‘Spectre’ takes away Craig’s grit

The James Bond franchise has always been known for its silly and ludicrous villains, its explosive and excessive action sequences and ridiculous plot lines.

However, when the franchise was rebooted with its newest actor, Daniel Craig embodying the role, this formula was thrown out the window for more serious, darker and more personal storylines, peaking with a major death in the previous entry: Skyfall.”

But the franchise seems to be going back to its roots in “Spectre,” and that isn’t a good thing.

The film follows 007 as he deciphers a cryptic message from his past that leads him to a sinister organization known as SPECTRE that seems to have had a bigger tie in his past cases than he even realized.

The plot of Craig’s fourth film tries to tie the three previous ones together with the titular organization and the leader of it, Franz Oberhauser (Christoph Waltz). It feels like a smart connection and it works, but it’s washed out by the ridiculous nature and progression of events in the film.

From the opening action sequence to the big “twist” toward the end of the film, we get the sense that the Bond franchise is returning to the old formula seen time and time again.

The opening events play out like most other Bond films have, in which James chases after a villainous character, gets the information/item he needs and the character he is chasing is killed in some way.

In addition, Bond’s dramatic escape from villainous henchman Mr. Hinx (Dave Bautista) is just like every other car chase in a Bond film: The hero drives his Aston Martin away from the villain but somehow totals the car while doing so.

Almost every plot point and event in the film has been seen numerous times in past Bond movies and almost feels like a tired retread compared to its predecessors.

However, aside from the return to formula, the film is still a stylish, action-packed thrill ride that delivers some great performances and phenomenal direction.

The action sequences in the film are all incredibly shot, the fight scenes are expertly choreographed and the special effects are phenomenal.

Whether it’s James and a villain fighting in a helicopter that is doing barrel rolls over Mexico City’s Day of the Dead celebration or 007 attempting to stop kidnappers by chasing them down in a plane without its wings, director Sam Mendes knows how to shoot these scenes with skill.

The performances are also a major bolster to save “Spectre” from being a complete disappointment, with Craig continuing his strength in the heroic role and Waltz portraying yet another villainous role with power.

The lead actresses in the film continue the recent Bond trend of creating stronger Bond girls versus the damsels in distress, and Léa Seydoux truly encompasses this trend. She never lets herself illustrate the personality of a helpless character, almost always knowing how to get herself out of a dangerous situation.

Overall, “Spectre” has some phenomenal action sequences, stunning direction and great performances from its cast, but unfortunately can’t quite capture the creative genius that was “Skyfall.”