Spectre

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Let’s start with the Tale of the Tape.

This is the 24th Bond film. The first was 52 years ago. This is the 4th with Daniel Craig as Bond and second Sam Mendes directed. It cost over $250 million to make. It stars two actors that have won Oscars for playing Nazis — Ralph Fiennes and Christoph Waltz. Waltz is playing Blofeld, a character that’s been used in Bond films previously, as has the organization Spectre. Some of these things come across as a fun homage to the series, but other times…it felt like they were just stealing stuff from previous films.

The opening scene at the Day of the Dead celebration in Mexico City is just incredible. Unfortunately, it goes from that into a goofy, Octopussy inspired credit sequence and a disappointing theme song from Sam Smith. The movie is a mixed bag the rest of the way.

Q was more fun played by John Cleese, and going back — the charming Desmond Llewelyn. With rumours swirling around about this being Craig’s last stab at the character, we got to hear talk of various actors that might take on the role. One of the most controversial was African-American Idris Elba. I felt that, if people were mad 007 should look like Sean Connery and Elba doesn’t — well, he looks about as much like Connery as Daniel Craig, so it was a silly debate. And nobody has complained that Ms. Moneypenny is played by black actress Naomie Harris. She’s perfect, and her chemistry with Bond works, although I do miss the stuffy British woman from the Roger Moore era. [side note: does anybody ever debate who the best Moneypenny or Q were, the way they do the best Bond, or hottest Bond women?].

Q is played by Ben Whishaw, who is not only getting mad at Bond in this, he’s getting mad at Carey Mulligan in Suffragette (hey, if the men make their women see the action pictures, nothing more appropriate than having the women make the men see what they had to go through 100 years ago!).

Director Sam Mendes got a lot of credit for making Skyfall so fun (and he won an Oscar for American Beauty), but his job here feels more like Michael Bay.

When Bond gets into trouble and is told he might be out of a job, he does what he’s done many times before…he goes rogue. He also gets the daughter (Monica Bellucci) of somebody that was just murdered. They always tag along, complaining the entire time, and then sleep with Bond. Hey, everyone grieves in different ways.

Those tropes used to be fun, but watching this I just kept thinking…yeah, maybe Craig should be done with this series (it didn’t help that he often had an expression that made you wonder if he was constipated from the food at craft services).

Sometimes though, Craig’s expressions gave a brooding vibe, or one of loneliness. Most times, it felt like he was phoning it in. It’s one of the reasons I have such a blast when a movie like Kingsman: Secret Service comes out. They have the gadgets, the humor, and a lot of what some of the more entertaining Bond films had.

That doesn’t mean this doesn’t have a few gadgets (exploding watch, Aston Martin with fire in exhaust pipes, etc.).

There were a few moments of levity that were nice, especially since some have complained of Craig being so serious.

The set pieces were stunning, and the location shots in Tangier, Rome, and the mountains of Austria — beautiful.

The action sequences — which included an airplane, helicopters (on two occasions), car chases, fighting on a train — all of them thrilling. The problem is the same problem the last Mission: Impossible had. A great action picture shouldn’t just have great action sequences, but something in the plot. Otherwise, just show us clips of how Tom Cruise was tied to a plane, or how they made the helicopter do a 360 in the making of this film.

Spectre is better than Quantum of Solace, but that’s not saying much. At 2 ½ hours, the movie was a bit long and clunky, with a few tonal problems.

I’ll give it 2 ½ stars out of 5 — one for each hour.

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