‘Spectre’: MovieMantz Review

Access Hollywood’s Scott Mantz weighs
in on the latest installment in the 007 franchise, and says James Bond
“goes through the motions” in “Spectre”…

‘Spectre’
‘Spectre’ (MGM)
  • “Spectre”
  • Starring: Daniel
    Craig, Christoph Waltz
  • Directed
    by:
    Sam Mendes
  • Rating:
    3 out of 5 stars

After 50 years and 23 previous official
movies, it was a bloody stroke of luck that the last James Bond installment, 2012’s
“Skyfall,” turned out to be as good as it was.  Actually, make that as great as it was.  Daniel
Craig’s third turn as Agent 007 was a fresh, visceral, vital shot of adrenaline
for the long-running franchise that not only fit the bill as the best Bond
installment in decades – I would argue since the gold standard of Bond movies,
the 1964 classic “Goldfinger” – but it was also just a great movie,
period.  Critics were shaken with delight,
moviegoers were stirred with excitement, and it grossed more than $1.1 billion
worldwide, making it the highest-grossing Bond of them all, by far.

That’s a tough act to follow, and it
turns out that topping that milestone crowning achievement – much less matching
it – called for a mission that not even Bond himself was up for. 

Despite the presence of returning
director Sam Mendes (who won an Academy Award for directing 1999’s “American
Beauty”), screenwriters John Logan, Neal Purvis and Robert Wade (along
with Jez Butterworth) and, of course, Daniel Craig for his fourth (and maybe
final?) turn as Agent 007, the 24th official Bond installment, “Spectre,”
makes for a merely good-enough, but not great addition to the Bond canon.  Boasting the biggest budget yet for a Bond
movie (reportedly north of $300 million) and the longest running time (2 hours
and 28 minutes), “Spectre” has some great action set pieces, but
otherwise feels like business as usual for James Bond.

But one of the saving graces that “Spectre”
does feature is how much it feels like a throwback to the earliest Bond movies,
thanks to the presence of the sinister shadow organization whose name graces
the title of the film – and one that goes all the way back to the Bond that
started it all, 1962’s “Dr. No.” 
After a rip-roaring pre-credits action sequence that takes place in
Mexico City, Bond traverses the globe from London to Rome to the Austrian Alps
to the Moroccan desert to find Franz Oberhauser (Christoph Waltz), the
mastermind behind a powerful criminal cartel that’s plotting devastating
attacks on the world’s biggest cities.

That’s just the tip
of the iceberg, as Bond has to contend with not only his own survival, but also
the continued existence of the entire Double-O program itself.

PHOTOS: ‘Spectre’ World Premiere

Bond faced the prospect of his own
obsolescence before in 1995’s “Goldeneye,” but now the very fabric of
Her Majesty’s Secret Service is on the line, with Bond’s trusty colleagues M
(Ralph Fiennes), Q (Ben Whishaw) and Eve Moneypenny (Naomie Harris) facing off
against C (Andrew Scott), the shady new agency boss who has an ulterior motive
to revamp the program and leave them behind.

If the entire plot sounds somewhat
familiar, it should, as it’s basically the same as that of the latest “Mission:
Impossible” installment, “Rogue Nation.”  But naturally, “Spectre” feels like
a Bond movie – right down to the gadgets, the spectacle and, of course, the
romance – so it stands on its own. 
Daniel Craig continues playing Agent 007 with the same kind of steely,
gritty, chiseled charm that makes him the best Bond since Sean Connery’s heyday,
while two-time Academy Award-winner Christoph Waltz (“Inglourious
Basterds,” “Django Unchained”) makes the most of his limited
screen time to make for an effectively menacing villain.

But while “Spectre” is
entertaining on a broad level and delivers the goods that 007 fans have come to
expect, it does so in a routinely Bond-like manner that lacks the vitality,
inspiration and refreshing sense of vibrancy that made “Skyfall” and
the 2006 Bond reboot “Casino Royale” feel so fundamentally essential
and exhilarating.  It’s still better than
2008’s “Quantum of Solace,” but it feels bloated, overlong and
tonally uneven, the pacing is sluggish, and Craig’s romances with Bond girls
Monica Bellucci and Lea Seydoux feel forced and contrived.  And where Adele’s incredible performance of “Skyfall”
ranks as one of the best Bond themes ever, the theme song for “Spectre”
– “Writing’s On the Wall,” performed by Sam Smith – sounds like just
another run-of-the-mill James Bond theme.

Then again, given how much has been
written in the press about “Spectre” being his last Bond, maybe the
writing is on the wall for Daniel Craig. 
That would leave him with four Bonds under his belt, tying with his
predecessor, Pierce Brosnan.  So if “Spectre”
is Craig’s last stand, at least it ties all four of his movies together with
nods to his past, bringing his arc as 007 full circle.  As for the future of the series, the door is
wide open.  Maybe Craig will don the tux
one more time, or maybe he won’t.  But
whatever happens, you can bet that Bond will reinvent himself yet again, and he’ll
do it in style.  After all, nobody does
it better.

— Scott Mantz

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