Thursday November 5, 2015 9:42 PM
Skyfall, the last James Bond flick and the second best of the Daniel Craig Bonds, ended with the restart of the Bond setup fans have been accustomed to since the character's cinematic introduction in the 60s: M (Ralph Fiennes), a man again after Judi Dench's 17-year run, settled in his Connery-era Bond office with the newly minted Moneypenny (Naomi Harris), while a young Q (Ben Whishaw) gets busy inventing new gadgets for 007.
Of course this finale was a tip of the hat to old Bond, since the release of Skyfall coincided with the 50th anniversary of the franchise. Yet it was hard not to get a sinking feeling that it represented the beginning of the end for Craig's Bond, as the end of Skyfall opened the door to the tried-and-true yet embarrassingly dated old school Bond formula. After Casino Royale rebooted the franchise with a gritty and blunt Bond, inspired by the popularity of the Bourne franchise, the misogynist old world alcoholic spy was brought kicking and screaming into the 21st Century. Good (Skyfall) or bad (Quantum of Solace), the following two installments continued on that new tradition.
Unfortunately, my fears were realized upon sitting through the frustratingly by the numbers and infuriatingly long Spectre, which recreates the old Bond formula beat-by-beat while adding practically nothing new to the first true disappointment of the Daniel Craig Bond films. Craig is NOT Roger Moore, and a Bond movie has no business being this tedious.
EON productions, which created all official Bond films since the series' inception in 1962, took a gamble on Sam Mendes, director of prestige dramas with next to no experience in action, to helm Skyfall. Mendes' fresh and energetic approach to Bond resulted in the series' biggest box-office earner. After Skyfall, Mendes made it clear that he wasn't interested in returning to the franchise, but EON managed to pull him back in with promises of a nearly unlimited budget.
Even though Mendes might have been satisfied financially, his heart is clearly not in the franchise anymore. Apart from a spectacular single take sequence (I'm sure some CG wizardry was used to meld multiple shots together, but it's cool nevertheless) through Mexico City's massive Day of the Dead parade that opens this installment, Mendes sticks to the old Bond formula without any of the inventiveness of the previous three films.
A similar lack of interest plagues Craig as well. Bond's supposed to be cold, but the actor playing him shouldn't look like he's gotten cold to the role itself. Even if he didn't recently say he'd rather cut his throat than play Bond again during an interview, his visible boredom in Spectre would have made his point. If you read the classic "Bond, James Bond" line as if you're listing the daily specials at Applebee's five minutes before the end of your shift, it might be time to retire from this iconic role.
As far as story structure goes, Spectre pretty much ignores all of the 21st Century outings and goes back the land of Pierce Brosnan and, gasp, Roger Moore. While going after a sinister global organization that represents itself with an octopus logo, Bond first hooks up with the first Bond Girl (Monica Bellucci) for five minutes, then moves on to the second Bond Girl (Lea Seydoux), who sticks with him until the end of this episode. While trying to defeat the main bad guy (Christoph Waltz), Bond has to fight the muscular near-mute henchman (Dave Bautista) before getting caught in the bad guy's lair and get strapped to an elaborate death machine instead of catching a convenient bullet in his brain. Where's Scott Evil when you need him? You can adapt that formula word-by-word to almost all Bond films, going all the way back to 1964's Goldfinger.
The fact that 51-year-old Bellucci was tapped to play a Bond Girl was a big story during Spectre's production, touting the 21st Century Bond's lack of ageism. But the extremely short screen time of the role and the character's insignificance to the plot stinks of a ploy to distract the PC police. Dave Bautista is completely wasted as an Oddjob clone after proving his comedic acting chops in Guardians of the Galaxy. As far as the dramatic reveal of Waltz's character's name, did anyone with a passing knowledge of Bond trivia not already figure that out months ago? And you thought the reveal of Khan in Star Trek: Into Darkness was embarrassing.
Spectre boasts a couple of impressive action set pieces, but the film is way too long and sticks way too close to an archaic formula. If you're pining for old school Bond, well, there are still better options like Kingsmen or Spy, but you might come out somewhat satisfied, but fans of Craig's new Bond will be sorely disappointed.