We checked out Spectre in a near-empty theater and after watching it I figured out why. It was okay, and I liked it better than my wife and son, but I won’t remember a thing about it in another week. It looks big, but it comes up small. Spectre is the Avengers: Age of Ultron of the fall movie season.
There was an impressive tracking shot, eye-popping, opening pre-title sequence, a sexy Bong girl in Lea Sedoux and a wasted one in Monica Bellucci (whatsamatter Bond? Don’t like women in your age group?), Christoph Waltz playing exactly who you think he’s supposed to play as he explains his evil plan and I wasn’t impressed one bit by the “big reveal”.
Spectre marks Daniel Craig’s fourth outing as Ian Fleming’s super spy and it comes in at his third best Bond; far behind Casino Royale and Skyfall but way ahead of Quantum of Solace, (and that’s a pretty low bar to clear).
The thing which has always saved the Bond franchise is knowing when its time for a course correction. When Roger Moore got too old to be Bond, he was eased into the rocking chair and Timothy Dalton stepped into the tuxedo for two lackluster entries. Dalton was a dud, so Pierce Brosnan replaced him and made one really good movie and three more with each being progressively worse.
Knocked into irrelevance by the triple whammy of the putrid Die Another Day, Mike Meyers mockery via Austin Powers and Jason Bourne stealing all Bond’s bad-ass credibility, Michael Wilson and Barbara Broccoli rebooted Bond with a meaner and tougher Bond who preferred his enemies shot and dead to his martinis shaken and stirred.
Everything about this movie is overly familiar. The car chases, the fight scenes, the lair of the evildoers, Bond going rogue. Check off the list and I’ve seen ’em all before. Sure, they’re done well here, but they have all been done better in other Bonds.
One reason Quantum of Solace was so lousy it was rushed out to beat a writer’s strike and boy, did it show in the final product. Spectre wasn’t a rush job, but it feels too busy and way too bogged down with a plodding plot. I haven’t quite figured out why this one missed more than it hit, but it did. The conclusion back in London felt tacked on because there just had to be one to make an already long move run a little longer.
After a decade of Craig, who says he’s sick of the role, it could be time to do another hard reboot of Bond, but unless he can get out of his contract, Craig has signed for one more turn in the tuxedo. No spoilers, but despite Spectre leaves a crack in the door for a Craig exit, the end credits still announce “James Bond Will Return.”
Sure he will because the Bond franchise has become a license not only to kill, but to print money and you can bet the producers will offer Craig plenty to sign on. When asked if he would play the part again, Craig sounds like he means it when he says, “I’d rather break this glass and slash my wrists. That’s fine. I’m over it at the moment. We’re done. All I want to do is move on.”
But move on to what? Craig made three films between Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace, four before Skyfall and none at all until Spectre landed three years later. His biggest non-Bond flick was The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, a modest hit offset by bombs like The Invasion, Dream House and Cowboys and Aliens.
Don’t call your agent yet, Idris Elba. Mr. Craig might be done with Mr. Bond but Mr. Bond might not be done with Mr. Craig.
And I’m still frosty over how Monica Bellucci disappeared. At 51, Bellucci was one of the oldest actresses cast as a love interest for 007 and she remarked she wasn’t a “Bond girl” but a “Bond woman” instead.
Joke’s on you, Monica. Your part was so brief you barely qualify as a Bond booty call.