As someone who doesn't really care that much for Bond films, I have to say 'Spectre' caught my intrigue very early on through various trailers, posters and the undoubtedly high expectation it had on its shoulders thanks to the success of 2012's 'Skyfall'. Unfortunately, this level of expectation seems to be the films saboteur, trying to recapture the same brooding, dark emotional intensity of 'Skyfall', only to fall short thanks to a thinly stretched, formulaic plot, and a total lack of originality.
The film opens with a stunning chase sequence, shot in Mexico City amongst the backdrop of Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead) with Bond acquiring a ring that sports a very familiar symbol. This kick-starts a chain of events that has Bond flying to obscure locations around the world for a brief amount of time before heading to the next country to seduce another woman, shoot another mute henchman and acquire one more piece of information that leads him to the organisation known as SPECTRE. Ultimately this all leads to a showdown with the enemy that lurks in the shadows. Sound familiar?
The opening is by far the best to stand out amongst the other Bond films, purely for the striking visuals and bombastic effects. The first shot seemed to be an endless long take that weaved through the monochromatic crowd of the dead; the camera never left Bond's side, and there were moments when you feared for his life, though the film would never allow such a travesty by killing off the lead character in the first fifteen minutes. Such visual scope is accompanied by Thomas Newman's powerful score, conjuring elements of danger, romance and downright swagger at times. However, once the sequence blends into the opening credits, everything falls into an incredible lull. Bond is just seen fleeing from one location to the next, never clearly explaining where he is going or why. The film relies on audience presumption, and knowledge of every Bond film in the Craig era, otherwise many references or quips fly straight over the head.
Craig portrays Bond well, very well in fact, fluctuating between suave and charming, to often downright dangerous. It's just a shame that his character is utterly unlikeable. Acting like a spolit brat, he paves his way by manipulating others in order for a new gadget or a car that he ends up cruising into a river anyway.He's always been a misogynist but to still manipulate a widow into sex for information feels a little...uncomfortable. Speaking of which, Monica Bellucci's role is wasted into what feels like a cameo rather than a fleshed out character, considering her age was the source of much speculation when she was cast. As someone who is more suited to Bond's age, I felt it fitting. The lead Bond girl raises eyebrows for actually defying Bond, choosing her independence and strength rather than fall into the arms of a man that kills. However this is not expanded upon as soon after, Lea Seydoux's Madeline Swan is seen crying into the lap of Bond and declaring her undying love for him. Noticeably eye-rolling rather than a message of feminist empowerment. Moreover the casting of Christoph Waltz turned heads purely for what an outstanding actor he is. Again, it is a shame his character is not fleshed out more or given more screen time. He is utterly captivating as Franz Oberhauser, displaying the appropriate amount of charm blended with an ounce for psychotic thirst, he is both likeable and incredibly dangerous, but given cheap tasteless monologues that bore rather than unnerve, and reuses an old torture scene that can be predicted from a mile off.
There is also a subplot involving the collapse of the 007 programme, thanks to the obnoxiously cocky Max Denbigh (or C) as portrayed by the ever wonderful Adam Scott, though at times it was hard to distinguish Denbigh from the dastardly Moriarty he is best known for. The premise of the sub-plot suggests an ending for Craig's time as Bond, the theme of death and demise being recurrent throughout, and the film's emblem being that of a skull. While a nice idea, it feels a tad predictable and lacks originality whilst being all too familiar with elements of 'Skyfall'. All round nice performances from Ralph Fiennes, Ben Whishaw and Naomi Harris however, rounding up the supporting cast.
Predictable, problematic and often at times a little dull, 'Spectre's breathtaking opening and striking cinematography cannot save the film from falling into the looming shadow that 'Skyfall' hangs over it, whilst lazily attempting to interconnect all of Craig's past three films. Maybe it's time for Bond to hang up his jacket and attempt a life near the coast?