Well… Spectre is a James Bond movie, all right.
It certainly ticks all the boxes on the Bond Movie Checklist. Exotic locales? Check. Sexy ladies? Check. High-speed car chases? Check. A vodka martini, shaken and not stirred? Check. Et cetera. Viewers should prepare for little that’s new or surprising in the twenty-fourth Bond film overall, and the fourth starring Daniel Craig. That’s not to say that the film doesn’t have its distinct pleasures; the reason why the Bond series has endured for over 50 years is because it has followed a formula that works. But it’s hard to not be a little let down by Spectre, which plays things a little too safe when it would have been much more interesting to see something new.
Things start out promisingly enough. The usual globetrotting begins in Mexico City, where Bond tracks down an assassin with plans to bomb a parade during El Dia de los Muertos. It’s a real corker of an opening sequence, with lots of running and jumping and shooting and hanging out of helicopters. It’s business as usual from there though, as Bond intercepts a clue that leads him to investigate a terrorist organization known as SPECTRE.
In Star Trek: Into Darkness, the reveal of the villain led to nearly beat-for-beat recreations of scenes from Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan. Terminator: Genisys used time travel as a convoluted excuse to essentially rehash the first two films in the franchise. Jurassic World exploited your love for Jurassic Park to such a degree that the film became a satire of itself. Following in the footsteps of such recent films as these, Spectre is a part of an unfortunate Hollywood trend of screenwriters being more interested in triggering nostalgia than telling a unique and original story. Instead of creating its own memorable, iconic images and moments, Spectre dredges up those from Bond films of the past.
With that being said, there is a lot of fun to be had here. The action sequences are well staged, exciting, and unlike those in Quantum of Solace, visually coherent. Craig, as always, is a serviceable Bond, while Christoph Waltz gives an appropriately theatrical performance as Franz Oberhauser, a villain with mysterious ties to Bond’s past. There is also a lot of humor; most of it coming from the banter between Bond and Ben Whishaw’s Q. Though it is long (clocking in at nearly two and a half hours) it never once feels bloated.
How disappointing, then, when this well-oiled movie machine suddenly rusts and screeches into its somewhat clunky third act. It’s here that Spectre tries a bit too hard to connect its storyline with the previous Craig Bond films, in a way that stretches the bounds of plausibility. The series rarely bothered with labored continuity and connecting plot threads before. Why start now?
You will probably have a good time watching Spectre. You should go see Spectre. It’s a fun time. But the series should try something—anything—new for the next installment. Casino Royale and Skyfall took the series in fresh and interesting new directions while still keeping those quintessential Bond elements. In comparison, Spectre falls short, but on its own terms, it’s… well, a Bond Film. You know exactly what you’re getting into here, and maybe that’s the problem.