Topping Skyfall, one of the most critically as well as financially successful James Bond movies ever, sure enough is no easy task. But having the same director, Sam Mendes, direct the sequel should definitely raise the chances of this happening.
With Spectre, director Sam Mendes returns to the 007 franchise after quite some convincing work from the studios. This time, Daniel Craig as James Bond has to face off against the omnipresent terrorist organization called Spectre.
Making things even worse for Bond but more enjoyable for us, is the casting of none other than Christoph Waltz as Spectre's leader Franz Oberhauser. Topped off with the new Aston Martin DB10 having been soley created for this movie, it all seems like a match made in heaven for the perfect Bond.
But with such high expectations, does Spectre even have any chance of being the best of the Craig-Bonds?
A cryptic message from the past sends James Bond (Daniel Craig) on a rogue mission to Mexico City and eventually Rome, where he meets Lucia (Monica Bellucci), the beautiful and forbidden widow of an infamous criminal. Bond infiltrates a secret meeting and uncovers the existence of the sinister organisation known as Spectre. Meanwhile back in London, Max Denbigh (Andrew Scott), the new head of the Centre of National Security, questions Bond's actions and challenges the relevance of MI6 led by M (Ralph Fiennes). Bond covertly enlists Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) and Q (Ben Wishaw) to help him seek out Madeleine Swann (Lea Seydoux), the daughter of his old nemesis Mr White, who may hold the clue to untangling the web of Spectre. As the daughter of the assassin, she understands Bond in a way most others cannot. As Bond ventures towards the heart of Spectre, he learns a chilling connection between himself and the enemy he seeks.
Spectre is very much a throwback to the old Bond concepts and the traditional formula.
Incorporating more gadgets, action and a shadier villain, it's all a much simpler Bond flick this time around.
Utilizing the traditional Bond formula has its positives and negatives though. Despite boasting a much stronger dynamic and faster pace, Spectre tends to lose its focus on good character development as well as a consistent prime antagonist.
While Spectre remains perfectly servicable in the longrun, it is quite apparent that director Sam Mendes had to be convinced by the studios to do yet another Bond movie even though he initially declined (much like Christopher Nolan with The Dark Knight Rises). Thus it's no wonder that Spectre feels like it was primarily made as a simple "crowdpleaser" instead of a Bond movie to evolve the franchise into new directions.
|Here's to the oldies!|
Fans of old-school Bond movies will definitely be happy with what story Spectre has to offer.
The flow and entire storyline of Spectre has a very nostalgia inducing old school feel to it. Incorporating more action, gadgets and different locals than all of the previous Craig-Bonds, Spectre is wonderfully varied and colorful. From the Dia de Los Muertos parade in Mexico City, over the Austrian Alps, to the African desert, it is all great to look at and made even better by the fact that Spectre is beautifully shot.
Therefore it's no wonder that Spectre as a whole feels mostly like one giant paper trail hunt across the globe, having Bond and friends try to find out where Oberhauser/Spectre is hiding while being chased by Spectre agents during sprinkled in action scenes.
It's all great fun and manages to keep up a great sense of mystery and constant danger throughout Bond's investigative globetrotting work, while the action scenes are very well done and coming up at an enjoyable frequency.
|"What country am I now in again?"|
But with all the action taking place in so many different locations, shifting from one place to the other, all the while a subplot in London with M is taking place, the movie sadly though rarely takes time to build up an efficient character development or give specific characters enough screentime and devotion.
With that said, Spectre has a quite weird and often enough ineffective feeling way of handling some of its characters or even plot points, which makes this the biggest problem of an otherwise enjoyable Bond film.
Whereas it's understandably a big element of the story itself to keep the Spectre organization and its leader very shady and mysterious, Spectre's lack of a constantly present main villain is definitely hampering the story. Furthermore, Spectre oftentimes feels like its fast pace and need to check off all of the obligatory Bond elements as fast as possible, make many scenes in the movie feel pretty forced or even unintentionally comedic. In that sense, especially the romances and love scenes in Spectre feel mostly very hamfistedly executed and squished into the plot, leaving out any potinetially realistic chemistry between Bond and the certain woman.
Sure enough, it all once again arkens back to the older and much simpler Bond movies from the Sean Connery era. Yet it only goes to show that orienting a Bond movie soley on such a centuries-old formula doesn't work as flawlessly anymore in 2015 as it did back in the day (unlike Skyfall, which managed to blend both old and new Bond element together perfectly).
|"Why exactly do you love him again?"|
However, it's remarkable how surprisingly much Spectre incorporates the events of the previous Craig-Bond movies into its story and makes them all come full circle with Spectre.
