I had high hopes – and expectations – for this. After all, “Skyfall”, the previous movie from pretty much the same team (sans Roger Deakins, which turned out to be one of the issues), was – in my very humble opinion – just one appearance by Sir Sean Connery as Kincade away of being the best Bond-movie ever. Also, casting Christoph Waltz as the villain seemed to be an incredible choice. Add to that the fact that they finally got the rights back to use 007’s nemesis, S.P.E.C.T.R.E. – and all that entails – and “Spectre” definitely had the potential to even trump their already phenomenal last outing. Alas, it wasn’t meant to be.
Which is not at all to say that “Spectre” would be a bad movie. It’s a decent outing in the franchise that has a lot to offer, especially to long-time fans of the series. It’s definitely the most classic Bond of the Craig-films so far, and while I get that this will disappoint those who welcomed the grittier, more down-to-earth-approach introduced by “Casino Royale”, I for one very well welcome it, since I always felt that it was an ill-conceived choice to answer to the increasing competition by Hunt, Bourne etc. by becoming more like them, instead of focussing on the strengths of the series, on what makes Bond Bond, and what separates him from the rest. Thus, I really loved this old-school vibe that “Spectre” gave off right from the start (gun barrel sequence!), and then pretty much through all of its running time. I also felt that Craig, after starting to let loose as Bond in the last one, finally managed to find the charm and the coolness that for me is so essential for this role. As expected, I also loved Christoph Waltz as the villain of the piece. Some might grow old of his schtick, but when I saw him as Hans Landa in “Inglourious Basterds”, my first thoughts were “That would be the perfect, over-the-top Bond-villain”. Thus, I didn’t mind at all that he pretty much played the same role again. The whole cast was great, there were some nice locations (since I’m from Austria, I especially loved everything that was shot over here), and the first sequence in Mexico was really stunning and thrilling.
However, the action, in my very humble opinion, was “only” solid (making it one of the aspects where “Spectre” loses out to other spy-fare of 2015 like “Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation” and “Kingsman: The Secret Service; which is slightly disappointing for a movie series that once was the be-all and end-all when it comes to stunts and action). I also didn’t care much about the new title song; yes, it probably was nigh impossible to follow Adele’s smash-hit with a similarly great song, but with “Writing on the Wall” I had the impression that they didn’t even try. I was also a little disappointed by Madeleine Swann, who was much more “damsel-in-distress”-y than we’ve come to expect from Bond-movies in recent years (she’s no Vesper Lynd, that’s for sure). And while the chemistry between Craig and Seydoux was solid, I found the entire love story between Bond and Swann rather unbelievable and far too exaggerated. I also thought that the movie was slightly too long; trimming it down to 120-130 minutes would have helped. And even though overall it’s shot well and offers a couple of nice images (like Bond on the boat with the fog over the lake), “Spectre” visually isn’t remotely as stunning as “Skyfall” was; I for one sorely missed Roger Deakins. The biggest flaw of the movie, however, is the personal connection between Oberhauser and Bond, which was just a terrible idea. Totally superfluous, and far too reminiscent of “Goldmember” (and at least I think that it’s rather sad when a film series bows down to its own parody), that really was a major misstep. Overall, “Spectre” was a good entry in the series, but in my book, it fell short of both “Skyfall” and “Casino Royale”.