Review: Mixing old with new, ‘Spectre’ brings fun back to the James Bond franchise

SpectreIt’s been three long years since we last saw James Bond saving the day in ‘Skyfall’, a splendid entry into the 53-year-old 007 film franchise. ‘Skyfall’ earned over $1 billion at the box office, and elevated expectations of the 24th Bond movie, ‘Spectre’, which hits U.S. theaters today.

While it may lack some of the emotion of ‘Skyfall’, ‘Spectre’ makes up for it with fun and humor, and it channels the Bond films of old in the process.

In ‘Spectre’, our hero trots the globe (locations this time around include Rome, Austria and Tangier), fighting the good fight against a shadowy criminal organization, as well as the changing intelligence community at home in London. Chases ensue, shootouts take place, and someone gets tortured.

And all of it is shot beautifully and artfully. Truly, ‘Spectre’ is a gorgeous film.

But what really makes ‘Spectre’ work as a whole is the mix of the “old” Bond film elements infused into Daniel Craig’s “new” portrayal of the character.

For many critics and some long-time fans of the series, Craig’s Bond was too cold, intense and serious. In other words, Bond had to compete with Bourne. Long gone were the days of Roger Moore’s eyebrow raising, or Pierce Brosnan’s over-the-top innuendo.

‘Spectre’ doesn’t go to those lengths (thankfully), but Craig proves in it that he can bring humor and fun to his 007 as well. He has spot-on comedic timing when it’s called for, and can deliver a quip just as well as any other Bond (save Sean Connery, perhaps).

Another pleasant and humorous factor is the expanded role of Q, played by Ben Whishaw. He steals nearly every scene he’s in, and his work relationship with 007 is a treat to see on screen.

Much has already been said of ‘Spectre’s’ pre-title sequence which begins with a single, continuous shot of Bond completing an assignment during Mexico City’s Day of the Dead celebration. It’s thrilling and kicks off the film in a way that only a Bond movie can.

Of course, every Bond is forced to meet his match and fight against an ultimate arch enemy. Played by two-time Oscar winner Christoph Waltz, Franz Oberhauser is the baddie here. He definitely exudes the creeping menace that is requisite of Bond villains, but something is missing from his portrayal. Perhaps it’s because he has to follow the tough act that was Javier Bardem’s Silva in ‘Skyfall’.

As any good Bond villain does, Oberhauser enlists the help of a brooding, hulking henchman. Mr. Hinx, played by former pro wrestler Dave Bautista, perfectly fits the bill. His silent intimidation is quite the presence and calls back to the days of Jaws and Oddjob. Bond and Hinx go at it in two of the film’s best scenes: a car chase through Rome and a nasty fistfight aboard a train in North Africa.

Bond Girls are also a standard of the franchise, and ‘Spectre’ features two leading ladies. Monica Bellucci is the first to be charmed by 007, and is in the film far too briefly. Her turn as the widow of an assassin dispatched by Bond is strictly for moving the plot along and really lacked any depth.

The main female character in ‘Spectre’ is Lea Seydoux’s Dr. Madeleine Swann. She has a very intimate connection to the group Bond is investigating, and comes along for the ride. Seydoux and Craig have chemistry, but again, just like Waltz’s Oberhauser, they left me wanting just a little bit more. That said, Seydoux is great in the movie, and she handles the Bond Girl role with class and acting skill.

Without giving anything away, ‘Spectre’ tidily connects all four of Craig’s Bond films together, placing them in one universe. It’s almost like ‘Casino Royale’, ‘Quantum of Solace’, ‘Skyfall’ and ‘Spectre’ are one big Bond movie. ‘Sprectre’ offers a satisfying ending, but very much brings into question whether or not Craig will don the tux again.

If that’s the case and a new 007 will take over for Bond 25, Craig leaves the series on a high note. ‘Spectre’ is beautiful, fun and a very worthy addition to the Bond franchise.

Rating: 9 out of 10

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