A lot of times this happens in a film series. The film following the standout best usually faces the most quibbles. But in a franchise that boasts 24 installments, the juxtaposition of any previous entry should hardly make a difference.
9 years ago, Daniel Craig and the James Bond “estate” embarked on a renaissance of the franchise. It got revitalized and was able to sustain 2 of the best Bond films to date (Skyfall and Casino Royale). But Skyfall is such a good overall film that I think many casual fans forget what a Bond film used to be. And the few that don’t like Skyfall complain that it doesn’t have a Bond feel to it. However, Spectre, which is beat-by-beat as much of a James Bond film as Thunderball, gets criticized for doing just that.
In Spectre, Bond (Craig) tries to uncover a secret organization after receiving strange hints of its existence. He travels to different locations, off the books at the disobedience of his boss, trying to solve this mystery.
Let’s start off with the criticisms here. Exploiting a plot twist isn’t much of an art–although sometimes films overshoot the importance of the twist. But other times the twist is so enormous that it isn’t exploited enough. This is one of those times. Possibly the best twist you can get in a blockbuster action film is merely played off nonchalantly to the audience. We’re into it more than the filmmakers are, and that’s an anticlimactic feeling.
Spectre also lacks the individual tone specific to the film that Skyfall and Casino Royale have. We like to be able to identify each Bond film with its own characteristics, but outside of the underlying theme, there really isn’t one.
That underlying theme I speak of is the social commentary on “big brother”. While it’s ever so relevant to this day and age, it’s also all but overplayed in films. But perhaps the most overlooked topic in this movie is the subliminal allusions of gun violence. The filmmakers are constantly, albeit subtly, pointing out ironic contradictions involving this topic.
I really like what they’re doing here with the macro storyline of the revamped Bond series. It’s moving along nice and slow and unforced–as opposed to the unmemorable and perfunctory subplots of the Avengers series. Gone are the days where we can just watch whatever Bond film in any order we want. Now we have to keep tabs and remember what took place in the previous installments. But these Bond films do it in a way where you don’t have to keep track of too many details and can just relax for the most part.
Spectre may be by-the-numbers as far as Bond films go, but it’s perhaps just what we need following the plot-heavy Skyfall.