No matter how you shake (or stir it, depending on your taste) Skyfall was the jolt that James Bond needed. Tipping its hat to the legacy laid before it and making a bold effort to freshen up MI6’s best employee, it also managed to bring a briefly glimpsed layer to Bond we hadn’t seen before. Spectre sees director Sam Mendes return to that recently opened well, and as sad is it seems, gains nowhere near the same result.
There’s promising signs to start with. Dropping into an extravagant and skull-laden street in Mexico City on the Day of the Dead, we’re guided through a lengthy tracking shot that sees 007 on the hunt. From here Bond begins to pull skeletons from his cupboard, (some of which even we never knew he had) setting him in the sights of the titular organisation Spectre and its head of operations, Franz Oberhauser (Christoph Waltz).
That’s where details get so top secret even this review can’t share them, but needless to say the usual ingredients to make a Bond film are added when necessary. He drives a fast car, he meets a new girl, and somewhere in between, enemies end up very, very dead. Add an Oscar-winning bad guy in the form of Christoph Waltz and surely we’re on to Skyfall Pt.2? Except Spectre doesn’t follow the route from Mendes’ previous effort, but takes a Quantum leap and stumbles massively because of it.
Like Craig’s weakest entry in his stint as Bond, Spectre tries to link his previous adventures together and hinders the current one by doing so. As a result, the story and the characters that wander round in it are bogged down and shamefully wasted. Monica Bellucci takes a role that could be played by anyone and Dave Batista’s Mr. Hinx whilst having undeniable presence is the age-old silent strongman that could be so much more. The biggest offence though, lies with Christoph Waltz as the bad guy shrouded in secrecy.
If Skyfall got Silva, Spectre’s big bad is definitely getting the bronze. Filling the shoes of the typical Bond villain and delivering nowhere near what we know he’s capable of, Oberhauser is a character that has so much potential built around him and fails to work with it. The back and forth between hero and villain is just like any other we’ve seen before, even with the revelations that come with them. He poses no threat and therefore no interest in a relationship that should be bursting with it.
That being said, there are still moments in Spectre that stop it from sitting in line with Craig’s earlier botched Bond, but only just. He keeps the ship steady reprising the role he’s now mastered, and gets a strong femme fatale to work opposite with Lea Seydoux. The set pieces like the aforementioned opening and a flight down a mountain side bring the intended bang for your buck, and the scrap between Bond with Mr. Hinx is definitely sent From Russia With Love.
However, these are all entries on the checklist that should come naturally, it’s the braver elements Mendes tries to manage that he can’t quite succeed in. Ultimately Spectre isn’t Skyfall’s superior but another lesson that Quantum of Solace already learned; James Bond doesn’t need a backstory. He is and always will be a man of mystery, perhaps it’s better he stays that way.