SPECTRE: U.S. reviews keep rolling in

SPECTRE poster

SPECTRE poster

SPECTRE reviews from U.S. film critics roll in ahead of Friday’s “official” opening (regular U.S. showings begin Thursday night).

So, with the movie about to come out here in the States, we present our final review excerpts. The 24th James Bond film has a 67 PERCENT “FRESH” RATING on the Rotten Tomatoes website.

As usual, plot details are being kept out of these excepts, but one man’s careful presentation is another’s thoughtless spoiler.

TONY HICKS, SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS: “(D)espite having the countenance of a wolf about to strike, (Daniel) Craig finally looks like he’s having fun this time — and not in a Roger Moore, self-spoofing kind of way. Director Sam Mendes gives him rein to indulge himself as the womanizing, violent, always-in-action, quip-dropping Bond like never before….one thing is clear: The 007 franchise is in a much better place than when Craig first appeared as Bond in 2006.”

KENNETH TURAN, LOS ANGELES TIMES: “But like a baseball team leaving its starting pitcher in a World Series game too long (no names, please), the folks at Eon went to the well once too often with both Craig (“Spectre” is his fourth Bond) and director Sam Mendes, doing his second.

“When Craig took on the role in 2006’s ‘Casino Royale,’ his rougher-edged, less-flippant Bond felt like a breath of fresh air, but almost a decade later it’s gone stale. Craig’s expression is so unchanging it might as well be chiseled out of stone, and his emotionally uninvolved performance is similarly lacking in nuance.”

PETER TRAVERS, ROLLING STONE:If there is such a thing as ‘James Bond’s Greatest Hits,’ then Spectre is it. The 25th movie about the British MI6 agent with a license to kill is party time for Bond fans, a fierce, funny, gorgeously produced valentine to the longest-running franchise in movies.

Spectre carries on Craig’s reinvention of Bond, blowing a reported $250 million budget on spectacular action without losing what’s personal. Skyfall director Sam Mendes is back to keep things real, but the plot cooked up by John Logan, Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and Jez Butterworth is a 148-minute minefield of distractions. Ah, but what distractions. Apologies to The Spy Who Loved Me, but the Bond series has never had a more drop-dead dazzler of an opener than this one.”

LAWRENCE TOPPMAN, THE CHARLOTTE OBSERVER: “Daniel Craig debuted in the gripping ‘Casino Royale,’ stumbled through the gibberish of ‘Quantum of Solace,’ then topped himself with the terrific ‘Skyfall.’ Now, in ‘Spectre,’ he presides impassively over 2 1/2 hours of mediocrity. He and almost everyone else seem to be fulfilling an obligation so they can make films they care about.”

JAKE COYLE, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS: “‘Spectre’ is Craig’s fourth Bond movie and his muscular tenure has been defined not just by his full embodiment of the character, but his overall stewardship. His ability to attract top-notch talent, in front and behind the camera, and to imbue the spy series with a seriousness of purpose reads in every frame. His Bond may still sip martinis, but he’s stone-cold sober.”

CHRIS VOGNAR, DALLAS MORNING NEWS:  “Spectre’s quest for seriousness yields mixed results. One big plus: the pedigreed cast, from world-class actors including (Christoph) Waltz and (Ralph) Fiennes to the bit players to the rising French star Léa Seydoux, who still gets saddled with some unfortunate Bond Girl lines.

One big demerit: the excessive running time. If there’s a reason why a James Bond movie needs to last 148 minutes, Spectre does not provide it. A big, dry narrative lull rests at the movie’s core, which lifts only when Waltz makes his grand entry with about an hour left, purring evil as only he can.”

UPDATE: The New York Times, the leading U.S. newspaper, had not published a SPECTRE review as of Wednesday night. As it turns out, the newspaper had a Nov. 4 Times Talks event in New York, where you had to buy tickets to attend, featuring Daniel Craig and Sam Mendes. It began at 7 p.m. New York Times and was webcast while it was underway.

