February 27, 2016

Spectre Blu-Ray Review

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Written by: Taylor Salan
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Spectre is a film that is ineffective as it is puzzling. One on hand, there is a good chunk of Spectre that is actually pretty good, offering genuine moments of suspense, intrigue, and the good old fashioned fun that we’ve come to love from Bond. On the other, it’s an intensely boring, misguided, and thoughtless film. What a conundrum. Admittedly, the massive success of Skyfall left director Sam Mendes with his own big shoes to fill. But that shouldn’t be any excuse for the unfulfilled nature of Spectre. It’s a film that wants to have it’s cake and eat it too, tonally speaking, but that’s not really possible with bond films–you kind of have to commit (for the most part). It’s a film that’s really unsure of what it wants, teetering between classic 70’s bond tropes mixed with many of the harder-edged elements of the recent Craig films. It’s really a shame, because the 24th installment of the Bond franchise is ultimately a film that should have done a lot of things differently in the story department, but ends up falling short in more areas than just that. SPOILERS for Spectre from this point on (you can read Lee’s spoiler-free review here).

The opening sequence of Spectre is quite honestly, one of the most ambitious and breathtaking sequences than any Bond movie has ever been able to capture on film. The opening shot alone is quite astonishing logistically. The sequence is lush, vibrant, and breathtaking. But the fact remains that after it ends, it feels a bit hollow. Now I don’t think that the opening sequences of Bond movies should have massive dramatic weight to them, but I’m saying that I actually want to worry if Bond will make it through a certain situation. Part of what Casino Royale, Skyfall, and to a lesser extent Quantum of Solace all did right is that they made Bond fallable–to a certain extent. Spectre does not really take the time to do even that. Part of why I say all of this is that the opening sequence is very much reflective of the rest of the film: flashy, but hollow.

While this is certainly Daniel Craig‘s least interesting performance out of all his turns as Bond, he and Mendes aren’t given the best material to work with. The sad part is that Spectre touches on some really interesting ideas, but never goes any further than scratching the surface. It’s a shame really, because with a little more time and perhaps a few revisions on the script, Spectre could have been a really great film. But instead, what we get is a lackluster film that seems to meander from scene to scene with no discernible goal. The film often times is more interested in providing traditional bond quips throughout it’s action sequences than providing any reason for me to care. Besides Craig, who is basically phoning this one in, the rest of the cast is great in each of their respective roles, although most of them are not given much to do. This is perhaps the most lost Bond film that I have even seen.

The biggest sin of the film in my opinion, is completely botching the character of Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Christoph Waltz). In a Star Trek Into Darkness-esque move, the film thinks it’s actually being smart by “revealing” his true name of Blofeld, when in reality we knew it was coming all along. One of the biggest mistakes of the filmmakers is that it makes this reveal way too late in the game for me to do anything but yawn. The idea of Blofeld being a part of Bond’s past is certainly an interesting prospect, but again unfulfilled promise. In a weird way, the movie is as much Blofeld’s as it is Bond’s. For me this is probably the closest thing to a Blofeld origin story that we will ever get. The problem with this is that he does’t appear until the third act, and when he does become the Blofeld that we know (scar and all), we don’t get enough time to care when that actually happens. I also sense a tinge of miscasting with Waltz, but that’s another discussion for another time.

Spectre is a film that, with an extra year of development and fine tuning, could have been something very special. But with such anticipation after the success of Skyfall, how could the film possibly live up to expectations? It’s a shame really, because it’s an impossible task. Regardless of this, Spectre is an endlessly uneven film. There are select moments that are really, really great. And there’s everything else. If Skyfall was how to do a Bond movie right, then Spectre is a great example of how to do a Bond movie wrong. This is especially interesting when you consider that they were made by the same person. At the end of the day, Spectre is by no means a terrible film, but in the aftermath of Skyfall, it surely is just okay.


