“Skyfall” was the biggest worldwide James Bond hit ever–and the first to gross over a billion dollars. It had the pedigree of an Academy Award-winning director, who possesses a rich theatre background as well. So, the Sam Mendes/007 connection wowed critics and dominated the box office. I admittedly dropped the ball on it in my initial view. My B- grade for it was definitely too low, and I later acknowledged that in an editorial right here on the blog. I was determined to strongly focus on the new “Spectre”, so as not to make the same mistake a 2nd time. But, you know what? I’m grading it like I first reviewed “Skyfall”. But this time, I don’t believe I’ll be reevaluating UP over time. In fact, I bet most would find I’m being too kind.
Detailing a James Bond plot is a fool’s errand. I’m a devotee, and I can barely recall the screenplay minutiae of any of the previous official 23 films. Bond is about function and style, and it gets the BIG things right–most of the time. “Bond 24”, aka “Spectre”, is no exception. It opens and closes great. Its not as brooding as “Skyfall”, but it still contains a certain level of darkness. But “Spectre” has a little bit more fun too (taking my advice?). Some early-going stuff brings the flavor of “Live and Let Die”. And, of course, some crucial plot devices harken back to “Diamonds Are Forever” too. Nice homages for the fans. And the quartet of Daniel Craig Bonds all link narratively, so the gravitas has built nicely. And 2-time Oscar winner Christoph Waltz is on board this time, as a very familiar Bond baddie.
Man, does this 007 adventure go on and on and on. It’s the most expensive Bond feature ever, and I believe the lengthiest ever (148 minutes). Nimble, it ain’t. We lost Judi Dench’s M last time around, and the weight of her presence is missed. We’ve still got Ben Whishaw as Q, Naomie Harris as Moneypenny, and the wonderful Ralph Fiennes as Mallory. They are all excellent. And it’s back-to-back Best Original Song Oscars for Bond features now, with “Writing’s on the Wall” taking the gold this time. But some of this feels by the numbers. And, despite a somewhat lighter tone, “Spectre” seems burdened with trying to hit similar grace notes to its immediate predecessor. It is a decent Bond, but not a fantastic Bond. And never before have I wished for the editing block to be used so bad.