Here are some tweets the newspaper sent out from the event:

SPECTRE: Here come the North American reviews

SPECTRE promotional art

SPECTRE promotional art

After press showings over the past several days, North American film critics are weighing in on SPECTRE.

The 24th James Bond film, as of Tuesday afternoon, has a 65 PERCENT “FRESH” RATING on the Rotten Tomatoes website. Reviews of this side of the Atlantic Ocean are mixed, with some writers lavishing praise and others not being impressed.

What follows are excerpts. We’re keeping out plot points but the usual warning applies: Viewers who are spoiler squeamish should probably avoid until they’ve seen the movie.

RICHARD ROEPER, CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: “This is the 24th Bond film and it ranks solidly in the middle of the all-time rankings, which means it’s still a slick, beautifully photographed, action-packed, international thriller with a number of wonderfully, ludicrously entertaining set pieces, a sprinkling of dry wit, myriad gorgeous women and a classic psycho-villain who is clearly out of his mind but seems to like it that way.

“(Daniel) Craig is on point as Bond. He’s maybe the least refined version of 007, seemingly more comfortable when his suit is covered with soot and dried blood, relishing hand-to-hand combat, kissing women with almost violent passion. Even when he’s wearing a white dinner jacket, it’s as if he’s hoping a thug will barge in and grab him by the throat, just to jump start the night.”

BRUCE KIRKLAND, TORONTO SUN: “Spectre is spectacular. If this new James Bond thriller really is the exclamation mark on the Daniel Craig era as 007, he goes out with an adrenaline rush of action, insight, drama, pathos, brutality, humility, humanity and even the occasional whisper of mischievous comedy.

“The beauty of this Bond movie — which instantly leaps into my Top 10 of all time, and will probably make it into the top three when I digest its true impact — is that it does all the Bondian things we expect so extremely well.”

SCOTT MENDELSON, FORBES.COM: “Poorly mixing nostalgia and newfangled “it’s all connected!” franchise world-building, the stitched-together Spectre will bore the living daylights out of you while threatening to render James Bond a culturally irrelevant relic of the past.

Spectre qualifies as a textbook example of “Be careful what you wish for!” For those longtime fans who have wanted to see something of a return to the broader and campier films that defined the Roger Moore era of the 007 franchise or those who wished to see the 007 franchise adapt to the new world of explicitly continuity-driven franchise filmmaking, well, you got what you wanted. ”

STEPHEN WHITTY, NEWARK STAR-LEDGER: “So what’s left for Bond?

“Well, judging by ‘Spectre,’ to get back to a few basics, and indulge in a fun bit of nostalgia. It’s not the best Bond you’ve ever seen, but on a scale of 1 to 10, it’s a solid 008.

“Although it includes fistfights, gun battles and chases by foot, car, plane and helicopter, there’s nothing flagrantly unbelievable here. The jokiness is toned down, and the grown-up elegance – mostly courtesy of a guest appearance by Monica Bellucci – is heightened.”

STEPHANIE ZACHAREK, VILLAGE VOICE: (I)n the end, Spectre is just too much of a good thing. Though each scene is carefully wrought, there’s little grace, majesty, or romance in the way the pieces are connected. The whole is bumpy and inelegant — entertaining for sure, but hard to love. It’s easy to see how all this aggressive splendor could fall flat: Both Mendes and Craig have said in interviews that they were nervous about being able to top the over-the-topness of 2012’s rich, resonant Skyfall.”

MICHAEL PHILLIPS, CHICAGO TRIBUNE: “‘Spectre’ cost nearly $300 million to make, and I suppose it was worth it. It’s a good Bond movie, which will be good enough for many millions of fans. It’s also the longest Bond movie in existence, clocking in at just under 2 1/2 decadent, carefree, flamboyantly destructive hours.

“Of the Daniel Craig 007s, director Sam Mendes’ follow-up to ‘Skyfall’ is not quite up to ‘Skyfall’ or my favorite, ‘Casino Royale.’ But it’s a considerably better evil-quelling instruction manual than ‘Quantum of Solace,’ a movie Craig himself admitted went before the cameras in rough shape, racing against time and the most frightening of cinematic adversaries: a writers strike.”

