Cert 12A | ★★☆☆☆
There’s an old episode of The Simpsons where a Bond parody escapes death using an improbable device. It’s funny because we recognise its ridiculousness, having seen it played out countless times in the classic pre-scowly Daniel Craig days. It’s less funny when it happens in director Sam Mendes’ Spectre; one scene in which Bond escapes torture is intended to show him at his weakest but instead ends up drawing the film’s biggest laugh.
There’s nothing wrong with a funny Bond; in four outings as 007 we’ve come to appreciate the little bulldog smile that appears on Craig’s face as he blows up another helicopter or parachutes into a busy street as if that’s how everyone travels around Rome these days.
Spectre’s predecessor, Skyfall, reflected in a knowing way on things like Bond’s dry sense of humour, themes that have been developed over more than 50 years. Spectre, on the other hand, spits out Bond tropes one after the other like a big budget version of The Generation Game – the lovely car, the lovely (but deadly) watch, the lovely (but possibly deadly) European lady, even the lovely white cat (deadliness unconfirmed). It makes the whole thing feel slightly cheap.
It’s partially redeemed by a cast who are allowed to have some fun with the characters they’ve inhabited in previous 007 adventures. Ralph Fiennes’ M is the highlight, removed from the desk he seemed surgically attached to in Skyfall and let loose on London, where he shouts about protecting the Queen and tussles with Andrew Scott’s brilliantly slimy newcomer C. Unfortunately Ben Wishaw’s excellent Q is once again underused, forced into a series of failed attempts to make banging on a keyboard look cool.
The biggest let-down is the main event, which should have been a showdown between Craig and Christoph Waltz’ mysterious Franz Oberhauser, but fizzles out without the kind of sexually charged one-on-one Bond has with Skyfall’s Silva (Javier Bardem). At one point Oberhauser shows Bond and his lady-sidekick (Léa Seydoux) around his bad-guy lair with the same level of interest as a Foxtons agent on a Friday afternoon.
Ultimately Mendes and co are seemingly content to tick off the necessary requirements for a Bond film. Instead of being the exciting climax to Craig’s 007 run, Spectre ends up feeling deflated and obvious.