read 1.5 Books
This is pretty low bar to clear but I’ve never done well with keeping up with my reading goals so I’ll start small. Although, if The Adventures of Kavalier & Klay is the next book I start reading, it’s a higher bar than say Maria Semple’s “This One’s is Mine.”
On a related note, I definitely recommend Semple’s “Where’d You Go, Bernadaette?” I wasn’t blown away by the last act but the book has all of the wit that you’d expect from a former Arrested Development writer.

8. Post One New Recipe
I’ve been wanting to post more about my cooking… or rather my attempts at cooking. I’m currently toying with Sweet & Sour Sauce and Gochujang as well as Chimmichurri & Teriyaki and Lemon Pepper and Teriyaki. (Also, I need to try other sauce besides teriyaki.) But I’d like to throw out some ideas and see where they go.

9. Submit a Hit Record Project
I think I tried to do this back when it was announced that HitRecord was getting it’s own TV show (and I might have submitted it but I can’t remember my login) but I’m going to try again. I’m thinking of submitting a song I wrote years ago or maybe the scripts for a webseries that I never got around to making.

10. Stop Putting Things Off
This is more of a general 2016 Resolution but a reminder wouldn’t help. I am the king of procrastination and coming up with ideas and not following through with them, which stops this year! January was pretty good but I can do better. And I will do better.

11. Eat Vegan One Day a Week
I did OK with this last month. I ate MOSTLY Vegan a day a week but I’d like to focus and actually stick with fully Vegan for one day a week. Shouldn’t be that hard.

Sadly, still relevant

I made this short with some friends a few years ago and, sadly, with #OscarsSoWhite trending, it seems like it is still relevant. I mean, does anything say, “We give zero fucks” like, in the face of the OscarsSoWhite controversy, announcing a Laurel & Hardy movie?

Song of the Day: The Mary J. Blige of Sweden?

That’s probably an unfair comparison since Mary J. is an icon and this young lady from Sweden could easily turn out to be more of a Craig David, big splash followed by small ripples, but I’m a big fan of this single, even if she is wearing one of those nose rings that are becoming fashionable for some reason.

The 2015 Pop Culture Immortals

Here are the pop culture moments from 2015 that I think will stick with me over the years. I’m probably forgetting some although, if I’m forgetting them, can they really be all that memorable?

25. “I have fashion friends.” from Ryan Gosling’s character in “The Big Short”. If you know that type of guy, that line is pretty hilarious. At least it was to me. This is guaranteed to be the quote that I say that nobody remembers ala “I will shoot you in the face!” from Reservoir Dogs.

24. After “It Follows”, I realized that I just don’t like indie horror that much.

23. “It’s just a flying saucer, honey. We gotta go!” Kirsten Dunst with the line read of the year in Fargo.

22. Julianne vs. Archie and the unraveling mess that was The Good Wife Season 5. (Although season 6 righted the ship a little.)
22a. And where the hell did Robin go?

21. Me randomly asking people, “Do you bleed? You will.” in the gruff Bat-voice from the Batman v. Superman trailer.
22a. Me being the only person who thought randomly asking, “Do you bleed? You will.” was funny.

20. “It was great. Which was a relief. Because if it wasn’t…
(Pause)
I would have been really fucking mad.”
– At a Q&A, Leonardo DiCaprio’s response to a question about how he felt when he finally saw “The Revenant”.

19. The fact that, no matter what the situation or what crisis faced her, the lead actress in “Quantico” would speak in a husky, breathy, Jessica Rabbit voice.

18. The look on Rachel McAdams’ character’s Nana’s face when she was reading the story at the end of Spotlight.

17. “Now fuck off.” Margot Robbie in a bubble bath in “The Big Short”

16. The guitar guy in Mad Max.

15. “Just blink” and “We had an agreement.” from The Revenant. Although I’m not sure if I got those quotes exactly right.

14. My negative reaction to the violence in “John Wick”. For me, there’s a not-so-fine line between throat-chopping (since I loved “Taken”) and constantly shooting people in the face ala “John Wick.”
14a. “Oh.”

13. “You knew all along, didn’t you?” from Mr. Robot.

12. The power of “Watch Me (Whip/Nae Nae)”

11. Bryce Dallas Howard’s super-heels in Jurassic World.

10. The Marguerita guy in Jurassic World (and that it was actually Jimmy Buffet!)

9. The fact that, no matter how many times I heard it, I couldn’t place The Weeknd’s “I Can’t Feel My Face” until 25 seconds into the song.

8. “I’m gonna tear up the fucking dance floor.” and the subsequent dance scene in Ex Machina.

7. Steph Curry owning the NBA and becoming a potential Hall of Famer, if his body can hold up.

6. How much I despised The Hateful Eight.

5. Constantly saying “Hello” in the style of Adele… and, half of the time, having it be mistaken as in the style of Lionel Richie.

4. Empire’s “Drip Drop” and why nobody thought it sounded like Hakeem was rapping about an STD.

3. Furious 7. So much stupid. So much fun.
3a. “The street always win” followed by the most forceful stamped foot ever courtesy of Vin Diesel.
3b. The fact that the plot of Furious 7 was the heroes chasing a villain who wouldn’t stop chasing them long enough for them to get the thing they needed so they could chase him.

2. 99% of my Uber rides involved “Hotline Bling” popping up on the radio.
2a. This was the year that I realized that I just don’t get Drake.

