Spectre is the fourth of Daniel Craig’s series of James Bond films. The story this time is that a message from Judi Dench’s M (who died in the previous film, Skyfall) sends James Bond on a mission that will reveal the extent to which everything he’s been through has been manipulated, set up, and put into motion by a shadowy organization, and the head of said organization.
Spectre is primarily a bad film. Not because its a bad James Bond movie, its a perfectly fine James Bond movie. If you come to these films expecting exotic locales, a nifty car, a nifty gadget, sexy women, and action scenes, you’ll get that. This is one hundred percent a normal Bond movie. And that’s why its bad.
See Casino Royale came along and sort of established Daniel Craig as a new type of Bond. He was wise cracking, but in a somber way. He was a badass agent, but a bit brutal and bloody. And he was new. He was a new agent, and his expertise was being proven. In Skyfall, the entirety of the franchise seemed to be taken to task by the idea of a secret agent being useful in the modern day. What was the point of a single man’s stake in a world being taken over by computer hacking and internet terrorism? The answer was a resounding one, that the personal stakes of characters are still important. That so long as we ask James Bond to evolve to fit the world view he exists in every once in a while, he can still earn his place. And the cost of that evolution was a very high price.
Spectre as the follow up both to Skyfall and the other two films before it, invites us to bring up these older films. It asks us to remember why we like Daniel Craig as Bond. Remember all those super cool interesting evolutions of this old outdated character? How would you like to see that character in a completely by the numbers typical Bond movie?
Spectre removes all the self awareness, all the intense and threatening, violent scenes. It takes away the character depth and ideology the films before it built up. It’s a film whose primary conceit and twist are about a clever way of merging the old with the new, but it can’t even remember back to the last film to make implicit the questions of how practical, how necessary, and how outdated all of that is. In fact, having the older male M step in to be a Bond on the inside of MI6 as it faces threats from some new young tech saavy intelligence operative actually makes it ask the reverse question of Skyfall. Instead of asking, how are we going to make James Bond important in a time that is leaving him behind, it asks how is Bond going to kick the ass of the young upstart internet geeks so that he can remind all those young whipper snappers how to be a proper, misogynistic, gun shooting, murdrous bad ass again?
Spectre is the James Bond film for the guy who complained that James Bond had somehow become too interesting or too deep or too different from how it was back in the day. And the result is exactly that. A shallow uninteresting action film that we’ve already had in abundance.