Skyfall. Something old. Something new. Something….Bond.
[WARNING: LOTS OF SPOILERS AHEAD. PROCEED AT YOUR OWN RISK]
So, finally, after a long wait I finally watched Skyfall last night. It is one of my personal ‘Most Anticipated Movies 2012’, and expectation went high as I put my ass down in the cinema. For 2.5 hours.
So how was it?
Overall, Skyfall is a satisfying action drama. And I meant ‘drama’. It has explosive opening which stays true to Bond tradition. It was an INSANE chase set in Istanbul – on foot, on car, on motorcycle, on the train, and heck, throw in CAT excavator as well (Was that an excavator?). Great jaw-dropping opening.
Opening sequence is also something Bond fans look forward to. It is also the moment for the theme song. I have to say Skyfall has the weirdest animated sequence in the franchise. Except for the usual female figures and big guns, it feels ‘not Bond’ enough. It is not to say that I don’t like, it just feels ‘different’. Adele’s “Skyfall” theme song on the other hand, feels VERY Bond, to the point some might say as ‘predictable’ and ‘safe’ (I personally love Casino Royale’s kick-ass rock “You Know My Name” by Chris Cornell. It was fresh!). But overall I still like the theme song, way much better than that horrendous cacophony of Quantum Solace.
Daniel Craig’s version of Bond was obviously set to push the definition of ‘Bond movie’, we know this right from Casino Royale. But Skyfall pushes this even further in terms of…..gadget. Fundamentalist Bond fans must have gone pale when they realize that Bond was given pretty much…..NOTHING. Except for Walther PPK with fingerprint ID (which is already an OLD concept, mind you), Bond was only given a homing radio. With the fresh from kindergarten looking new Q, you know the scriptwriters really want to mess you head (“You expect exploding pen? We don’t do that stuff anymore….”). Bond fanatics be damned.
Now the villain. Oh, I am IN LOVE. Javier Bardem plays this ambigously gay/bisexual villain who speaks in such mild manner, and seemingly shows contempt towards ‘physical violence’. Afterall, he is a hacker geek and he would rather wreak havoc with “point and click”. BUT somehow you just feel that something is totally damaged inside him, and that he is not your usual feminine computer nerd you can bully around.
Again, the villain is where the Bond movies’ stereotypes are challenged. There is no high-tech villainous hideout, just a barren deserted Spartan island. There is no intimidating structure, or defense systems. Just a number of computer terminals, serves, and laid-bare wires. But personally I love it. Exactly because it looks so timid and spartan it strikes even more fear. Terror and death is now not about who has the bigger guns. It is about who has a genius evil brain, a couple of PCs, and internet connection. That’s it.
Having said that, one cannot help comparing Silva the villain with Joker from The Dark Knight. The plot of letting oneself be captured is surely very close to The Dark Knight.
Also contrary to typical Bond archstories, the villain does not seem to be interested in world domination. His ambition is personal. And vengeful. With total resolve. Which gives Bond a deeper motive than just ‘a mission for England’. It becomes Bond’s personal mission too – for his life, and his own world.
After the explosive opening, the story picked up slower pace for its first half, yet not TOO slow that it lost its grip on me (unlike The Dark Knight Rises when I actually asked ‘when was this gonna be over…’). But second half started to get intense, and I held my breath a couple of times, until the emotional finale.
50 years of James Bond. What does ‘Skyfall’ mean?
The James Bond realm sits together with many other great movie franchises that stand the test of time, like Star Wars, Star Trek, Mission Impossible, etc. And great franchises like these create fandom, and zealous fans. Naturally, one cannot help overanalyzing ‘subtle’ cues, Easter Eggs, hidden messages in the movie. As if the movie makers are trying to tell a secret message to the audience. And I am one of those suckers who feel compelled to look for one.
I see Skyfall as more than just the ‘latest Bond movie’. I see it as an important milestone of DANIEL CRAIG’S Bond. We have to remember that the series was sort of ‘rebooted’ in Casino Royale. In Casino Royale Bond just got his Double-O status. He was crude, raw, and he didn’t even appreciate fine Vodka Martini! (remember the hilarious dialogue: “Shaken or stirred? Do I look like I give a damn?”) But in Skyfall, Bond shows appreciation for the ‘perfect Vodka Martini’, shaken, not stirred (although there was the blasphemous Heineken drinking scene. Oh well, sponsorship).
Daniel Craig’s Bond has received many protests from Bond purists and fundamentalists, and the movie makers surely realize that. I believe Skyfall there are in-movie humor about it. The fact that Bond received almost NO gadget in the beginning was redeemed by the vintage original-Bond Aston Martin (and there’s the joke. The most impressive Bond arsenal in the movie still comes from machine-gun installed VINTAGE Aston Martin).
More importantly, I don’t know whether I am fantasizing this, but I think the hidden message of Skyfall is: “Don’t worry, the old James Bond you knew is coming back”. Bond is now back to vodka martini. Bond gets Moneypenny as M’s assistant (although this time Moneypenny kicks ass). And Bond gets a new, male M. I even wonder if the choice of Scotland as the final stage is part of the message (Sean Connery is a Scot). It feels like the reincarnation is finally complete. And we will see a new Bond incarnate that stays faithful to Bond ‘religion’.
Yet despite the complete recycle of Bond, something new comes in. Gone is the silly nifty little gadget that explodes and shoots lasers. Bond is becoming more reliant on his wits and physical prowesness, and perhaps, teamwork! (Moneypenny and Q give significant help to Bond along the way). James Bond now has a history, has parents who died when he was little (which again strike resemblance with Bruce Wayne?). His orphan status was probably the reason why Judy Dench’s M is more than a boss to him. She was like his mother. And Bond shed a tear upon her passing away. It was a very rare heartfelt display of emotion from the double-O agent with license to kill.
Daniel Craig’s is finally becoming ‘James Bond’ we all have known and cherished for the last 50 years. And James Bond has become…. human.
PS: I may be just overanalyzing things and end up completely wrong 😀