(UPDATE): PETE HAMMOND, DEADLINE: HOLLYWOOD:Spectre is no Skyfall, but it will have to do. At a cost of about $250 million and at nearly two and a half hours, this outing does feel a little tired. But maybe that really doesn’t matter a whole lot because for Bond fans we just can’t wait for these movies, and this one is definitely stylish and intense enough to deliver all the required action — and then some. I just wish Craig’s Bond had more of the wit of past Bonds and a little more of the sophistication.”

SPECTRE reviews: 2nd weekend edition

SPECTRE teaser image

SPECTRE teaser image

Some additional SPECTRE reviews were published toward the end of last week. So here are some more review excerpts.

U.S. reviews will start appearing in the next few days, ahead of the official Nov. 6 opening. For the moment, the 24th James Bond film has a 77 percent rating at the ROTTEN TOMATOES WEBSITE.

The newest excerpts follow. We’ve tried to keep plot details out but the spoiler adverse may want to avoid anyway.

GREGORY WAKEMAN, CINEMA BLEND: “At the top of Spectre’s crowning achievements is Daniel Craig, who with his fourth outing as 007 gives the most complete, beguiling yet still complex portrayal of the spy yet. Those of you looking for proof that the average-sized, blonde-haired and blue-eyed Daniel Craig is genuinely the definitive Bond will now forever be able to present Spectre as the definitive piece of evidence. Those of you who are still doubtful probably need to question all of your previous life decisions.”

RYAN GILBEY, NEW STATESMAN: “Should Craig play Bond again, he could scarcely push his minimalism any further. He is pared down to samurai essentials: striding and scowling, he is frugal even in violence, never throwing two punches where one will do. …But then the emphasis in Craig’s four outings has been on the psychological. Sam Mendes is not the only director to have been called back for multiple assignments in the (Craig era of the) series but he may be the first to have nurtured a theme over consecutive films. Skyfall was essentially a dysfunctional family drama where M betrayed one of her former spies (or sons). In Spectre there is more domestic scar tissue…. It’s a support group waiting to happen.”

DAVID LEIGH, THE JAMES BOND DOSSIER: “To cut a long story short, I enjoyed it a lot…Visually it is a joy to behold.

“However, while SPECTRE works well on a number of levels, it also fails on others. Although it contains some classic Bond elements, it is not a classic Bond movie. The screenplay appears to have been written around the action scenes and there is a sense of frantic racing from one set piece action scene to another.

“I did truly enjoy SPECTRE and can’t wait to see it again…However, it isn’t the kind of Bond film I want from EON Productions.

“And I still feel they have never made a classic James Bond film that wasn’t based closely on an Ian Fleming novel.”

ROB CARNEVALE, INDIE LONDON: “Daniel Craig’s fourth outing as 007 may just be the most complete Bond movie yet. Spectacular, stylish, dark but still amusing, Spectre is a thrilling entry that combines the best of Bond movies old and new.

“Returning director Sam Mendes has taken the best elements of the flawed but entertaining Skyfall and created a follow-up that delivers almost two and a half hours of show-stopping action and genuinely satisfying intrigue.”

DEBORAH ROSS, THE SPECTATOR: Spectre is the 24th film in the Bond franchise, the fourth starring Daniel Craig, the second directed by Sam Mendes, and the first at not much of anything. Nothing new to report, in other words. It probably delivers what the die-hard fans want, but it is not like Casino Royale or Skyfall (no one talks about Quantum of Solace, by the way, because it’s assumed everyone involved was drunk) as it doesn’t deliver to those of us who never liked Bond, but then discovered that we did. Where has Bond’s interior landscape gone? Where is his woundedness? Where is the emotional heft? Who might we actually care about here?”

