https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7VAkbrykUHU Rating: Skyfall was the best Bond film yet. Exciting yet smart, stylish yet rugged, old yet new, it was simultaneously a thrilling entry in the fifty-year-old franchise and a dissection of what that franchise really was. How do you top that? Short answer? You don't. Now, Spectre isn't a bad film. It just isn't really a great one. Whereas its predecessor was a truly brilliant movie that happened to be a Bond flick, this is a solid Bond outing in an average movie; if it's anything to go by, we're back to the pre-Craig status quo, where Bond is never truly great, but for the faithful sure can be a lot of fun. Regardless of expectations, the biggest problem with Spectre is being a follow up to Skyfall. Quantum Of Solace has already shown that sequels don't work for Bond, yet here, only two entries on, we have another film whose plot is motivated by various loose threads from the previous one and now also takes plenty of time to remind us throughout about antics from across Craig's tenure. It's an unnecessary attempt to add weight though iconography (something naming the movie after Bond's most famous foe kick-started) and seems to be used here purely as an excuse for Spectre to not add much depth itself.
But that's just the start of it. A more ruinous franchise issue is in what Spectre's trying to do; for all its action and referencing, at its heart the film's asking the question, "Is Bond relevant?" Which is exactly what Skyfall asked. And what Casino Royale was jumping off from. And probably played a part in Quantum Of Solace (I don't really remember or care about that one). An entire subplot is dedicated to this idea, while the whole mentality of Bond, repeatedly called an assassin (don't think the Civil Service Fast Track schemes put that in the job description), centres on the moral and personal logic of what he does. Nice idea, but not only has it been done through to completion before, but the handling here is very choppy, as if the finished script had dialogue exchanges musing on the finer things shoved in at random intervals days before shooting. What Spectre does advance from the previous films, doubling-down on an element that Skyfall briefly flirted with, is levity. There's been a lot made (both positively and negatively) about how serious Craig's tenure has been and, like Nolan with emotions in Interstellar or Whedon with saving civilians in Avengers: Age Of Ultron, Spectre tries to correct that prominent issue. The opening half is full of great gags, quips and winks that create this wonderful mesh of 2010's filmmaking and 1960's sensibilities (something the unique score really accentuates), even if it sometimes manifests in odd places - there's a bizarre diversion during the Rome car chase for some slow-paced, jokey Fiat 500 product placement. This is a ridiculous Bond in a classic sense, at the start fully delivering on the promise of Skyfall's "back to work" final scene. There's an evil organisation infecting its way into power of the entire world through maniacal means that is quite literally obsessed with Mr. Bond, who only has his wit and some vaguely-grounded gizmos (bonkers even if not from Q branch) to bring them down. If you've longed for some Connery-style silliness or Brosnan-esque contrast of ideals, then you're in luck here. And, if not, Spectre still errs on the side of grit, allowing these moments to slot nicely into the slightly more offbeat tone of the film. Well, until it's all dropped for a kinda more serious second half. For the second half of the review, click next.