Review: “Spectre” is good Bond but too ambitious

"Spectre" poster courtesy Columbia Pictures

“Spectre” poster courtesy Columbia Pictures

“Spectre” (2015)
Rated: PG-13 for intense sequences of action and violence, some disturbing images, sensuality and language
Runtime: 148 min (2 hours, 28 minutes)
Genre: Action, Adventure, Thriller

My spoiler-free review:

Sam Mendes is back to direct 007 following the huge box office and critical success of “Skyfall” (2012), the last adventure for Daniel Craig as James Bond.  This the 4th movie in the “Craig Bond Franchise” and while it is a sequel to his other movies, it feels too much like its setting up for more sequels and connecting to the previous movies.  Craig is great as usual as the agent determined to stop at nothing to stop the terrorists from carrying out their wicked plans.  The supporting cast is solid with a good turn from Christoph Waltz, an imposing Dave Bautista, conflicted boss Ralph Fiennes (M), allies Ben Whishaw (Q) and
Naomie Harris (Moneypenny), plus Léa Seydoux (Madeleine Swann), Andrew Scott (C), and
Jesper Christensen (Mr. White).

This 24th chapter of the Bond movie series follows the events of “Skyfall” (2012) but tries to do what other movie franchises are doing to establish cinematic universes for multiple sequels and connectivity to related movies, TV shows, video games, and other products.  “Spectre” spends a lot of time referencing characters and events from “Skyfall” (2012), “Quantum of Solace” (2008), and “Casino Royale” (2006).  At first its cool.  There’s some short term nostalgia if you’ve seen all of Craig’s outings as Mr. Bond.  Then we’re reminded with another photo/name drop/flashback that this is a sequel.  Then again.  We get it James Bond has a past and its coming up to the forefront in this movie.  But its more than just reminiscing, there’s an over arching theme about where we’ve come and where we’re going as the audience of this quadrilogy.  Audiences aren’t totally blind to getting setup for sequels, but when we’re coming off of one of the best Bond movies ever… and you’ve just invested a lot of time and money into this movie, you don’t want to feel like you’re just getting a place holder movie for the next big (last?) adventure for Craig as James.

What You Get: gunbarrel scene, Bond theme, exciting opening scene, new villains, Bond girls, action, gadgets, fighting, guns, cars, death defying missions, mystery, espionage, thrills, planes, helicopters, train, new Aston Martin, the visually stunning opening titles, some surprisingly good comic relief, plus global treks to Mexico City, Rome, Austria, and Tunisia.

What’s missing: for anyone who knows what the title means, has seen the marketing campaign, and/or has prior knowledge of Bond movies we spend the first half of the movie waiting for James to figure out what the shadowy organization is and what “SPECTRE” means.  So we wait for Bond to catch up and figure it out with us, taking away the mystery but not necessarily the suspense.  Once we get past the big reveal of what “SPECTRE” is, then we jump in to the action and hunt for clues and the effort to stop the bad guys.  I have to admit, with the exception of the last few scenes, this movie was very predictable for me.  Sure I’ve seen a bunch of Bond movies, but I’ve also watched a ton of action/ adventure/ thriller/ suspense/ mystery movies so there were too many things that followed some typical plotlines.

Because it lacks the mystery for the first part of the movie and struggles from trying to hard to setup a bigger connected universe… I give this movie 7.5 out of 10.0 … fans should see it in the theater, but don’t expect another great Bond film.

Warning to parents: as typical Bond movies go there is intense action, fighting sequences, some disturbing images of main character in peril and some grown up themes and language, definitely PG-13.

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