LIAM DUNN, POPOPTIQ: “Enjoyment of Spectre really is a matter of perspective. A love of classic Bond and of Craig’s portrayal of the character will service audiences well here, but any hopes of a more fulfilling thematic experience will be dashed. Bond has come through the crucible of the 21st Century and has emerged as a more streamlined version of his older self. It’s great to see Craig finally having a bit of fun and the series playing to its strengths (gone are the woeful double entendres). Of course, like all Bond films it is overlong and perhaps suffers from one set piece too many, but if this is Craig’s swan song he should be happy to go out on this one. Mendes too has set the bar for whoever follows him, crafting what could possibly be the modern Bond film’s Goldfinger by installing the template that will be followed going forward. Not to say that Spectre is on par with that film, but it does finally put a lot of the elements in place that are quintessentially Bond; it’s brash, bombastic, silly and thoroughly entertaining.”

Excerpts from early SPECTRE reviews

SPECTRE poster

SPECTRE poster

The initial wave of SPECTRE reviews, by critics who attended a Wednesday press showing in the U.K., are being posted. Reaction is mostly positive (some reviews overwhelmingly so) while some reviews express reservations.

What follows are some excerpts from a sampling of those reviews.

We’ve tried to keep out spoilers, but for some almost anything is a spoiler. So if you’re really spoiler adverse, stop reading now.

OLIVER LYTTELTON, THE PLAYLIST: “The Daniel Craig era of Bond movies has been something of a mixed bag so far. …(I)t would be nice to report that (director Sam Mendes’ ) second movie in the franchise, “Spectre,” will please both the hardcore and the more casual fan. Unfortunately, the new film, the 24th in the long-running series, feels more like a successor to ‘Quantum (of Solace),’ or to one of the ropier Roger Moore films, than to its Oscar-winning predecessor.”

“As with “Skyfall,” Mendes (and writers John Logan, Neil Purvis and Robert Wade, here joined by “Edge Of Tomorrow” and “Black Mass” co-writer Jez Butterworth) are pushing forward a more serialized, backstory-heavy Bond for the modern super-franchise era, while also paying homage to classic 007 entries.”

PETER BRADSHAW, THE GUARDIAN: “If nothing else, the spelling of the title should tip you off that this is a thoroughly English movie franchise. Bond is back and Daniel Craig is back in a terrifically exciting, spectacular, almost operatically delirious 007 adventure – endorsing intelligence work as old-fashioned derring-do and incidentally taking a stoutly pro-Snowden line against the creepy voyeur surveillance that undermines the rights of a free individual. It’s pure action mayhem with a real sense of style.”

BRIAN VINER, DAILY MAIL:  “Does it warrant all the hype, the secrecy, the breathless anticipation? Indubitably, yes.

“From the exhilarating pre-credits sequence, against the backdrop of the Day of the Dead festival in Mexico City, to a spectacular denouement…Spectre is a proper joyride of a James Bond film.

“It features everything (with the exception of a really memorable theme song) that most of us hope for in a 007 picture: great gadgets, stunts, and a handful of laugh-out loud one-liners.”

“It is a pleasure, too, to find Bond back in control of his own destiny. As good as Skyfall was, it was disconcerting to see him quite so vulnerable.”

DAVID EDWARDS, THE MIRROR: “Mean, moody and mad as hell, this is a Bond we haven’t seen since the days of Sean Connery, with director Sam Mendes returning the superspy to his brutal roots.

“Forget the campiness of the past, 007 is the suited-and-booted menace originally envisioned by creator Ian Fleming.

“And while you can’t help cheering as he takes on the sinister criminal organisation, Spectre, with the single-mindedness of an Exocet missile, he remains someone you really wouldn’t want to meet for a Martini.”

GEOFFREY MCCNAB, THE INDEPENDENT: “Thankfully, as an action movie, Spectre is every bit the equal of its predecessor, Skyfall. For at least half its running time, this is as good as Bond gets – a rip-roaring and very stylishly made thriller with tremendous production values.

“The hitch is that, in its latter stages, Spectre struggles to reconcile its own internal contradictions. The filmmakers want to have it both ways: to provide slick entertainment while also giving us new insight into Bond’s emotions and into his past. This leads to some strange contortions.”