One of the most anticipated and advertised films of the year has finally made it to our cinema screens. Bond is back. Daniel Craig’s fourth outing as the iconic British character has been billed as the best James Bond film of all time; a bold claim given the 23 films that proceed it. With a budget of $300 million, the talented Sam Mendes yet again taking the reigns as director and the sublime Christoph Waltz playing the infamous Bond villain, Spectre was set to be a triumph. The spectacle of Spectre is perhaps the most striking attribute of the film. The numerous different locations, the stunning opening sequence and the high budget action is awe-inspiring. The breath-taking scenery and seat-shaking explosions cannot be faulted. “fun,exciting and beautiful… but Skyfall it is not”
Strong performances fill the phenomenal back drops, with Ben Wishaw’s Q taking a bigger role than in Skyfall and a fantastic debut-Bond performance from Léa Seydoux. Spectre sees a new M, Ralph Fiennes, after the departure of Judi Dench in Skyfall, and he takes it on with a calm stylishness.
Despite having all of the high quality ingredients needed to make the best Bond film of all time, Spectre doesn’t quite seem to hit the mark. Rather than a more progressive version of Fleming’s character that we had begun to expect, Spectre seems to almost be a pastiche to pre-Craig Bond, with Goldfinger particularly springing to mind.
This in itself isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It keeps the Bond nerds happy and the rest of us get to chuckle occasionally at the fluffy white cats and bad puns. What it does do, however, is provide us with less shocks and suspense. Whereas Skyfall gave us layer after layer of action and arguably the best villain in Bond history, Spectre is simpler.
Avoiding spoilers for this film is like walking across a minefield. What I can say is that Waltz is greatly under used and that the unexpected right-hook we usually get from villains in the third act never came. Continuity and realism is an issue that even someone half asleep would notice (Where did she get that nightie from? Who closed that door?), and the product placement is as blatant as ever, but we’ve come to expect this of Bond films. There is also the question of Monica Belluci’s Lucia, a seemingly pointless character that receives no closure, merely there so Bond has the opportunity to have sex with a beautiful woman.
There are neat references to old James Bond law, but again not nearly as cleverly woven as the themes in Skyfall. Perhaps it is the case that Bond films have a ceiling; that they will always been limited by the intricacy of their own past. If fans are up in arms about the possibility of a ginger or – god forbid – female Bond, does that mean the progression of the series is limited? It seems Spectre has fallen into the trap of trying to keep too many audiences happy with endless editing, rather than standing by its motives as a film. The expectations surrounding Spectre were so phenomenally high that some sort of fall was inevitable. It is a fun, exciting and beautiful action film, but better than Skyfall it is not.