Please note that this review is based on my initial feelings, having only seen the movie a few hours ago from when I wrote this. Opinion is subject to change.
It should be noted for the sake of full disclosure that I went into this movie with tempered expectations. Early trailers had me excited of course, but early reviews were… mixed, and that is putting it kindly. The nicest comments from the number of small-time critics I follow on social media would often include the phrase “At least it’s better than Quantum of Solace.” On the opposite end of that, MovieBob, he of the epic Pixels takedown that went viral after that disaster (of a) film came out compared it to Star Trek Into Darkness. Ouch.
So, I have now seen the movie. What do I think? Well, let’s get the bad out of the way first.
1. That theme song sucks. No sense in sugar coating it, this is my first real exposure to Best New Artist Grammy Winner Sam Smith, and I’m left wondering why he won that Grammy. I mean beating Iggy Azalea is one thing (has she gone away yet?), but Bastille? He beat Bastille?! The lyrics are fine, and the melody, while nothing spectacular successfully evoke the feel of a James Bond film. I just wish they had a singer who was, what’s the word I’m looking for here? Ah yes, good. I bet Florence Welch could’ve killed it. Or maybe even Lana Del Ray.
2. Pacing; there’s a small chunk of the film, in the second half (let’s just say it involves a train) that drags a little bit. It’s not too long, and it picks up really fast when David Bautista’s character makes a rather loud reappearance in the film. Speaking of Bautista, he leaves quite an impression for a guy who has literally one word of dialogue in the whole movie. In the future, if he doesn’t get put next to the likes of Jaws and Odd-Job for iconic Bond film henchmen, I will be disappointed.
3. There’s also a thing with Lea Seydoux’s character (Dr. Swan) that didn’t sit quite right with me, but I can’t into detail there without spoilage. Lea herself was fine though for the most part, though I do agree with some critics who wished she’d had more depth.
4. Blofeld’s motivation. Okay, okay, he didn’t do everything he did because of The Reason, The Reason was just what set him on his path towards creating SPECTRE, but still… Jealous of his foster brother? Really? If you’ve seen the film you know what I’m referring to.
All that said, let’s get into the good.
For starters, Daniel Craig is still great as Bond. It’s been argued by some critics that his performance was a sign that he has grown tired of playing the character, and that may well be true, but without going into spoiler territory, there is a pretty clear hint throughout the film that Bond himself is actually getting tired of his life. If Craig really does want out, the filmmakers made a wise choice in incorporating that into the story rather than trying to hide it. Granted, that’s just supposition on my part. If not though, Craig is an even better actor than we thought, because I could believe that this Bond was a guy just six inches shy of going “Screw you guys, I’m going home.”
The supporting players get more to do. We see the new Q going into the field at one point, and I think for the first time we actually see M fighting a bad guy on screen, and actually taking one out as well. Moneypenny actually does a little less here than in Skyfall, but she still helps the main hero considerably.
As for the social commentary about the national security state, I don’t think I can say too much without spoiling a pretty big reveal, but I don’t think it would be a stretch to say that Edward Snowden would approve of Bond, M, Q, and Moneypenny’s actions in the final act.
The pre-theme song sequence in Mexico is fantastic and exciting, as is a nicely done car chase through Rome later in the film. Such action set pieces are a Bond film staple and this film does not disappoint on that front. Also kudos for showing an actual Mexican city and not treating the country as if it never left the 1800s. We see actual skyscrapers and everything, like they have in Mexico City.
It’s a great looking film, but it’s a Sam Mendes picture. Good or bad, his films are always visually striking. I’ve known that ever since I saw American Beauty in theaters almost 16 years ago (gods I feel old now).
Then there were the callbacks to the previous Daniel Craig Bond films. Some critics did not care for those, but I rather liked how these four films were tied together. I also liked some of the nods to Bond eras past, including the appearance of a certain type of cat. 😉
Blofeld. Christoph Waltz was fantastic as the film’s main antagonist. Motives aside, he plays the role excellently, selling the character’s intelligence and ruthlessness. And there were certain mannerisms he had that… Okay, please tell I’m not the only one who thought this after watching the movie; if JMS ever gets his Babylon 5 reboot project off the ground, who else besides me thinks Waltz would be PERFECT for Bester? Just me? Please tell it’s not just me.
I also want to add how much better the women in this film are treated compared to past Bond films. Not that that’s a super high bar, and frankly I don’t think the series could be as misogynistic as it was during the Connery era if it tried, but still.
In conclusion, is it as good as Skyfall? No. Is it better than Quantum of Solace? Yes. Is it as good or better than Casino Royale? I’ll have to get back to you on that one. But if you liked the other Daniel Craig Bond films, even a little, you’ll enjoy this one. And the opening title sequence isn’t terrible; it’s just not served well by the crappy theme song. Just a heads up though, there are bits of the title sequences that may remind you of tentacle hentai, though I doubt that was intentional on the filmmaker’s part. Or at least I hope it was.
[Thanks again to Brian for writing an EXCELLENT review! Rest assured that we here at TG2 Studios are most grateful for his contributions on behalf of the TG Geeks Webcast and website! Brian can be found on Twitter as Social Justice Skald – @arkle