“Spectre” plays exactly how any Bond fan would expect it to. Director Sam Mendes (“Skyfall”) fabricates a picture-perfect copy of nearly any other new Bond film. The lovable hero (Daniel Craig, “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”) finds himself surrounded by a huge criminal organization known as Spectre, which is composed of past antagonists. Bond sets out to destroy it by cutting off its head — the intriguingly evil Oberhauser (Christoph Waltz, “Django Unchained”).
“Spectre” is a conglomeration of spy film cliches, encompassing the ludicrous values parodied in “Austin Powers” or “The Pink Panther.” Mendes immediately tosses us an overused taste of classic Bond combined with 21st century blockbuster action in the form of an unnamed girl, a felled building, a lengthy foot race and ridiculous hand-to-hand combat in a helicopter above a crowd of innocent bystanders.
The film hints at a change in direction by straying from the usually strict formula adhered to by previous Bond films, since the 00 branch of MI-6, called “prehistoric,” is threatened with an impending shutdown. Mendes creates big roles for M (Ralph Fiennes, “Harry Potter”), Q (Ben Whishaw, “Paddington”) and Moneypenny (Naomie Harris, “28 Days Later”), who all have even bigger shoes to fill.
These are interesting takes on classic characters, but, as the film progresses, the production’s inherited structure becomes increasingly evident. Like nearly every other Bond plot, the story opens with Bond realizing his mission, then gathering gadgets and an Aston Martin from Q. He sets off to destroy this evil force which is threatening world domination, destroying it with the help of an absurdly attractive woman. This contributes to a film that is painfully predictable. Before every plot point, the viewer, provided he has seen a Bond film before, can easily guess the outcome of the insane situations Craig’s Bond finds himself in.
While Mendes tends to copy many story elements instead of shaping his own story for his two recent Bond films, he does add one new aspect — complex antagonists, undoubtedly drawing inspiration from Joseph Conrad’s Kurtz in his 1899 novel, “Heart of Darkness” (those familiar with “Apocalypse Now” also know this character). Kurtz has huge, yet malicious plans for the people of the jungle. He is noble, yet twisted — a personified contradiction and evocative character.
In “Skyfall,” Javier Bardem (“No Country for Old Men”) logs a spectacular performance as Silva, an extraordinarily evil, yet weirdly alluring foe. Similarly, Christoph Waltz’s Oberhauser is the crowning jewel of “Spectre.” Mendes has a knack for shaping his actors into twisted sculptures of exactly what he intends to convey, and he uses this to transform Waltz, a fantastic actor on his own, into a dark work of art. There is no doubt that Oberhauser is bad, but he attracts audiences with his stinging grin and strangely bouncy demeanor, a creative departure from the typical Bond villain.
“Spectre” is a fun film to see in theaters. Packed full of stereotypical thriller explosions and high-budget car races, the production is decent, but is missing some of the classic Bond moments. Daniel Craig’s pursed lips and hardened action scenes present him as too intense compared to the smooth, campy performances of everybody’s favorite hairy man Sean Connery, Bond’s original movie actor. The series can be compared to Aston Martins: the beautiful 1963 DB4 is far superior to the DB10 Craig pilots, a car simply trying too hard to be “cool.”