Picture Quality:

The Spectre blu-ray is presented in its theatrical 2.40:1 aspect ratio, with a 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 transfer. Photographed by cinematographer Hoyte Van Hoytema (Interstellar, Her), the transfer seems fairly clean and artifact-free. Shot on 35MM film, Spectre is an intentionally different look altogether. Murky, sometimes soft, textures combined with fairly flat contrast throughout give the film a very sickly quality. That’s not to say that the film is bad looking, it’s just the look that Hoytema and Mendes decided on for this particular story.

Regardless of this, skin tones always remain natural, saturation is a bit muted, but again feels like a choice on the part of the filmmakers. It’s almost as if Hoytema shot the film only using nothing but blue and yellow filters, although this was most certainly augmented in post coloring. This is also a very dark film, although the blacks are rendered immensely weak in the transfer. With all of that said, this is a quality release for MGM, offering some striking images (especially with the day of the dead sequence) and a quality, yet sometimes unflattering transfer (again by design).


Audio Quality:

The audio on the Spectre blu-ray is presented in a DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mix. Of all the technical aspects of this disc, I have to say that the sound is undoubtably the highlight. The opening sequence provides a nice primer for what’s to come, and all of the dialogue is perfectly clear. The score is certainly bombastic, but that’s because it’s often mixed much higher than the sound effects. The mix itself is perhaps the most frustrating thing with the sound this film, but that’s more of a creative decision, not a problem with the disc. Overall, this blu-ray provides one of the most bombastic, pulse pounding audio transfers in the format’s recent history.


Supplemental Material:

If there’s one thing that I’ve come to expect from a Bond blu-ray release, it’s been a healthy dose of supplementary material. Unfortunately

  • Spectre: Bond’s Biggest Opening Scene (HD, 20:12) — It’s no secret that the Mexican government demanded that the filmmakers portray their city in a positive light in exchange for around $20 million in “incentives”. With this said, the featurette almost feels like it’s doing the same–at first. The featurette offers a nice look at all of the aspects required to pull off such a massive sequence. Over 1,500 extras were called upon dressed, and made-up for the sequence. The most impressive part of this featurette is the emphasis put on on practical effects, mainly with the helicopter stunts that were performed during the climax of the sequence. It wraps up with a puff-style footage from the film’s Mexican premiere.
  • Video Blogs (HD, 9:09) — A series of EPK-style promo pieces. Although these short featurettes offer a look into something other than the opening sequence, it is a bit disappointing that they don’t go into further detail. A “play all” option is included, so that you can watch everything back-to-back.
    • Director—Sam Mendes
    • Supercars
    • Introducing Léa Seydoux and Monica Belucci
    • Action
    • Music
    • Guinness World Record
  • Gallery (1080p) — A small gallery of  production photography. There are a few BTS shots here, but most feel like uninteresting promotional stills.
  • Theatrical Trailers (1080p; 2.38:1; 5:18): A “play all” option is included.



The opening sequence alone is worth purchasing the disc–almost. The thing is that this disc, technically, is actually pretty impressive. But beyond these two things, the film is lackluster in it’s presentation and extremely sparse on special features. I’m hoping that they eventually release a little more on the making of Spectre, but I have a feeling that will not happen anytime soon. Until then–wait till this blu-ray is on sale to pick this one up.

Overall Blu-Ray Rating: 5.5/10


About the Author

Taylor Salan
Taylor Salan
Taylor Salan is a independent filmmaker who currently resides in the San Fernando Valley. Since childhood, Taylor Salan had a fascination with movies. Although he was an avid fan of film as a child, it wasn’t until his years as a young adult that his passion for the art of filmmaking truly came to fruition. A current student of the film production program at California State University Northridge, Taylor studies Cinematography but ultimately has plans to direct full time if afforded the opportunity. In his spare time, Taylor produces audio podcasts and blogs about film for ageofthenerd.com. He is also a longtime musician, playing drums for over 8 years.



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