As anyone who has read this blog for any length of time knows, I don’t go to the theater. Ever. The last movie I saw in a theater was the original Transformers in 2005. I see no point in paying an absurd amount of money to sit in a crowded theater with sticky floors and kids kicking the back of your seat to see a movie that I can just wait a couple of months, pay 1/3 the price for, and enjoy in the privacy of my own home. I can imagine no movie that could ever be made that would get me into a theater, but that does put me behind the curve, I don’t get to see movies until most other people have already seen them. Therefore, this isn’t really a review of Skyfall, it’s a look at what has become of the Bond films over the years.
Knowing that the new Bond film was coming though, my wife and I did a marathon, watching the entire Bond discography in order, including all of the non-canon films like the Peter Sellers’ Casino Royale. If it’s Bond, we’ve seen it. We’ve seen Bond documentaries. Heck, we even saw the James Bond special on Top Gear. There isn’t much about Bond that we haven’t sat through in just the last couple of months.
This brings me to Skyfall. Lots of people have been acting like this is the best Bond film ever. Unfortunately, it’s just not. Oh, it’s a really good movie alright, I’d just argue that it, like all of the Daniel Craig films, just aren’t James Bond.
The problem is, they’ve recast Bond in the same vein as the Jason Bourne movies. If you go back to the first Bond films, James Bond is a super-spy with access to all the latest and greatest gadgets, he was suave and debonair, all the women wanted him, all of the men wanted to be him, etc. That was the archetype of James Bond and I think that it was best carried off by Sean Connery. However, the one common concept that carried through all of the first Bond films was that Bond was the main character but the stories were never about Bond. They were about stopping the nefarious schemes of people like Auric Goldfinger, Francisco Scaramanga and Ernst Blofeld and the agents of SPECTRE. The series grew up in the age of the Cold War where people wanted to believe that there were super secret agents out there working to keep the world safe for democracy.
I guess that went out of style though because in the new Bond films, particularly the Daniel Craig films, the movies aren’t about what Bond does, but about Bond himself. All of the last three movies have focused on who Bond is, what Bond wants and Bond’s background, with a healthy amount of attention given to his relationship with M. The dangers in these movies are smaller, not world domination, but either silly schemes in small countries or, most often, aimed directly at Bond and MI6 itself. The thing is, I’ve found that I really don’t give a damn about James Bond. I don’t care about his background, I don’t care who his parents were, I don’t care where he grew up, I care about the super-spy he’s become, not his motivations for doing so. In that way, he’s very much like Indiana Jones, another character in the same vein. Indy has adventures. Indy goes and does things. If Indy has a romance, as he did in every film, it came as a consequence of the adventure, the adventure did not exist to bring the romance about. In the first Craig Bond film, let’s be honest, the whole point of the adventure was to bring he and Vesper Lynd together, which led to 2 movies of him moping around, until in Skyfall he finally got back to his old bed-hopping self.
The other problem, I think, is that in older films, I think the filmmakers knew that the whole thing was a bit silly so they kept the tone light and spent a good deal of time winking at the audience, letting them know it was okay to just have a good time. The more recent films are far too serious and dark.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying Daniel Craig is bad in the part, he’s an exceptional actor and he really makes these movies as enjoyable as they are, I’m just saying that, no matter what name you stamp on the character, he’s really not playing James Bond.
Craig has already said that he wants to stop being Bond and I can understand that, it’s a very strenuous role and, like iconic characters like Dr. Who, staying in the role too long can harm your acting career because people see you only as that particular character. He is committed to two more films for a total of five and after that, I hope he stops, not because he’s a bad actor, but because I want the Bond franchise to rethink it’s decisions with this particular Bond. As much as these are fun adventure movies, they’re not really any different than the aforementioned Borne films. There’s nothing to set these apart, unlike the Bond of old, where as soon as you heard that distinctive intro music, you knew you were in for a fun ride.
That’s really what I’d like to see them get back to. Bring back the real James Bond.