So I can’t say I loved Skyfall, don’t get me wrong I didn’t think it was terrible either. However regardless of its pitfalls Skyfall does promise a brighter future for the Bond franchise. By making clear steps to return to the old school of the Sean Connery-era Bond, the male fantasy character for austere post-war times.
Since the rebirth of 007 in 1995 (Goldeneye) the franchise failed to cope with the fall of communism thereby losing MI6’s best-of-enemies in the form of the KGB, fighting constantly to prevent crazed villains from manipulating Cold War superpowers into World War 3, for their personal gains. Instead with the exception of Goldeneye, Bond has failed terribly to make a good film, instead giving us a slew of poorly considered action flicks, ranging from the ‘what the fuck! awful’ Die another Day to the second Daniel Craig one, you know the one, it happened I think we all saw it but it was so incredibly boring and nothingy (give it a year or two it’ll be a word) Quantum of Solace, you know the one that feels like a dream you’re not 100% sure happened or not.
Basically Bond, like many British institutions have over the past two decades (ahem M&S), has had an Identity crisis. And finally I think Sam Mendes has shown us the way out. Skyfall was not just a continuation of the brand, but the killing and burial of everything wrong with what the character had become, symbolised by the death of Judi Dench’s M (actually one of the few good parts of the last 17 years). The film makes constant, in my opinion a few too many, references to old versus new throughout the film, from the gadgets to the characters, with ‘old’ prevailing at almost every turn. It feels pretty clear by the time we are (formally) introduced to Moneypenny and the new M and his office, a replica of the original office from the 60s hatstand and all, that Mendes has brought bond full circle, back to the old and away from the new. Back to stunning images of exotic places (it may be Scotland, but Glencoe is stunning), and vehicles that remain visible AT ALL TIMES! (excuse me).
One of the things i liked most about this film was its little nerdy references to films gone by, the aston rolling through the mountains, M’s office, the storage lock-up with the DB5 in the exact location Sean Connery crashed it in Goldfinger, stolling through casinos in tuxedos and an elaborate villains lair, definitely a lot of the correct boxes have been ticked here, but still much is amiss, like a general lack of tension, suspense or crescendo.
Since Daniel Craig joined the party in Casino Royale, he has always lived in the shadows of genre changing action films, first Borne and secondly Christopher Nolan’s Batman, both portraying realims in the fantasy genre, both in how they’ve been filmed, with a minimal use of CGI, and also their obedience to the laws of physics and contemporary science (ok a few exceptions in Batman, but lets be honest he dresses as a bat). the past three bond films have clearly tried to take notes from these films, and have fallen into the trap at times of being a little too similar. GQ USA’s review:
wrongly compares Skyfall’s Bond to Bourne. In reality Mendes’ incarnation walks the same path as Bruce Wayne. Silva, played brilliantly by Havier Bardem who has an all too convincing ability to play sinister is, lets be honest, a mix of Nolan’s Joker and Bane, without the Jokers presence and theatrics or Banes physical presence.
Lets look at the similarities: Silva, a physically and mentally scared man who wears garish suits with wiry bleached hair and at times assumes the disguise of a policeman (Joker much?). Has been trained by the same people as bond, MI6, and then turned bad who hides in an inception-esque crumbling island (League of shadows? Bane? anyone?). I’m not a conspiracy theorist, and the Bane links may be coincidence as ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ and Skyfall were both in production at the same time more or less. Also the story of the hero doing battle against himself is not a new one and it also, in this case, lends it self to the overall picture of new Bond Vs. old Bond as I mentioned before. But they are hard to ignore, Christopher Nolan has spoken before about his desire to direct Bond, of course being busy with Batman he wasn’t available, and so it seems instead they found his biggest fan to do it instead. I’m not saying the similarities are a bad thing, in terms of the story it works very well, but why make a film like Christopher Nolan, when you can have Christopher Nolan make the film?
So in conclusion did I like it? I dont know, I’m still torn, and for that I’m sorry. In many ways as a 007 fan it makes me happy someone has apologised for seventeen years of mindless drivel. I’m also happy that this promises more films in the future like the ones we grew up with and loved. On the other had I wish it was more exciting, I wish I felt more engaged with the story. The problem is this wasn’t so much Bond saving the world, this was Bond saving himself.