Directed by Sam Mendes
October 26, 2015 (United Kingdom) / November 6, 2015 (United States)
Dark secrets from James Bond’s (Daniel Craig) past surface as the deceased M (Dame Judi Dench) sends him on one final mission and he uncovers the international organization Spectre and meets their leader Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Christoph Waltz).
Of all the Daniel Craig James Bond films, this is honestly my favorite. It is closest to the classic James Bond formula but with a more serious tone. It is fun more often than not and much more action oriented. While there is plenty of focus on Bond, the focus is one other things besides Bond too. He is less hindered by emotional pain.
James Bond is a bit more of a charming rogue here who is willing to seduce women to get the job done. Not that it ever took much twisting to get James Bond to seduce a woman. He would have seduced woman to for a free sample at the grocery store.
We actually get a few cool gadgets as well as the cast of characters being more of a team than being antagonistic towards each other. We get a tricked-out car and an exploding watch. Both have showed up in previous Bond films in one form or another and it is a nice callback to the days of old.
Q (Ben Whishaw) is more annoyed with Bond in this movie than he is disliking Bond like in Skyfall. This is more in line with how Desmond Llewelyn treated his interactions with James Bond. Q just wants his equipment back intact, but it never happens with our favorite secret agent.
My only gripe is that they give the supporting characters a little bit too much to do which takes away from Bond. The new M (Ralph Fiennes), Miss Moneypenny (Naomie Harris), and even Q all get extensive action outside of headquarters or temporary headquarters depending on your point of view. This crowds out time from Bond. Q and Moneypenny and the assorted M characters were there to get the ball rolling for James. They were not field agents generally with only a few short-lived exceptions.
In the previous three films everyone felt like they were just not on the same team or barely tolerant of James Bond. And not in a way that they are still on the same side. It is more along the lines of they would be willing to shove a pen in his eye or drop a toaster in his bathtub just because. Here they are there for each other. These people are to be heroes and heroes work together and get along.
Depending on how you look at it, Christoph Waltz is the third or fourth actor to play Blofeld. He is one weird character here. He was not villainous as Blofeld so much as just odd and quirky. To me Blofeld did not feel threatening to Bond here but more like a character you should keep your children away from if you know what I mean. Donald Pleasence and Charles Gray felt dangerous while Telly Savalas and Max von Sydow came off as baddies even if their screen presence was not as threatening. None were just plain creepy.
Dave Bautista plays the assassin Mr. Hinx. I kind of hoped they would do a reboot version of Jaws here when he was cast. Truth be told, the character reminded me of Jaws. He was tall, muscular, and mute despite an apparently ability to command others around him.
While I do welcome the return of the Spectre organization to the films, at this point I think it is kind of unnecessary. The series has gone decades without using the group and has learned how to do the supervillain thing without it. Plus, the organization it actually stood in for, SMERSH, no longer exists nor does the MGB which it was folded into exist.
The theme song was just the worst. The Craig films have not had very good theme songs though. I think the theme for Skyfall was a step in the right direction but that was Adele and she has an ideal voice for the James Bond franchise. The best way to put my feelings about the Sam Smith song “Writing’s on the Wall” is to call it pretentious. James Bond is an action adventure superspy series. It is not some heartfelt drama.
The flaw here, and it is a flaw in all the reboots, is that everything revolves around Bond. The focus is on the character rather than the character dealing with a threat. Dealing with emotional pain or confronting his own past in some fashion, it all connects back to him. Previously the films were generally one-off adventures that may reference back to a previous character or something from an earlier film, but each movie was a standalone story. I feel like shouting “This again?!” or “We’re still not done?!”
Spectre is probably my favorite of the Daniel Craig James Bond films. It felt more like the traditional Bond and less like a generic thriller. It started to touch on the classic formula elements that the franchise is known for that have been missing or extremely subdued in the previous three reboots. Watch this one before you go out and see the new film.