Bond movie shakes but doesn’t stir

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Courtesy Columbia Pictures

In “Spectre,” Daniel Craig plays a James Bond more focused on action than in past movies.

James Bond is one of our culture’s biggest icons, spanning over 50 years of movies, novels and short stories with eight different actors in the titular role. In the most recent Bond film, “Spectre,” the series shows its age and its struggle to bring the aging role of the masculine super spy into the modern world. Typically a figure of male strength and sexuality, James Bond now is part of an increasingly equal world in which the women around him are no longer just damsels in distress and objects of his affection. “Spectre” does a nice job of addressing the issues of the role, but it still struggles to come up with a strong female character and sticks to its old plot points.

Daniel Craig has portrayed James Bond in the last three films over the past nine years. He has publicly commented that he is tired of playing the super spy, something that is clear throughout Spectre. This is most likely his last time playing Bond and maybe the most disappointing. After “Skyfall” and the suffering Bond faced with M’s loss and the return to his childhood home, the stage was set for him to deal with these issues in “Spectre,” but they are not given enough attention.

The movie’s main villain, Oberhauser (Christoph Waltz), is the elusive figure Bond spends most of the movie tracking down but he ends up being a disappointment. There was a lot of potential for this character to have greater depth and interest, especially considering the complexity of “Skyfall’s” villain Silva (Javier Bardem). Yet the plot falls short and is disappointing by the end of the movie.

“Spectre” fulfills its role as an exciting Bond movie with its car chases, helicopter fight scenes and the exotic locales Bond travels to throughout the world. From the opening sequence in Mexico City during a Day of the Dead celebration to a car chase in Rome, the settings and action sequences are typical Bond scenes, filled with gadgets and cars that can do almost anything. The movie also comes with another great song, “The Writing’s on the Wall” performed by Sam Smith. Even with all of these elements going for “Spectre,” it is still disappointing because of its low stakes and the neglected potential to explore the psyche of James Bond.

The Bond girl in this movie, Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux) is not your typical bond girl. She is not a damsel in distress and is hesitant about helping Bond at first. But she still is not given enough material to distinguish herself from the stereotypical role and ends up becoming the love interest of the movie. This love does not feel very significant to Bond because of his lack of emotions towards her and her emotional response to him. What was so refreshing about “Skyfall” was how it dealt with the dangerousness of Bond’s life and the consequences many Bond girls face because of their involvement with him. This movie is a return to the typical role of a female in a Bond movie as the sidekick and love interest.

In the opening credits, scenes from “Skyfall” are briefly shown, suggesting that “Spectre” is about James Bond dealing with his previous losses, yet he barely does this. Instead, the movie focuses on Oberhauser and stopping him. Oberhauser’s motives are disappointing and anti-climactic. Waltz gives a decent performance, but the character does not have much to offer in the first place and is a rather dry and uninteresting Bond villain, even with the character’s connections to 007.

“Spectre” is an entertaining movie cinematically and visually, but falls short of expectations as a follow-up to “Skyfall.” The villain is not as exciting as past Bond villains, and it is disappointing that this is most likely Craig’s final performance as Bond, as he goes out with more of a whimper than a bang.

Title: “Spectre”
Director: Sam Mendes
Release date: Nov. 6, 2015
Rating: ★★★☆☆