Have you ever sat in a worship service, and even though you're familiar with the order and the minister's style, still, you're hoping for something extraordinary, a little magic? And if it doesn't happen, do you find yourself a little disappointed, even if your experience wasn't really negative?
That's what happens to old James Bond fans in the 2015 version, “Spectre.” Daniel Craig reprises his role as 007 on Her Majesty's espionage wing, MI6. His boss is still M (Ralph Fiennes), though here he has his hands full with internal office strife. His “Quartermaster,” the genius in the workshop who comes up with latest innovative toys, is still Q (Ben Whishaw, who looks every bit the genius nerd). We still enjoy seeing the ever-helpful Moneypenny (Naomie Harris), M's administrative assistant, smooth things over back at the office, because, well, James is so charming to her. We still have the dapper but mean-spirited bad guy, Oberhauser (Christoph Waltz), who's trying to take over the world, or at least its surveillance capabilities, which may be the same thing. And yes, of course we have the female eye candy, both the bad girl, Lucia (Monica Belluci), and the good girl, Madeleine (Lea Seydoux), both of whom fall for the suave and sophisticated secret agent (though the good girl holds out longer). “Spectre” is such an homage to previous Bond movies that Oberhauser even pets a white Persian cat, and the opening credits follow the style of previous offerings. We have the obligatory chase scenes, harrowing escapes, hand-to-hand combat, and sudden explosions. All the formula pieces are in place. So what's missing?
Surprises. Nothing happens that we don't already expect to happen. And, as we already know, Daniel Craig doesn't offer nearly the charm of a Sean Connery in his prime, nor does he do tongue-in-cheek self-parody very well. He's more of a bulldog kind of special agent; an assasin with almost no heart, and little allegiance other than to the Queen, who's not supposed to know what he's doing on her behalf, anyway. He's just not very much fun, which makes us wonder why Madeleine succumbs to his advances, other than she's grateful that he saved her life. But at the end she decides that she can't accept his way of life; their parting is even less passionate than their coupling.
Yes, we have the exotic locations, though Mexico City in the midst of a Dia de los Muertos celebration looks much more animated than Rome on a cloudy day. The Tunisia excursion is downright desolate. The bad guy body count piles up, but it's mostly bloodless, just like this episode of James Bond. Like the homage vodka martini, it's shaken, but not stirred; somehow the ingredients are all there but it just doesn't jell.