The long running James Bond series has had its fair share of highs and lows with most people having their own particular favorite actor who has portrayed the iconic part. I for one appreciate each unique take on the legendary character (yes even George Lazenby) and have not yet outright hated one of the Bond films (though a few of the duds like A View to a Kill I like for all of the wrong reasons).
Fans have their own ideas of how they think the character should be portrayed and how the tone of the films should be approached. Whenever the producers have attempted to shake things up and stray from formula, the hardcore fans have usually disagreed with the artistic choices both in front of and behind the camera and the producers have reverted back go tried and true formula.
The biggest shakeup and reinvention the series has undergone to date was with the 2006 entry “Casino Royale” that featured Daniel Craig in his debut as James Bond. Gone was the suave and some would say dated approach and in its place a much more gritty and real world approach more akin to the Jason Bourne pictures. It was an amazingly great film that gave the series which a lot of people like myself after Pierce Brosnan’s last entry “Die Another Day” felt was running on fumes a new sense of identity and purpose. There was though some longtime fans though who felt it didn’t feel like a James Bond film of the classic character anymore but I felt that the producers simply made him relevant to current times and ideals.
Craig’s next two films as James Bond were 2008’s “Quantum of Solace” (decent story, lousy filmmaking) and 2012’s brilliant “Skyfall” which was directed by Sam Mendes and was the first Bond film to break the 1 billion dollar box office ceiling internationally. What was nice about these three films is that they were acknowledging the previous Craig film’s continuity which the series had flirted with a little bit with some previous entries but for the most part had let each film exist as stand alone entries.
Sam Mendes would return to direct 2015’s “Spectre” and it assumes you have seen the other 3 Craig Bond films so don’t go into it blind. A lot of people wonder if they would be able to top the majestic “Skyfall”. The simple answer is no they weren’t able to in my eyes. While it isn’t as good as a film in most areas, it isn’t a huge disappointment like “Quantum of Solace” was either.
“Spectre” is bloated and too long at 2 hours and 28 minutes with end credits. The first half of the film which contains many of the film’s big action set pieces was actually where I felt the film dragged in places. If they trimmed out a half hour of the film it would would work better though. However when the film works it works like gangbusters more often than not. The vistas are gorgeous and sumptuous with the action being handled with the same fluid approach and aplomb as in “Skyfall”. Daniel Craig though alternated between acting inspired as James Bond and strangely bored at a few key moments in the film. Maybe that’s just how he and director Sam Mendes chose to have the scenes in question played. Craig just seems tired at this point and his interviews about the film indicate he is sick of the character and wants out and it kind of showed in spots hurting the film a little bit.
The story though is remarkably similar to the superior “Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation” to the point where I was half expecting Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt to go running by Bond in a street scene. The film seems intent on tying up all loose ends from the previous 3 films and would be a good swan song for Craig should he not return for a 5th outing.
The tone of the film is what I liked the most about “Spectre” and some people will feel a bit divisive about. “Skyfall” brought back a welcome dose of humor to its proceedings and this continues in “Spectre”. The film veers in many places to borderline camp like the Roger Moore films but staying just on this side of gritty and not going overboard with it. While “Skyfall” seemed to riff on the Sean Connery era, “Spectre” in my eyes riffs on the Roger Moore era. If you didn’t like the Roger Moore films then you might have some issues with the jokes and humor in the film though I thought it was well integrated. The film however gets darker and more psychological in the half after Christoph Waltz’s villain makes his proper entrance.
All in all though I enjoyed it and feel it’s a good film despite its flaws. A lot of people’s enjoyment will depend on if they have liked the Daniel Craig era or not. Just go into it expecting it not to hit the many splendid highs that “Skyfall” did and you should enjoy it for the most part. Should this be his last turns as James Bond, he didn’t embarrass himself at all though it’s not his best outing as the character overall. Recommended
3 Stars out of 4