Casino Royale rebooted the Bond franchise back in 2006 with a grittier reality, while still staying true to the fantastical over the top action we've come to expect from a Bond movie. 2008 brought us the forgettable Quantum of Solace before the series rebounded with what many fans consider the series best (my personal favorite is Casino Royale), Skyfall in 2012. This year we've been given another Bond film, and it's not quite up to par for this series.
Spectre exists in a post M world (Judy Dench’s character, who died at the end of Skyfall), where Money Penny and Q are now both series regulars. This is a welcome addition, even if what happens with these characters feels cliché. In the film Bond ends up having his badge taken away, and he's forced off the case. He (of course) continues anyway, opting for the Ethan Hunt-Martin Riggs-Arnold Schwarzenegger-Dirty Harry plotline. Both Q and Money Penny end up assisting Bond, despite complaining that doing so puts their careers at risk, following the same cliché pattern found in almost any long running cop or detective series. The film also suffers from a strange insistence on having Bond have sex with almost every woman who appears on screen at the most awkward times, such as after the funeral of a husband, or literally moments after murdering several men together. These scenes add both an unintentional comedy to the film as well as date it with its blatant chauvinism. Now, I do expect over the top violence and machismo in any Bond film, it wouldn’t be an action film without it, but the films so tone deaf in how it handles Bond’s relationship with women you would think the writers have never actually spoken to one.
Now on to the action and set pieces. These are mostly good, or at least serviceable. None of them are really as thrilling as the opening scenes of Casino Royale or the final shoot out at Skyfall ranch in Skyfall, but they’re engaging enough to keep you trotting along with Bond to the next exotic locale. Another thing I found strange in Spectre was how cold Bond’s character felt in this movie. He murders what feels like countless men almost everywhere he goes, while barely batting an eye about it, and refers to himself as an assassin, as do other characters. Up until this movie I had always thought of Bond as a secret agent, not an assassin. Seems a strange choice given the heroic status Bond has in movie culture. I find it harder to root for an assassin who is not represented as an anti-hero, the way Jean Reno was in The Professional. It just feels like poor writing, and comes off as lazy, and confusing story telling on screen.
Overall, despite the movie’s many faults, I would still rate it better than the snooze fest that was Quantum of Solace, but put it far below Casino Royale and Skyfall. If you're going to see it, I'd wait for Redbox or Netflix