"Add to this some poor creative choices in terms of plotting and direction, and the result is a strangely sour and stodgy 007 adventure."
With the last James Bond film, Skyfall, the Daniel Craig era of the franchise attempted something of a transition by combining the grittier, moodier traits introduced in Casino Royale (Craig's first outing as 007) with elements of what could be called 'vintage Bond' — a male M calling the shots, Miss Moneypenny in the role of M's assistant and Q kitting Bond out with his guns and gadgets. It kind of worked because it balanced the two styles quite effectively.
However, in the new Bond adventure, Spectre, the balance is way off, and the reintroduction of other Vintage Bond elements — such megalomaniacal villains as outlandish lairs — comes off as an ill-advised attempt to have the best of both worlds. Add to this some poor creative choices in terms of plotting and direction, and the result is a strangely sour and stodgy 007 adventure.
A posthumous message from Judi Dench's late M sees Craig's Bond on the trail of a villain with a terror attack in mind, but taking said villain out of the picture is only the first step on a journey that will bring Bond face to face with the evil global syndicate that gives the film its title, not to mention its shadowy leader Oberhauser (Christoph Waltz — unexpectedly wan) who has a deeply personal grudge against 007.
This motivation is one of the primary problems with Spectre — previous films have done a good job of revealing just enough of Bond's backstory, as opposed to tell-all this time around. But there's also a dullness to most of the action sequences and a tepid predictability to the more dramatic moments, whether it's Bond confronting his past or possibly creating a future with Dr Madeleine Swann (Lea Seydoux, who does a fine job but lacks chemistry with Craig).
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Is Spectre bad by Bond standards? Well, that depends on what you want from a Bond movie. (If you liked Casino Royale, for instance, this feels like a pale imitation.) Is it bad by any other yardstick? Well, it's too professionally put-together to say that… but we found it disappointing.