On the occasion of big-screen Bond, James Bond’s 50th anniversary, I have been contemplating martinis. Granted, there’s a chance I’d ponder them without any prompting. But were you to count the nods in numerous magazine features to 007’s famous request that his be”shaken, not stirred,”you’d know I am hardly alone. One could chalk this up to the odd and frenzied nature of anniversaries, especially of the pop-culture variety. They nudge us to take milestones seriously if for no other reason (one sometimes fears) than the sense everyone else seems to be taking them so durn seriously.
The question is where does the heart of this feat reside? Is it solely with the character former British naval intelligence officer Ian Fleming dreamed up gazing out at the Caribbean from the Jamaican house he christened Goldeneye? Or does it speak to our continuing tussle with the era that created the famous superspy?
The trouble with movie franchises and reboots is they often muddy the cultural story. Sure, they can remain escapist vehicles of fantasy, of the wish not to be chained to a time. But too unmoored from their peculiar historical moment, they can become stories about stories, post-modern studies in the business of movie making: yawns about how Hollywood is drained of original ideas, about the ways studios love exhausting the golden goose. Thankfully every once in a while someone breathes fresh, vital life into a known property. Christopher Nolan’s “Dark Knight” comes to mind.
I have been a huge Bond fan for as long as I can remember, I have seen all the films multiple times. With the latest one, Skyfall, Bond is starting to make his way back to his roots but only just slightly.
The plot revolves around a stolen list of MI6 agents that the agency is trying to retrieve while at the same time M’s dubious past is catching up with her in dangerous ways. Bond goes from London to Turkey to Shanghai to Scotland with a fair bit of chases and action on the way. M takes a very prominent role in this one and James Bond’s character, including his flaws and background, are explored much more deeply than ever before.
But is this what we really want from a James Bond film?
The key issue for me as a long time Bond fan is his style, the formula of Bond. Up until Die Another Day (included) the Bond films had a very uniform style of lighthearted escapism with all the little tweaks that make Bond Bond included. However once Daniel Craig took off with Casino Royale (and what continues into Skyfall) is a Jason Bourne/Mission Impossible style relatively generic action-thriller with some Bond elements thrown in. Bond had a formula that worked very well, there was nothing wrong with it. It is supposed to be a little lighthearted, a little shallow, chauvinistic, stylish escapist entertainment. You went to see a Bond film because it was fun, it was so detached from everyday life and every guy wanted to be like Bond. Now however they have gone down the route of making a very “dark” Bond film, here a lot of attention is on the characters and their problems and and the plot line which has usually been of Bond trying to save the world in some way is utterly secondary in Skyfall. However I as a true Bond fan want to see him in a plot driven save-the-world type of mission, I am not interested in a dark character drama that is close to being indistinguishable from any generic thriller.
That is the biggest flaw of this film: it is ignoring a formula that works so well and instead tries to be something new….but that new is just copying Jason Bourne and other similar films. Skyfall, as it is released 50 years after the first Bond film, is rich in references to the older films which are a delight for a Bond fan to watch out for but they really are more a depressing reminder of “the good old days” and stand as a stark contrast to the cold empty shell that Bond has become today. Particularly the female element, such a key aspect of all previous Bond films, is very toned down and it seems that M is more the Bond girl in this film than any other girl.
However to finish on a high note, the film had a very nice ending from the standpoint of a Bond fan, a hint of things to come which seem to be going back closer to what Bond used to be and should always be.
The film itself isn’t bad, its a very interesting thriller. Its only that it isn’t very strong as a Bond film but from the way things were heading in Skyfall, it seems that the next Bond film should be a bit closer to what Bond should be.
SKYFALL Official Soundtracks
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