I agree that to the extent Vice worked better, it was down to style (courtesy Mr Mann). Not just the fashions, but also the cinematography, editing and use of contemporary music were all novel and creative for the time. The stories may or may not have been compelling or clever, but that’s more easily decided looking back decades later; at the time it was visually dazzling and innovative, appealing to the audience’s eternal quest for something “new and different.” (Though once that novelty wore off, they largely moved on).
LTK, for me, lacks that element of creativity and innovation, at least in terms of visual style. It looks like another John Glen movie, only with a third of the budget, right down to Bond’s off-the -rack suits from K-Mart.
In fairness, though, I was fairly engrossed in the story first time around, though I knew something was missing. I finally figured it out when Sanchez learns Bond is a British agent and says, “I knew it. You have class.” At the time I thought, “Based on WHAT, exactly?” Sanchez was not seeing Bond at anything like his best. Yes, he met him when Bond was wearing a tux, but so were others in the casino, and Bond’s didn’t even fit that well (and he topped it off with the kookiest coiff in the history of hair gel). I could only figure Sanchez had watched the previous film. (Logically, though, why would anyone think “British spy = Classy” unless they live a world where theaters show Bond films, which I would assume Sanchez does not?)
I should also note that my wife really liked LTK for the same reason it left me ambivalent: it didn’t feel like a Bond film. Even at the time, I realized it was an effort to reposition Bond for a new audience, and as a result I was willing to cut it some slack. It would have been interesting to see where the series might have gone had this entry met with more success. As it was, the lukewarm box office and subsequent (though unrelated) 6-year hiatus resulted in a retreat to formula, on steroids.