1. My friend Jay looks at me in disbelief after Jermaine Kearse’s impossible catch.
I say, “What are you gonna do?”
The sole Seahawks fan in the room chirps, “You’re gonna take that L.”
And then Malcolm Butler happened.
(And, after a few minutes of stunned disbelief, the Seahawks fan got up, walked out and went home without saying a word.)

SoulHonky RX: Diagnosing SPECTRE’s Problems

For a boring movie, the latest James Bond film SPECTRE is proving to be a film that I can’t stop thinking about. Unfortunately, it’s not because the movie was good – it’s pretty much a bore – but because it seemed so close to being a good movie but they opted to take the easiest, most boring choices each stop of the way.

I feel like this is the kind of film that can teach people a lot of lessons about bad filmmaking but I don’t feel like wasting too much time on a film I already feel like was a waste of 2+ hours of my life so I’ll throw a couple here now and maybe throughout the week, I’ll post more lessons.

But for now, let’s get started and LET THE SPOILERS COMMENCE!

The first lesson we can learn from SPECTRE is:

Ingenuity is King

The opening shot of Spectre sets up the main issue of the entire movie. It’s an impressive single take in an impressive locale with great costumes and James Bond is just walking around. While the shot is technically impressive, we get no information from it. You could cut out the entire shot and the scene would change at all.

After the shot, James blows up hotel and then chases after the injured villain. And by “chases”, I mean he walks after him. It ultimately leads to big fight in a helicopter but what could have been an amazing set piece ends up being mostly a lot of walking after people. And that, in a nutshell, is SPECTRE.

The mistake the movie makes is that it puts us in the vibrant energy of the Dia Del Muerte parade in Mexico City and then barely utilizes it. It’s perfectly set up for a game of cat and mouse. The opening shot could have exposed potential escape routes or henchmen lying in wait but it offered nothing. The parade was filled with costumes and masks; Bond and his nemesis could have kept cloaking their appearance, trying to outwit their opponent.

Nope. They just walked. And some people got in the way.

In a similar waste of a set piece, Q finds himself stuck in the gondola of a ski lift. One bad guy is in the gondola with him. Then another comes in. And then, in arguably the simplest and most cliche escape, some tourists come in and Q scoots out just before the door closes.

(And that escape wasn’t just a letdown for the audience, it didn’t do much to raise the pulse of anyone involved. Such a close call would probably give people a sense of urgency but after Q escapes, he heads to his hotel room, where no bad guys are waiting for him, none ever come, and Q, Bond, and Madeline Swan go about their business as if the the while gondola moment never happened.)

“Spectre” is, quite simply, a boring movie and it is because the film leaned heavily on the impressive locations to gloss over the fact that James Bond doesn’t actually do anything. He’s literally told to go somewhere to find information, which he then finds with little effort of his own, and then he follows where that info tells him to go. The most creative he gets is seeing a mouse run into a wall and thinking, “Hey, maybe there’s something in that wall.” Really, the most difficult thing he does is seduce Monica Belluci, who inexplicably has been told all the information James needs.

I always complain about Blunt Force Cinema but this is yet another example of it. James has no problem getting to where he needs to be and the only real hurdle to jump is fighting the bad guys who are following him. It’s not “We have to go here and overcome A to get B”, it’s “So I’ll walk right into A to get B and then, shit, these bad guys showed up AGAIN?!”  So besides not being creative, Bond is also almost completely reactive in the film, which makes James Bond a dull boy.

Big Reveals Require Big Impact

You know your movie is doing something wrong when someone can be told the two big twists in the film – that 1) Max was working for the bad guys and 2) that the villain was Blofeld, who is James’s adopted brother – and it doesn’t make a lick of difference.

An effective twist makes you reconsider what you saw and believed and changes the way you look at the film the second time you watch it. The twists in “Spectre” don’t change the way the story unfolds at all. Max is never trusted by anyone and is always trying to shut down Bond. The fact that his motives are not as on the up-and-up as he makes it seem doesn’t change that and, in the film, is almost treated as an afterthought.

The reveal of Blofeld is even less consequential and, even worse, is delivered at a moment when there are far more pressing issues. James Bond is strapped into a seat and about to get his head drilled and we’re supposed to care about the bad guy’s name? It reminded me of the reveal of Kahn in Star Trek: Into Darkness. It’s pure fan service and almost laughable given the situation it happens in. “Before I drill into your head, I’m going to tell you… I NOW GO BY MY MOTHER’S MAIDEN NAME!”

(In the grander scheme of things, I actually think the Blofeld reveal, which seems to be lazily retrofitted into the other films, diminishes the previous films. James wasn’t a great spy hunting down evildoers, he was a target who was simply adept at overcoming his would-be assassins, who still managed to take out the two women he cared the most about. All of which makes James look far less effective as a secret agent. Which is an impressive in a film series in which the hero’s been telling people his real name the entire time he’s been a “secret agent.”)

Finally, when you reveal the big end game of a film, there have to be some serious stakes involved. In SPECTRE, Blofeld explains to Bond how he is going to get an amazing surveillance system that will see the entire world. He does it while standing in front of an amazing surveillance system that is seeing the entire world. To a certain extent, the entire goal in SPECTRE is to make it so when hacking all of the security systems in the world, Blofeld only has to remember one password for all of the systems instead of the multiple ones he has to deal with now.

So the big reveal for Blofeld was, “James, you see this amazing global surveillance system? I’m going to upgrade! UPGRADE! Oh, and that guy you never trusted is the one helping me, but you probably already knew that.”

 

I have some other lessons like the importance of keeping to the theme and why having an unknown villain often weakens a film or series of films but this is all for now. And honestly, having written this, I already feel like I wrote too much about this film.