Thoughts About Skyfall (2012)


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.

4 thoughts on “Thoughts About Skyfall (2012)

  1. And Christian Bale is no Adam West either, I'd call this an improvement. I haven't seen the old Bonds recently, but I can still tell you what SPECTRE stands for.

    Skyfall might not be the best, but it was the best looking in my opinion, from a cinematography standpoint.
    My recent post New Tumblr

    1. Oh sure, it's a beautiful movie, but I'm not one of those people who love eye-candy at the cost of good story-telling. I liked Skyfall, it just doesn't have that "Bond" feel to it, any more than the prequels had that "Star Wars" feel. There was a time when Bond was it's own genre, nobody did it like Bond did, today, it seems like they're trying to remake Bond into other genres in search of more money. If they can't do it right, I wish they'd stop doing it at all.

  2. Hi, Cephus

    Basically, I concur with your assesment of the Craig Bonds. They are good to excellent movies (yes, even Quantum Of Solace) but it´s clear that they lack some of the classic, fundamental Bond pizzazz of yesteryear. There is definitely a Bourne influence to them that seems to me to be pandering to the masse audience and, at the same time, is demeaning to Bond as a character. In the past, Bond has change somewhat to be in keep with the times (changes in terms of the sociopolitical look of the series and the attitudes of Bond to women and the world at large). This fact is specially evident in the Timothy Dalton ( a favorite of mine) and Pierce Brosnan era, but always keeping the sense of fun and "over-the-top-ness" that made these movies so damn awesome to watch. Having said that, it's also true to me, that THE best version of Bond was the Connery one and that version was mostly serious in tone (immortal quips notwistanding). So in that regard, I see the Craig Bonds as a legitimate back to basics both to the Connery era as well to the literary Bond of Ian fleming. The basic problem of this modern aproach is the already mentioned loss of pizzazz. There was an irrefutable sense of fun in the wildly improbable adventures ( not to mention the gadgets) of this secret agent and the schemes of his enemies. And that is notoriously lacking in these new movies.

    I was a fan of the Moore Bonds since those were the ones I grown up with. However, I came to realise that these are the ones that had aged the worst (script and plot wise) in the whole canon (I believe Im not alone in this view). And I see the Moore era as the least faithful to the character. They were tremendous fun, though. On the other hand, the Craig ones are utterly serious. Much more so than the Connery ones and a distinct departure in terms of tone with the rest of the series. And this fact is a problem because the lack of a more playful tone to balance the grit, hurts the essense of what this films are all about: having escapist fun.

    There is a distintive lack of balance right now between this two poles which – I think – are the perfect mixture for a Bond film. The Brosnan Bonds achieve this quite successfully. Lets hope the next two adventures with Craig bring some balance in that regard.

    1. I definitely agree with you. It struck me, reading this, that the Craig movies are pretty downright depressing when you think about it. I mean other than the thing with Vespa, which was honestly a bit silly, he meets her and immediately falls in love and they run away together, but she's screwing him over and the only reason she's in the movie is to die and drive Bond into depression, there isn't a whole lot of positive messages in the last three movies. All of the victories are bittersweet. Yes, Bond kills the bad guy, but M dies as well. That's something I've disliked about the Judi Dench M as well, she absolutely hates Bond. No matter what he does, no matter how many things he does right, she detests his guts. Heck, in Skyfall, he fails all of his tests, meaning he's unfit for service and she sends him out anyhow, probably to his death. He's gotten more beat up under her tenure than at almost any other time I can remember in the 50 year series. This isn't Bond. I'm sorry, it's just not. It's…

      Bourne. Jason Bourne…

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