“Spectre,” the latest in the long-running 007 series, proves that even James Bond can have a bad day. The film’s convoluted script, watered-down villain and forgettable Bond girl makes “Spectre” the worst of the Bond films featuring Daniel Craig as the charismatic spy. And it has so many flaws that it falls into the bottom third of all Bond movies.
It’s not unusual for a Bond script to be so twisted and complicated that it is impossible to keep up with what is happening, even with long explanation speeches by both the good and bad guys. At least those films had a story line to twist and turn.
“Spectre” starts with Bond on a rogue mission to Mexico City. The opening big stunt works, but it’s quickly followed by a battle in a helicopter that goes on so long that it gets redundant and boring. That’s a recurring result through many of the other stunts, too. There’s a car chase scene that runs out of gas long before the obligatory crash. There’s a chase through the snow and a battle in the desert. Both are pale reminders of better Bond moments.
After Bond proves he still has a license to kill, he’s off on a mission to find a mysterious stranger. Why? Not sure. It just takes Bond into one of the least sexy conquests in his life and on his way to a cabin in the snowy woods.
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He’s getting no help back home since the British spy business is being shut down. The power play is all about information sharing. The last time a Bond film focused on global information was the lackluster “Tomorrow Never Dies.” Internet service is never a great plot point.
Along the way, Bond meets Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux), one of the least interesting Bond girls in the history of the series. She’s neither smart nor a great romantic, but she does provide one of the film’s biggest laughs.
After Bond and a giant thug battle their way through a passenger train (where it looks like Bond and Swann are the only two passengers), she asks Bond, “Now what do we do?” The next scene has them in the throes of passion. It doesn’t play like a cool Bond moment. It’s like a bad scene cut from a Bond parody.
And then there’s Christoph Waltz as the villain, Oberhauser. His performance is so forced and contrived that he would have been more comfortable in an “Austin Powers” movie. He even delivers this clichéd line to Bond, “I expect you to die.” You do need to keep in mind that when Craig came on board, the whole James Bond story line was rebooted. So when Oberhauser’s true identity is revealed it fits the timeline, but it fails when compared to past Bond bad guys.
One reason “Spectre” falls so short is that Craig’s last turn as Bond, in “Skyfall,” was so strong. Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and John Logan wrote one of the most understandable Bond scripts, given that some of the movies have lost focus. They also created a story with some nice connections to the past. There was one major shocker to make “Skyfall” a beautiful gift to fans for the film franchise’s 50th anniversary.
Now “Spectre” comes along and it falters on almost every count. Craig seems bored and that’s passed on to the audience. Until this misstep, Craig had been one of the top actors to play the British spy. His lack of energy, coupled with the long list of other miscues, leaves “Spectre” bland, very bland.