'Spectre' references old Bond movies without a fresh spin

( PG-13 ) ( Monitor Movie Guide )

The new movie is actor Daniel Craig's newest turn as James Bond, while actors including Ralph Fiennes and Naomie Harris also reprise their roles as Bond's co-workers.

Daniel Craig is reportedly ready to hang it up as James Bond, and perhaps it’s all for the best. Not that he’s bad in “Spectre,” the 24th installment (depending on how you count them) of the 007 series. It’s just that, like all of his licensed-to-kill actor predecessors, he looks played out as the series plays on. Especially compared with “Skyfall,” Craig’s last outing, the film seems played out as well. Time, I think, for another reboot and another Bond. (My vote is for Idris Elba.)

Sam Mendes directed this reputedly $250 million production, but it’s difficult to determine where all that money went. Mostly what we see are the usual explosions and demolitions and high-speed chases aground and aloft. The locations, including Mexico City (during the Day of the Dead festivities), Rome, Morocco, and the Austrian Alps, are not especially well utilized – they could just as well be CGI backdrops. And too many characters and sequences from previous Bond films, particularly from the Sean Connery/Roger Moore era, are referenced without providing a fresh spin. For example, a punch-out between Bond and a big lug on a train is a dim echo of the Connery-Robert Shaw slugfest in “From Russia With Love.” 

The film’s attempt, after “Skyfall,” to extend Bond’s psychological back story, is sketchy at best. Bond’s killer instincts apparently emanate from an unhappy childhood. Oh. 

His romantic scenes, first with an underworld widow played by Monica Bellucci, and later with the Proustianly named Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux), are neither shaken nor stirring. Ralph Fiennes turns up as M, ditto Ben Whishaw as Q, to minimal effect. The Bond villain – who  wants to take over the world, natch, but in high-tech-style – is played by Christoph Waltz. He can play this part in his sleep but manages to be semi-aroused most of the time. 

Even a subpar James Bond movie is worth seeing because, well, it’s James Bond. But if one of the most successful and long-running franchises in movie history wants to keep pumping, it’s once again time to change the formula. Grade: C+ (Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action and violence, some disturbing images, sensuality and language.)

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