No Time to Die

No Time to Die ★★½

I'm very much a casual when it comes to James Bond. I've seen a lot of them and haven't seen a lot more. I'm interested enough that every once in a while I get the idea that I want to do a full James Bond review from Dr. No to the present, but that interest is never strong enough to overcome that reluctance I get when I actually consider how many hours that will entail. So I come and go as I please, and mostly appreciate the familiar tropes. I tend to remember the title sequences, henchmen, or villain lairs, but quickly forget what actually happens.

That's all prelude to say that No Time to Die is fine. I guess it's pretty good, and it will satisfy a lot of people. The problem I had with it is that it demands an investment in the franchise that I am just not able to give. I enjoyed a lot of its elements along the way, but as it barreled into its final act, I felt that the film wanted me to feel a lot feels but my cold dead heart just wouldn't respond. It builds toward an emotional climax, but I just didn't care. So, while I liked a lot of it, I left the movie feeling pretty alienated by the experience.

I've always regarded the series as one in which the continuity doesn't matter. When I'm watching Octopussy, I'm vaguely aware that this character is the same guy from Goldfinger, but I never have to think about how the events from Goldfinger impact how he approaches the events in any later film. I don't even have to have watched Goldfinger. James Bond is more of a personality than he is an individual. As such, I personally have a comfort level with this series as one without growth, just kind of a rinse-and-repeat spy movie formula.

I get the sense now that the Daniel Craig series was meant to be different in that regard, but I hadn't gotten that memo earlier. Sure, I saw Spectre once, six years ago. I had no clue it would show up on the final. So there was a lot of references to the past and I couldn't figure out if this was just general back-story or stuff I had forgotten from earlier in the series. In terms of plot, that didn't bother me so much, I was able to follow the story. The problem for me was when it started to delve into the final act of a character arc, and I was just left uninvested. I'm not saying that this makes it a bad movie--I'm sure fans of the franchise would get a lot more out of it. But this is why I didn't really it.