I can't imagine that, being as I'm probably the last person on these forums to see SPECTRE, there's anything to be said about the 24th Bond film that hasn't already been said by one person or another, but I'll give it a shot.
Long story short, I must say that I enjoyed SPECTRE, and much more than I anticipated I would after reading all of reviews and spoilers floating around here the past month. I'm also very much willing to admit that reading all of that probably forced me to significantly lower my expectations for the film, so perhaps that helped, but I walked out of the theater much more satisfied with this outing than I did coming out of Skyfall.
One point of contention I feel like I have to make with regards to what has, at least to me, seemed to be the prevailing wisdom around here with regards to the tone of SPECTRE. Quite a few have painted it as some kind of experiment of bringing Craig's Bond into the Roger Moore universe. Having read quite a few comments that said basically that, I have to admit that I was worried about what kind of film SPECTRE would be. I was thankful to find that it was a mostly serious affair, which a Daniel Craig Bond film should be, as that's where his strengths lie. The comedy, however, was pretty good (for the most part, there were some missteps) this time around, a noticeable improvement from the constant misfires that were spread throughout Skyfall. I thought the "Mickey Mouse" line was probably one of the worst lines to rear its head in a long time in a Bond film, and ditto for the whole "moron" and "careless" exchange towards the end of the film, but by and large I thought the humor was good. Loved Q lowering the platform, thinking he would see 009's Aston Martin and instead finding a chilled bottle of champagne from Bond.
Now, the elephant in the room when you talk about SPECTRE is the "twist" towards the end of the film. Of course, we all know what I'm talking about, but I have to address it. Shockingly, both to whoever is reading this as well as myself, the whole ripoff of Austin Powers in Goldmember didn't bother me as much as I thought it would. Now, that doesn't excuse the stupidity of the plot device. It's stupid, plain and simple. But, they don't dwell on it too much. It really adds nothing to the proceedings, thus making it easy to ignore. Now, it's a shame that the had to include it, as what makes Blofeld an interesting character isn't any kind of relationship between him and Bond. It's that he leads SPECTRE and, later, kills Bond's wife. The whole daddy issue thing is just unnecessary, pointless, or whatever adjective you'd like to pick to criticize it.
Also, rather curiously, Blofeld only appears in something like three scenes in the film. Why, after all of these years and endless legal battles to regain the rights to use SPECTRE and Ernst Stavro Blofeld, do they decide to feature very little of him. I would understand it if they were keeping him a secret like they did in From Russia With Love and Thunderball, but that's all thrown out of the way very quickly once he reveals himself to Bond during the SPECTRE meeting. EON, you've got Blofeld now, if you're going to have a film called SPECTRE, then use your villain, especially when you've hired a two-time Oscar winner to play him.
To move on to the positives of SPECTRE, of which there are several, but first and foremost among them is Lea Seydoux. Before I heap a great deal of praise on her, let me just say that I know what all of the complaints are surrounding her Madeleine Swann character. I would agree with a good deal of them, but in the end, I quite frankly don't care. She's already in the rarefied air of the Bond girls, right up there with my all-time favorite Pam Bouvier. It's true, they don't develop her character well at all, and the ending of the film, as well as her "I love you" to Bond during the torture sequence, are in no way earned by what the army of hack writers put down on the page, but, as i already stated, I don't care. Seydoux is magnificent in this film, upstaging even Daniel Craig. All I can say is that Ms. Seydoux has gained herself a new fan. I'm not sure that SPECTRE turns out anywhere near as good if she's not in the film. In fact, I could easily envision SPECTRE falling completely on its face without her. She's that good. I actually managed to buy Bond leaving the service for her at the end, which I didn't think I would given that they gave the two of them nowhere near the actual character development on the page to justify buying that action at the end of the film, but she was so brilliant that I bought it. Well done, Ms. Seydoux.
Shockingly, I thought that the MI6 team, or at least some of them, were much more tolerable this time around than they were in Skyfall. I actually liked Q this time. Naomie Harris is still woefully miscast as Moneypenny, but thankfully they don't give her much to do this time. It was good to see Fiennes as M. It'll be even better the next time when we, hopefully, see him spend more time behind his desk rather than out in the field helping Bond.
Putting the surveillance issue at the forefront was a good idea, although it could have been done better. The idea of Blofeld getting into bed with the British government, as well as other world governments, to create a global surveillance system is a solid idea, but more attention needed to be paid to the acts of terrorism that he was using to coerce the governments into signing up for his surveillance system.
The action was good, but I can't say that it was spectacular, one of the few areas of SPECTRE that I think comes up short in comparison to the otherwise inferior Skyfall. The opening tracking shot, already talked about in great length around here, was spectacular, especially given the Licence to Kill-vibe that the location was giving off. The rest of the sequence, as others have already pointed out, leaves something to be desired. The actual stunt of doing the 360 flip with the helicopter is great, but it feels underwhelming as presented in the film, much like a lot of the action. The car chase is an absolute dud. Now, I'll admit to not knowing anything about the geography of Rome, but surely they would have encountered more than just the two cars they run into on the streets of the city during this chase. Most of it is just Bond and Hinx drift gliding through the empty streets of one of the world's great cities with absolutely no sense of urgency to what they're doing.
As for Craig, I can't say that this is his best performance as Bond, but I'm not sure how much of the blame for that, if any, I lay at his feet. I think he was at his best in Quantum of Solace, and I do appreciate the humor that he brings to the role here, because there are quite a few good lines that he gets to deliver, but at the end of the day, the script for SPECTRE is a mess. The fact that a good film managed to emerge from it is one of those rare feats of cinema that should be studied for years to come, because John Logan, P&W, and Butterworth manage to give us a 2.5 hour film in which not a whole lot of meaningful action happens. We're introduced to SPECTRE, but they're a rather limp entity, at least in their current form. Logan and company break one of the first rules of writing, which is "show, not tell". They constantly tell us about terrorist attacks that SPECTRE is committing around the globe, but we never see them, apart from a shot of a building on fire on a television somewhere. There was a huge opportunity to really showcase SPECTRE as this big, bad organization that is a force to be reckoned with, but when it's all said and done, I felt that Quantum had ore menace about them than this incarnation of SPECTRE. It seems to only exist because Blofeld hates Bond.
While reading back through this review, it seems as though there are more negatives to point out than positives, but I must say that I did quite enjoy SPECTRE. A lot of the problems with the film come down to the fact that the script was botched at every possible turn, but there is a strange combination of there being quite a few good ideas contained within the mess along with some truly great performances, most notably from the superb Lea Seydoux, to more than make up for it. In a franchise that has quite a few films that one can manage to enjoy despite the fact that many would not seek to deem them of particularly high quality in any kind of objective sense, SPECTRE rises above the average Bond film, somehow, despite its many shortcomings, providing a rather fun trip to the theater, provided you can ignore the awfulness of the Dr. Evil and Mr. Bigglesworth reveal during the torture sequence towards the end of the film.
The end of SPECTRE does present the franchise with a rather unique situation moving forward. Where, exactly, do they go from here? Is Craig done? I do know one thing, as much as I'd love to see You Only Live Twice properly adapted, I'm not sure I'm on board for it anymore, as doing so would require killing off Madeleine Swann. i have no desire to see that. Regardless of what they do, however, hopefully they go back to square one with the writing staff. If a film like SPECTRE, which features a mess of a script that went through four different writers, can turn out as well as it did, imagine what they could do with a good writer on the job from day one. I hope to find out what kind of film that yields when it's all said and done.