But Quantum of Solace is still a great James Bond thrill ride, even as the 22nd film in the series continues to push the 007 franchise in a more adult direction where martinis don't matter and ironic one-liners are as outdated as Moonraker's special effects.
Meanwhile, Daniel Craig continues to humanize the role in such a dramatically different and brutally realistic way that the distance between him and Bonds past has reached the point of no return. Gone are the fantastical life-and-death battles in which Bond emerges with nary a scratch on his body, sporting a tuxedo that remains department-store clean and pressed.
This Bond for the 21st century is scarred physically and emotionally from his almost super-human efforts for country and Queen, and you believe there are layers to his psyche that will continue to define him in the movies to come.
Quantum of Solace isn't so much a sequel to Casino Royale as it is a continuation of it, as it picks up quickly after the first film ended with Bond's capture of Mr. White, a member of the uber-secretive Quantum organization.
As Bond races down an Italian mountainside with Mr. White locked in the trunk of his car, he is pursued by nefarious Quantum agents in a dazzling car chase.
Bond gets Mr. White to a hidden location to be interrogated, but Quantum proves itself to be more resourceful and dangerous than Bond or M (Judi Dench) anticipated.
And so Bond is off in pursuit of a traitorous agent, and later Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric), the murderous chairman of the eco group Greene Planet, who is also a member of Quantum. Greene is making plans with a Bolivian general to stage a coup d'etat in exchange for barren land. Accompanying Bond through much of the film is Greene's ex, Camille (Olga Kurylenko), who wants to avenge her family's murders by killing the Bolivian general.
There's little chemistry between Craig and Kurylenko, but much of that is by design, as both of their characters are too busy making plans for revenge. (In keeping with the Casino Royale continuity, Bond is still trying to track down the Quantum member responsible for the death of his former lover, Vesper Lynd.)
As the Quantum of Solace plot unfolds, the Quantum organization - rather than an individual - emerges as the latest larger-than-life Bond nemesis. But this isn't a group 007 single-handedly defeats with a cunning scheme in a secret volcanic base; Quantum is much more sophisticated, powerful, and near-omnipresent to be eliminated in such short order. And that's what makes the new James Bond series more effective and engaging than most of the other films in the series. Part of what makes a great movie hero is having an equally great movie villain. First-time Bond director Marc Forster (Monster's Ball, Stranger Than Fiction) is clearly game to exploit that.
But having such an amorphous foe with tentacles stretched worldwide also means the film occasionally is bogged down with the necessary explanatory dialogue and scenes to clue audiences in to its thick plot.
Consider that the price paid to have a signature release of substance and style.
Contact Kirk Baird at firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6734.