Hint of disinterest sinks ‘Spectre’

From the point of view of a would-be killer, we watch James Bond saunter across the screen and fire a bullet toward us, causing blood to drip down the camera lens. This happens at the beginning of every Bond film because it has to happen.

Then, we see Bond engage in some helicopter tomfoolery in the requisite introductory action sequence. This segues into a stylized opening credits sequence set to a special song by some who’s a hot-now pop singer. This time it’s Sam Smith, and the song is terrible.

All of this happens because it’s expected, but at no point does it feel like anyone involved in the production of “Spectre” really wanted to do any of this. They were under contract for another Bond film so they made one, and that’s about it.

This time, Bond is following orders given by Judi Dench’s M just before her death in “Skyfall.” The only problem is he’s been grounded indefinitely from fieldwork because, technically, nobody else knows about these orders.

It doesn’t help that a scummy national security guy who wants to replace spies with cameras and drones has dissolved MI6. Good to see Bond take a bold stance against Orwellian surveillance techniques while it’s still a hot-button issue.

Anyway, the villain this time is Christoph Waltz, which was exciting news when it was announced. Anyone who has seen “Inglorious Basterds” can attest to Waltz’s talent in such a role.

Unfortunately, Waltz is barely in “Spectre,” and his relatively few on-screen appearances feature a more restrained version of the actor than I’d like. It feels like the movie is saying to us, “Hey, you know he’s supposed to be evil so we’re not even going to try with this one.”

That feeling of the filmmakers checking off just enough boxes to receive a passing grade permeates through the entirety of the movie. It’s all remarkably predictable and does nothing to shake up the formula.

“Casino Royale” and “Skyfall” worked because they at least tried to examine the character of James Bond. His relationships with the stable of regulars like M felt more meaningful than they had in the previous four decades of Bond movies.

Those superior movies still fell into the series’ sexist damsel-in-distress nonsense, but there was at least some gravity to it. When it happens to this edition’s Bond Girl (played well enough by Léa Seydoux), it’s forced and anticlimactic.

“Forced” is also a great way to describe the script. All of the playful banter between characters in “Spectre” is rigid and awkward, lacking any kind of wit or punch.

It’s also about half an hour too long, and the flow from one scene to the next is often disjointed. None of it is bad, necessarily, but there’s a distinct lack of effort to be anything more than competent.

To channel my inner football color commentator, great films come from those who want it the most. In “Spectre,” it’s clear that Daniel Craig and Co. would rather hand the franchise off to the next suave super spy.


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