While it's definitely great to see that Spectre respects and acknowledges the character development that Bond went through with his past missions, it's also a bit problematic considering how planned, orchestrated and even meaningless some aspects of the previous movies and especially past villains feel, once the grand scheme or big picture is revealed in Spectre. Sure, it makes all of the Craig-Bonds satisfyingly feel like one large story, but its just somewhat of a bummer seeing that Spectre is supposed to feel like the big final chapter whereas the previous Bonds and villains just felt like stronger standalone movies in comparison.
|Ghosts from the past are still haunting James in Spectre.|
Being responsible for much of the movie's fast pace is the fact that Spectre probably contains the most action out of any of the Craig-Bonds.
With Sam Mendes directing, the action of course is very well choreographed and shot without any annoying shakey cam but clear shots helping you always know what's going on, even when the action scene takes place at multiple places at once. Especially the big intro action sequence in Mexico City during the Dia de Los Muertos sticks out in the movie as one of its highlights and another competitor for the greatest Bond intro.
It's also nice to see a Daniel Craig Bond movie whose action scenes manage to involve a greater deal of different spy gadgets. Sure enough, the gadgets are far not as outlandish and extravagant as the ones during the Brosnan era, yet still they are nice gimmicks to make some of the action scenes and tense situations more interesting.
Nevertheless, it's sad that the hugely annnounced Aston Martin DB10 is ultimately only used in one chase scene in the entire movie. Considering that Aston Martin created the car soley for this movie makes its limited screentime actually quite a bit baffling.
|Enjoy it, while it lasts.|
Looking at the acting, Daniel Craig once again shows that he is a great James Bond, even though Spectre admittedly doesn't bring out the best in his performance. Mostly due to the script's shortcomings and the hamfisted romance-subplot, Craig's Bond in some scenes unnecessarily happens to come off overly seducing and sexual, once again arkening back to the old-school Bond characteristics. Other than that, Craig does a formidable job with his performance.
Lea Seydoux as this movie's Bond-Girl Madeleine Swann is a very nice breeze of fresh air in the Craig-Bonds. For once, a Bond-Girl doesn't simply obey Bond's commands and always do what he says, but actively decline his protection and try to stay away from him. Her character definitely brings an untypical type of chemistry between the two, making it the more unfortunate to see how quickly this interesting dynamic is lost in the movie, since Madeleine rather shortly after just falls for Bond (making some of her actions and motivations later on a bit muddled).
|Well, that escalated quickly.|
Christoph Waltz was a perfect choice to play Spectre's main villain Franz Oberhauser.
Even though his screentime unfortunately is quite limited and mostly saved for the final act, Waltz is expectedly superb in his role. Waltz's performance blends different characterstics into one with Oberhauser, making him often even come off as somewhat likable and cool, while at other key scenes as absolutely terrifying and rationally cold. Once again, Waltz's performances are so screen and attention capturing that it's very easy to say and notice that there's just not enough of Waltz/Oberhauser in the movie. But given the fact, that finding out where Spectre's headquarters and leader are located is a core element of the main plot, makes it kind of excusable.
To counter Waltz's absence for most of the movie, Dave Bautista takes the place as one of Oberhauser's most capable henchmen (and temporary main antagonist), Mr. Hinx, chasing after Bond and trying to take him out. What Hinx lacks in speaking abilities, he makes up for in strength and relentlessness. Hinx is a huge powerhouse of an assassin. While he is certainly no mastermind or planning-genius, he definitely makes an impression in the movie and feels almost unstoppable. Whether it's in chases or especially during hand-to-hand fights, Hinx feels like he would have not much of problem taking Bond's life with his bare hands, which only makes his sudden and very underwhelming death even more disappointing - another example of Spectre not efficiently enough making use of its great characters.
|Could I get more Waltz on that?|
Overall, Spectre still has enough going for it to qualify as a perfectly servicable James Bond movie that will definitely entertain its viewers from start to finish, even though its overreliance on the traditional 007 formula and tropes prevent it from reaching any new heights for the franchise.
With a bigger emphasis on a fast paced storyline and more action scenes, Spectre definitely knows how to entertain and easily comes off as an enjoyable "crowdpleaser" of a James Bond flick.
In relation to that though, it comes as not that big of a surprise when it's noticable that especially the character development and general handling of the movie's interesting villains leaves some things to be desired. Considering that most of Spectre's storyline comes down to one big paper trail hunt for the location of Spectre's headquarters, makes Spectre feel like it lacks a definite antagonist for most of the movie.
Spectre is a nice throwback to the classic Bond formula and is definitely the most old-school feeling of the Daniel Craig Bond movies - for better and for worse. It manages to both show how much fun the simple Bond movies can be, while also showing that the franchise has to keep changing and evolving to stay relevant.
If this is really the final Craig-Bond movie, Spectre managed to tie together the Craig-Bonds into one cohesive 4-part story, even when admittedly Spectre isn't the hoped for highpoint of said quadrilogy.
Final Verdict: 6 out of 10