Skyfall: two perspectives on a 50-year-old franchise

The following review was originally published at: http://alderaanplaces.blogspot.com/2012/11/the-return-of-alderaan-places-and-cloud.html. Adapted and reposted by permission of author.

Before I begin this post, I want to confess something that will make most of you out there in the Internet world cringe. I have not seen any James Bond movie made before 2002’s Die Another Day. I know, I am disgusted with myself as well. I have an absolute appreciation for the character and the understandable legacy that 007 has left. The issue is that there are 19 movies and none of them are on Netflix and the blockbuster near me has closed down. It is an issue that I intend to remedy soon, but for now, we’ll have to accept this fact.

Now that I’ve gotten that off of my chest, let’s move on to talking about the 23rd film in the Eon-produced franchise, Skyfall and 50 years of Bond.

The film opens on Bond being Bond, the one, two punch feel that we got from the intros to Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace continues in  Skyfall. And then, after an intense action sequence, the moment we see in the trailer occurs and James Bond dies. Except not, thank god, because that would be a really short movie. Bond can’t stay dead of course, because an attack on MI6 brings him back into the fold. This of course, after an absolutely beautiful title sequence featuring an amazing theme song by Adele.

Side bar: The music and title sequences for the three Daniel Craig James Bond films have been wonderful, especially after the god awefulness that was Die Another Day. Alright, back to the matter at hand.

The theme of this movie seems to play on the 50th anniversary of Bond and we see many connecting concepts, the main one being that Bond is getting old. He is having trouble being as physical as he once was, a fact that Javier Bardem’s villain, Raoul Silva, brings up to Bond. Will Bond be able to do what he does best? Yeah, probably.

Basically, Skyfall was an absolutely fantastic film, definitely worth the price of the ticket. Sam Mendes took this film and did not disappoint with the product. We get to see some characters return to the franchise that have been absent from the last couple films and of course, there are some fun nods to the fact that Bond has turned 50 (50 year old Macallan anyone?).

Second side bar: Anyone who’s seen this movie and a fan of Doctor Who, would you agree that Ben Whishaw could possibly be a contender for the 13th Doctor? I could see it. (Incidentally, Whishaw was also in the film Cloud Atlas, also currently in theaters). Ok, return to everything.

Another thing I enjoyed from this movie was Albert Finney’s character as Kincade, the game keeper to Bond’s childhood home of Skyfall estate. As great as he was, I can’t watch that role without thinking of Sean Connery (imagine Connery blowing away some bad guys with a sawed off shotgun and then saying “Welcome to Scotland”, GOLD). The idea of Connery’s cameo was thrown around, but Mendes thought it would take audiences out of the story to have the original Bond back as an entirely different character (which I totally understand, but I mean, it would have been great).

The Verdict: Go drop down your two bits as soon as you can. This is a great movie for fans of Bond. It’s great to bring non-Bond fans into the fold. Check it out.

— Ian Hand

 

 

The latest Bond film contains all the elements of its rebooted franchise. It’s full of intense action, assassinations, parkour chase sequences, stunning locations, and it’s darker than traditional Bond films. But in spirit of the superspy’s fiftieth anniversary, the filmmakers returned to several of the series’ previously abandoned roots.

Skyfall is a standalone film. This comes as a welcome break from Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace, the latter of which felt like a disappointing second Act to the clearly superior former. In addition to this, classic characters return, the bad guys have deadly pets, and Bond gets to play with a cool car. But while there are many throwbacks to older Bond films, perhaps too many, Skyfall is not a rehash of the series’ golden days.

The writers put necessary twists on celebrated Bond tropes. For example, Bond is funny again despite his dark environment. Only now, instead of spouting cringe-worthy puns after dispatching bumbling henchmen, the humor is derived from Bond’s cold demeanor and disdainful banter towards other characters. In the same sense, Bond’s villain finally found a good real estate agent.  The bad guy’s lair is cool and sleek, yet realistic. It’s not an underground fortress or inside an active volcano for once. You could say that Skyfall is to Bond as The Dark Knight is to Batman. It explores a lot of new territory.

Bond films have all focused on James Bond doing his job as Agent 007. But who is Bond apart from that? What does James Bond do and feel when he’s no longer James Bond? The film answers that. Skyfall further resonates with Nolan’s Dark Knight series by exploring the limits of what its title character can endure. Bond (Daniel Craig) is no longer in his prime. His physical and mental limits are clearly shown to a bewildered audience early on, and they don’t get better.

The film’s antagonist, cyberterrorist Raoul Silva (Javier Bardem) is in a league of his own. In classic Bond films, the villain would dominate the film’s opening, usually by some “kick the dog” moment where he kills a few random people or blows something up just to show how bad he is. Silva? In the opening shots Silva disposes of Bond and mounts a technological assault on M16 (London’s CIA) so effective that its entire existence is called into question by the nation’s government. This is a lot to accomplish within the first act by a villain whose primary threat is, “I’m going to upload videos to YouTube.” Then again, not even Bond can outgun the World Wide Web.

In the Information Age, the old ways of Bond and M16 are simply overturned. It’s impossible not to think of Silva as an exaggerated WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. What’s more, this classified-now-public information reveals that M16 is not the shining light of justice it is sometimes believed to be, and the otherwise diabolical villain gains a few sympathy points. This adds more depth than any other Bond film has, pointing out that when it comes to international defense, there is no black and white. Just dark gray and lighter gray.

The real core of the film is something that hasn’t been done before. Skyfall explores Bond as a human being. We see his backstory , his relationships, his limits, and we see him deliver more character and emotion than Solace’s “the bad guy killed my girlfriend.” It makes for a great film, something unexpected from a Bond movie, but it can only be done once. One Skyfall is enough. Otherwise the filmmakers are going to turn Bond into something the series never was, and the only lasting connections between it and older films will be the names of characters and the London fog.

The finale is not as good as it deserves to be and a few scenes skimp on realism, but the film’s ultimately engaging and gripping enough that the audience doesn’t care.

–Tyler Jasper

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