Spectre picks up 18 months after Skyfall; MI6 is still recovering from Raul Silva’s attack and M’s death in the previous film. Bond has spent the intervening time tracking down a mysterious assassin who M has ordered him to kill posthumously (via video message received shortly after her death). Once Bond (Daniel Craig) finally tracks down and kills the man in Mexico City, he uncovers evidence that the man is in the employ of a previously unknown organization. Tracking down information on this mysterious group leads Bond to secrets about his own past and encounters with old foes, until eventually their name is revealed: Spectre.
The main problem with Spectre is that the plot is just an absolute mess. Half of it feels like a rehash of many of the concepts that were the focus of Skyfall; the changing nature of espionage and the question of whether men like Bond are still relevant. If this makes you wonder “Wait, weren’t all these themes already addressed and answered in the previous film?” believe me, you’re not the only one. The other half of the film, focusing on the Spectre organization itself, is also a big letdown. Considering how much buildup the group gets (and how, you know, it’s the movie’s freaking title) Spectre hardly does anything. Mostly they just seem to stand around in dark rooms and plot world domination, rather than actually doing anything to dominate the world. I mean, the incarnation of the organization from the Connery movies was silly and campy, but at least we actually saw them carry out their evil plans.
Related to this is another problem. Spectre, and specifically its evil leader Blofeld, claim to be responsible for all the villains and evil plans in the three previous Bond movies starring Daniel Craig: Le Chiffre in Casino Royale, Dominic Greene in Quantum of Solace, and Raul Silva in Skyfall. But similarly to how we don’t see Spectre be very villainous, we never see how they’re actually responsible for any of that stuff. I mean, the movie is 148 minutes long, and they apparently couldn’t spend a single one on any kind of flashback. This makes the Spectre organization, and in turn the entire film, feel like a tacked-on and poorly-planned addition to the series.
And finally, Christoph Waltz hardly gets any screen time in this movie. I mean, he’s the head of Spectre, the original nebulous evil organization, and he doesn’t get to make a grand villainous speech or otherwise be campy, or even be particularly interesting on screen. This would be forgivable if Blofeld had been played by an actor of a lesser caliber. But this is Christoph Waltz, and after his performances in Tarantino’s Django Unchained and Inglourious Basterds, I was expecting truly epic levels of brilliant evilness. But he hardly does anything, other than the obligatory Bond villain stupidity.
None of this is to say the film is completely terrible. It’s still a Bond movie, after all, and is full to brim with awesome and improbable action sequences, including a fight abroad a moving train and one entertaining scene where Bond skis down a mountain using a plane. Ralph Fiennes gives a decent, if not amazing, performance as the new M, and Ben Whishaw’s Q finally gets into the field rather than hacking stuff from headquarters. And French actress Léa Seydoux as new Bond girl Madeline Swann simply oozes sensuality. So if you just go to see Bond movies for the gunfights, explosions, and glamourous women, than this movie is fine. But if you actually like to think about the plot of the movie you’re watching, and especially if you’re a long-time fan of the franchise like me, than you’re going to leave Spectre disappointed. It’s a shame, though I suppose they can’t all be Skyfall.