Spectre has all of the ingredients audiences have come to expect from the Daniel Craig-era of James Bond films, but it doesn’t reach the heights of its predecessor, Skyfall. Coming from the same team of writers and director Sam Mendes, and playing out as a super-sequel to the last three Bond films, Spectre comes with some high expectations. Unfortunately they weren’t met, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t entertained.
Picking up from the aftermath of Skyfall, Spectre builds upon that film’s events to set the stage for another globetrotting mission. Unlike the previous films, which largely work as independent stories, Spectre not only acts as a direct sequel to Skyfall, it also brings in elements of all of Daniel Craig’s Bond films. The result is something you can still follow even if you haven’t seen Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace, and Skyfall, but you’d definitely get more out of it with the extra knowledge.
At first this sequel approach seems like a great way to get on with things, allowing Bond to jump into his new mission without all the setup and pretense these films tend to have. The problem is that it ends up laying down a lot of new groundwork anyway, ultimately juggling a few too many plot points without focusing on the ones that matter most.
This is especially unfortunate when it comes to the new villain. Christoph Waltz hams it up in brilliant fashion for his character, Oberhauser, and his slow reveal over the course of the film is some classic Bond/spy-villain goodness. So it’s a shame that his part is minimized in lieu of at least two other major plotlines, two other bad guys, and the requisite love interest. If Spectre was focused on a showdown between Bond and “the author of all his pain” it would have likely been a much stronger film.
As it is Spectre remains entertaining throughout, but it isn’t nearly as well-constructed as Skyfall. It was only after the fact that I realized how much of the plot was kind of pointless. The film establishes Oberhauser as the primary villain, but then has a brute named Hinx (played by Dave Bautista) stalking Bond like a Terminator through half the film.
Much was made of Monica Bellucci as a Bond girl (especially since she’s actually the right age for him), but she’s only in the film for five minutes and her role is completely unnecessary. Meanwhile, Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux), the actual “Bond girl” in the film ends up with far too much focus and screen time that doesn’t really amount to much. Her character bounces wildly between smart and capable, and a desperate damsel looking for Bond to give up his spying ways — sometimes it works and sometimes it’s just a bad Bond cliche.
Yet all of this bloated storytelling is dunked in a thick layer of slick editing and beautiful cinematography. An action scene or two goes off the rails, but for the most part Craig’s Bond is as exciting to watch as ever. It wasn’t until I reflected on a pretty engaging and entertaining 2.5 hours that I started poking some holes in the plot. It’s just a shame the creators couldn’t find a little more focus this time around.