In 2006 Daniel Craig debuted as the dark, gritty James Bond for an updated—read: dark and gritty—take on the Bond franchise in Casino Royale. That is a good movie and it opened up Bond to a new generation of fans. He reprised the role in 2008’s Quantum of Solace, a bad movie with a baffling title that links the events of the previous film to a larger conspiracy in a wholly unnecessary way. Then in 2012 Bond rebounded with the terrific Skyfall. Now Craig is back as Bond for the fourth time in Spectre, a worse movie which links the events of all the previous Craig Bond films to a larger conspiracy in a wholly unnecessary way.
The appealing thing about Skyfall is that it works on its own—you don’t need to know Bond backwards and forwards to understand it. Following its huge success, the producers decided not to make another “standalone” Bond movie, but instead made Spectre as a sh*tty Marvel movie, featuring an unwieldy plot and an undercooked villain juggled with bombastic action scenes that look like they were edited in a blender, and all of it is buckling under the weight of continuity. Spectre opens with Bond in Mexico City during a Día de Muertos celebration, and it begins with a lot of promise. The opening sequence is done mostly in one long take moving through a crowded parade, and it’s an elegant and striking scene.
But then Bond’s assassination attempt results in an inordinate amount of destruction with a stupid sight gag in the middle of it, and then Bond is chasing his man through the streets of Mexico City, but it’s nearly impossible to tell what’s happening because of all the shaky cam. The movie never recovers. There are some very stylish shots, but the editing is brutal and there are brain-meltingly stupid leaps of logic. At one point Q accesses the records of a secret society by putting a ring on his laptop and suddenly he knows everything about everyone who’s ever worn—touched? Looked at?—the ring. How? Is the ring magic? Is it an infinity stone? The script is so messy it’s a toxic waste dump.
Then there are the villains, “C” (Andrew Scott), and Franz Oberhauser (Christoph Waltz), who, yes, is exactly who you think he is. Both these guys are completely stupid and non-threatening. C is so weasely—and he’s played by f*cking MORIARTY—that it’s immediately apparent he is Up To No Good, and Oberhauser is the kind of ridiculous monologuing, death-trapping villain the previous Craig films tried to move away from. There’s nothing scary or intimidating or even creepy about either of them, and worse, Oberhauser is saddled with a backstory that needlessly ties him to Bond. Spectre is full of stupid sh*t like this, creating connections where there simply don’t need to be any. It would work if he was just a bad guy that Bond wanted to stop! The only redeeming villain is Dave Bautista as Hinx, a genuinely scary guy who gets in one bone-crunching fight with Bond and then exits stage left.
The two new Bond women are also hugely disappointing. Monica Bellucci is touted as Bond’s first age-appropriate love interest, but she’s in the movie for maybe ten minutes, tops. She’s literally just there for Bond to menace and f*ck, in that order. And Lea Seydoux, though a proven ass-kicker (see also: Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol) is barely given anything to do. She also has zero chemistry with Craig, and when her character, Dr. Madeleine Swann, suddenly declares her love for Bond, I laughed out loud. She spends the first half of the movie wanting nothing to do with him only to suddenly fall in love with him after suffering head trauma. Sounds about right.
But by far the biggest problem in Spectre is that it isn’t just derivative of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, it's THE SAME MOVIE. It also bears more than a passing resemblance to Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, and some others have cited Star Trek Into Darkness, but I honestly can’t remember anything about that movie. When I reviewed Rogue Nation I said it’s so good it might put a dent in Bond, and I think it will. Spectre is already doing really well overseas, and it’s poised to have a big opening in North America this weekend, but it will not have the legs of Skyfall. It’s not going to get the word of mouth needed for that kind of performance. The action is atrocious, and after the brass-balled sequences of Rogue Nation, Spectre feels especially flat. And the fact that it’s a sh*ttier version of The Winter Soldier isn’t doing it any favors, either.
Attached - Daniel Craig, Lea Seydoux, Monica Bellucci, and Christoph Waltz at AOL Studios yesterday in New York.