Like many others, I went to see the new Bond film Skyfall this weekend. In spite of several intense, exciting and well crafted action sequences, my wife and I left the theater feeling very apathetic about the film overall.
|This is not James Bond|
After much thought, I realized that the films tone was similar to those bleak, emotionless cold war spy movies with healthy doses of Dark Knight Rises added for good measure. Now, don’t’ get me wrong. I like Batman. I like films like The IPCRESS File. The thing is, this is James Bond and Bond isn’t Harry Palmer nor is he a Nolan’esque Bruce Wayne even though many wish it were so. Bond doesn’t sit in a van parked up the street and listen to a bugged apartment. Bond gets pushed out of planes without a parachute. Bond drives submarine cars. Bond fly’s a mini copter called Little Nelly. Yes, it’s true that the franchise had become more like Austin Powers during the Moore years than Austin Powers. This excess was reigned in to a certain extent with the release of the first film of the Brosnan era, Goldeneye. However, the Brosnan films slowly started veering closer and closer to Moore territory by the time of the release of Brosnan’s final, critically panned Bond film, Die Another Day.
|This is not James Bond|
|THIS is James Bond. Any questions?|
As Bond, Craig was much more emotionally raw and intense than any actor to play the role prior to him and there was a clear nod to Matt Damon’s stoic, laser focused Jason Bourne. But Damon also gave Bourne a quiet sense of humor. Craig’s Bond was similar in that regard. While he was basically more of a “blunt instrument”, Craig also had Bond’s sly wit and cold hearted sense of humor. Bond had been needing a facelift for a few years. Casino Royale and Craig seemed to fill the bill. It was a nice hybrid of Bourne and Bond but overall was still mostly Bond.
|Matt Damon as Jason Bourne|
|Daniel Craig as Bond in "Skyfall"|
Quantum of Solace gives us none of that. We learn more about Quantum as Bond exposes a few members as he works his way up the ladder to the villainous Mr. Green. However, Mr. Green is just another member of Quantum, not its leader. At the end, Bond takes his revenge on Mr. Green for the death of Vesper but there are still many unanswered questions about Quantum and just how deeply they have infiltrated MI6. I was hoping that we would have some of these questions resolved when the third part of the Bond trilogy came out. Four years and one studio bankruptcy later, the Bond machine started up again and just in time for Bond’s 50th anniversary we got Skyfall. Yes! Finally! I was going to see the conclusion to the Vesper/Quantum story arc!
Or so I thought.
|Javier Bardem as Raoul Silva in "Skyfall"|
|Naomie Harris as Moneypenny|
|Ben Wishaw as Q|
|Berenice Marlohe as Severine in "Skyfall"|
|Ralph Fiennes as Mallory in "Skyfall"|
Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t hate this film. I don’t hate any Bond film. I’m a Bond fan, always have been, always will be. Bond films have been a huge part of my life as a film buff and reader of comic books. I like some more than others but ultimately I like something about all of them. Even the bad ones. Because at their worst, Bond movies have a fun, cinematic history, a lot of heart (some beating stronger than others), beautiful women, exotic locales, at least one spectacular stunt sequence (in this case a breathtaking chase atop of a moving train) and hopefully, a memorable villain. There’s a long history of iconic actors or actors who have played iconic characters taking the role of Bond villain. The ones that come to mind first are Christopher “Dracula” Lee in Man With The Golden Gun, Louis Jourdan in Octopussy, Christopher Walken in View To A Kill, Sophie Marceau in World Is Not Enough, Jonathan Pryce in Tomorrow Never Dies, etc. Some have been hit and miss and at times ultra hammy. Bardem joins their ranks as one of the best villains in the Bond series.
|No one does smug like Roger Moore|
In the end, this was a mixed bag. I had high expectations from the plot, expectations of a certain amount of closure regarding the last two films and hopes that we would see the Craig/Bond of Casino Royale. In this regard I was solidly disappointed. But I did get other things such as an engaging femme fatale, a great villain and a few terrific action sequences worthy of the Bond franchise. The bad doesn’t completely overwhelm the good stuff even though it tries real hard. It’s sort of 50/50. It’s not my favorite Bond film and, because of it’s depressing tone, wont be one that I revisit often except to fast forward to the good bits. It is worth seeing if only to see Bardem join the ranks as one of the best villains in Bond history and because...well...it's James Bond!