Monday, March 11, 2013

Skyfall: Boyhood Bond

Skyfall - 2012

Bond: Daniel Craig
Directed by: Sam Mendes
Produced by: Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli 
Theme: "Skyfall" performed by Adele, written by Adele and Paul Epworth

If you're wanting a Daniel Craig Bond movie to harken back to the good old campy days of yore, then you're in for a disappointment. Still, with Craig's third spin at 007, the producers wanted to step back a little from the uber-serious realism of the Casino Royale/Quantum of Solace duo. The resulting movie does a great job of harkening back to the good old days without losing its modern realistic take.

In the end Skyfall accomplishes something bordering on genius, which is perhaps why it's grossed over $1 billion. It makes Craig's three movies feel like a prequel trilogy. It ends in a very familiar satisfying place that leaves us the viewer in a very unique position. On the one hand, we know what's going to happen next. On the other hand, because it's a reboot, we don't know anything that's going to happen next. It's a wonderful mix of comforting familiar and excited anticipation. My only advice to the producers would be the advice Mallory gives to Bond in Skyfall: Don't cock it up.

(Stop here if you're looking to avoid spoilers...)

Javier Bardem makes a brilliant villain, even if he is playing the Bond-Universe version of The Joker. Okay, not quite. He's not only making chaos for chaos's sake. He has a specific personal motif, but he's nicely unstable and uses a tried and true method of modern-day villains: he gets himself caught on purpose. Still, it manages to feel unique because Bond does the same thing, giving us our first Bond homosexual flirtation scene and the brilliant line "What makes you think this is my first time?"

In many ways, the closest thing to a Bond girl in the film is M. No, Bond does not seduce her. He gets his seduction on with the doomed Sévérine played by Bérénice Marlohe whose death is one of the most tragic in the series. It's also implied that he gets it on with Eve (Naomi Harris) who of course is revealed to be Miss Monneypenny at the end of the film. A friend of mine thought it was terrible that they allowed Monneypenny and Bond consummate their attraction. I liked that all of their sexual tension from here on out can be grounded in personal history. If you don't like either option, you can choose to believe they never did it, as we never saw anything more than foreplay.

But no, M fills the role of the woman he's protecting through the film's climax. Daniel Craig's Bond and Judi Dench's M have always had a much more personal relationship than any previous Bond/M combo, and it's quite enjoyable to watch. I especially liked how after Bond's numerous trips to her personal abodes, she gets to visit his boyhood home at the end of the film. Watching them fight side-by-side is unique and oddly heartwarming.

There are many other things I would be remiss in not mentioning, like how wonderful it was to see the old Goldfinger Aston Martin, how nice it was to see Bond's boyhood home and then see it so fabulously destroyed, and of course Adele's Oscar and Grammy winning theme song. It's also worth noting that the producers originally thought about approaching Sean Connery to play Kincade (Albert Finney) but decided against it because it would have been too distracting because goddamn would it have been too distracting. (Although it's amusing to imagine Connery uttering the line "Welcome to Scotland.")

Personal Rankings:  It's very tempting to rank this above the Cansino Royale / Quantum of Solace duo, but it owes too much to those films to rank above them in its own right. 
  1. Goldfinger
  2. From Russia With Love
  3. Casino Royale / Quantum of Solace*
  4. Skyfall
  5. The Spy Who Loved Me
  6. Live and Let Die
  7. You Only Live Twice
  8. Tomorrow Never Dies
  9. GoldenEye
  10. The Living Daylights
  11. For Your Eyes Only
  12. The World Is Not Enough
  13. Dr. No
  14. Octopussy
  15. Diamonds Are Forever
  16. A View to a Kill
  17. License to Kill
  18. Thunderball
  19. Die Another Day
  20. The Man with the Golden Gun
  21. Moonraker

* Quantum of Solace would rank #9 individually, but when seen in conjunction with Casino Royale, sits along with it as one long movie.

2012 Context

President: Barack Obama
Queen: Elizabeth II

The world does not end.

Best Picture Nominees:

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In 1789, the governor of Australia granted land and some animals to James Ruse in an experiment to see how long it would take him to support himself. Within 15 months he had become self sufficient. The area is still known as Experiment Farm. This is my Experiment Farm to see how long it will take me to support myself by writing.