The plot was an unappealing mess of recycled ideas. This film brings us yet another revenge story about someone who shares history with Bond but has since turned evil. That was precisely the plot of the last movie - and rather like the last three Star Trek films, most Batman films, the Superman reboot, this year's Avengers, etc.
Like last time, the stakes are raised by nebulous and non- frightening, yet world threatening (so we are told, but never shown) computer network technology.
The film once again focuses on the question: "are spies still relevant?" I don't find that to be an interesting premise for a Bond film. Why not just assume that the answer is 'yes' and make a fun and smart action movie with a heart? Casino Royale nailed this. If you really must cover the question of whether your main character is relevant, then at least deal with it once and accept the answer! In Skyfall we learned that you still want a man in the field. In this movie, we learn that you still want a man in the field (and, in case anyone was still not getting it, poor Ralph Fiennes in his role as a flaccid M spells it out literally).
While I liked both actors involved, I didn't care for the romance - the movie desperately wants to build it up to be something more than an just another Bond girl. That is an admirable idea, but since the result pales in comparison to the stellar romance in Casino Royale, it seems totally unconvincing when Bond sacrifices his entire career for her at the end. Holy moly - Bond settles down? For THIS girl? What an ending to Craig's character arc that started with Vesper's death (so much more meaningful than anything in any of the other Craig Bond films). Bam, all his emotional problems are solved, because he met a hot blonde. "I've got something better to do than all this!" (throws gun away, gets into car with whatshername). Gee, great ending.
All the interesting plot developments from Casino Royale and (and even Quantum of Solace to some extent), such as Bond's emotional state after losing Vesper and the Quantum organization, are chucked out the window. Skyfall discarded Quantum in favor of a good idea (Bond/M son/mother relationship) and a bad one ("is MI6 still relevant?"). Now, Quantum is back... Kinda. This time, it forms no threat at all - you see, it turns out this OTHER organization that THIS movie is about is even moar powerfuller. And it was really this other, super duper evil organization all along. Muahaha!
That is a tiresome plot twist if ever I've seen one. It completely missed the mark for me; it's weak to try and make your own plot look better by retroactively stating that all villains of the previous movies were really just pawns in this guy's game of chess.
And that's not the only aspect of Bond history that is severely diminished by this film. In Skyfall, we learned about Bond's youth, spent with an old Scottish dude named McAngus. I think. And, of course, his relationship with M.
This time, however, it turns out that Bond actually grew up in the Bavarian Alps with a couple of yodeling Germans named Oberhausen. Errr? Am I the only one confused here? (Possibly.)
Bond turns out to have a sort of surrogate brother, who is very blond, very German, and very jealous. Oh and he also happens to be a supervillain, with an enormous army, who somehow managed to stay absolutely hidden for all these years. There is a powerful and compelling reason for his having all these skills and resources: it's convenient for the plot.
And so, all previous Bond movies are reduced to one large scam operation, a plan by an Alpine superhero that makes absolutely no sense, in a failed attempt to give this movie a great villain. Christoph Waltz is a joy to watch, but he is never allowed to be a real threat. The man gets little to work with, as did Javier Bardem in the last one - criminally underused, awesome actors.
The film's tone was confusing. There is one gruesomely violent scene involving eyeballs - I don't enjoy seeing such aggressive violence, although here I seem to be in a vanishingly small minority. Call me old fashioned, but I was always happy that Bond films used polite violence: gentle fist fights until one guy faints, or perhaps someone shoots a gun and somewhere else, far away, someone falls to the floor.
Putting my personal feelings aside, it was jarring to have this scene be followed up by a cartoonish fist fight on a train, after which the eye-ripping guy is yanked out of a train by a rope, but not before realizing his predicament like Wile E. Coyote hanging over the ravine and saying "shit!". Is this a corny spy movie with train fights a la Bond vs Jaws? Where Bond leisurely glides a crashing airplane around for a few minutes and then humorously lands precisely on top of the bad guy's car? Or is it a somber drama about an aging man's career in a time when nobody knows whether spies are still relevant? Or does it want to be a raw, violent gangster film like Goodfellas, reveling in the sight of bad guys proving their credentials by maiming others?
Finally, I found the camera work jarring in many action scenes - shaky cam, etc. This may have been (partly) due to my sitting in the fourth row, though.