Skyfall Review

This review contains minor spoilers. Tiny ones, really. Barely worth mentioning.

Skyfall is a better Bond. Better, not best. It’s a huge improvement over Quantum of Solace but not as good as Casino Royale, which really sort of bums me out. Not because I expected a near perfect Bond flick for the second time in three, or even because Skyfall is a bad movie (it isn’t), but because the Daniel Craig reboot seemed like an envelope containing a fake passport and a stack of unmarked bills, letting the series to go anywhere and become anything. Even after QoS, I was looking forward to Skyfall, but it has too many self-referential gags and timeline anomalies to make me confident it’s put Bond back on the right track. And that makes a small, selfish part of me wish it didn’t exist, despite the fact that I really did enjoy it.

I’m waffling, so let me explain. Skyfall is a gorgeous movie — the ways the filmmakers manipulate light and color are astounding. The action sequences are impressive, too. At their best, they balance over-the-top thrills with a real sense of danger, while mostly ignoring the camp and gadgets of past films. Mostly. What worries me is when characters start winking and nudging one another, making snide comments about the previous films’ silliness even as they’re stuffing gadgets into Bond’s coat pockets. Skyfall sometimes seems to be laying the groundwork for a return to that tone, as if the aging series simply doesn’t know what else to do with itself. Is it a continuation of a reboot or a device to bring things full circle? If Skyfall could answer, it would probably say something like, “No, guys, I’m totally still dark and realistic! Now hold this laptop with a laughing skull on it — it got hacked, DUH — so I can trigger my classic car’s ejector seat.”

This is where the timeline gets a bit wobbly. In Casino Royale (based on Fleming’s first Bond novel), Craig is a brazen young agent who’s just making a name for himself. Now, two films later, he’s a spy past his prime in a world that’s debating whether it still needs him, even though technology isn’t that much more advanced than it was in 2006. And, as I said, the characters keep grinning slyly at old Bond tropes, suggesting that somehow all the pre-Craig films happened between Casino Royale and Skyfall. Then Skyfall seemingly ends back where the entire series began. I know I’m probably thinking about it too much, but it disrupted my immersion, dammit. The only way any of it makes sense is if James Bond really is just a code name passed from agent to agent, as that one conspiracy theory suggests. Or maybe he’s a Time Lord.

Oh well. Skyfall didn’t fill me with righteous fury like QoS, so I’m thankful for that. It even touches on some cool ideas and has a few scenes and performances that rank among the best in the series. It’s just disheartening when they get mired in cliches and a confused tone. One scene sticks out in my memory for this: Bond is standing at a bar (of course) talking to a femme fatale (of course) who makes him an offer: She’s going to leave, and her handlers are going to attack him. If he survives, she’ll help him find the bad guy. As she exits, Bond turns to the men and lifts his martini glass in salute before downing its contents. It provides an effective throwback to previous cool Bond moments without seeming forced or breaking the tension. After that buildup, I was expecting a tooth-and-nail fight sequence similar to Casino Royale’s stairwell scene … but no, he smacks one henchman in the face with a briefcase full of money and leaves another to get eaten by a Komodo dragon. It’s the kind of camp I hoped, perhaps foolishly, the series was moving away from.

But I still enjoyed it, because Skyfall is a fun movie. I’m just also mourning the blunt instrument Bond of two films ago, the uncaring super spy who smirks because he’s about to do something clever or skilled, not because someone just made a joke about exploding pens. That’s my biggest problem with several of the previous films: They relied more on cool toys than on a cool character. And while Skyfall doesn’t do exactly that — this review may sound negative, but I nonetheless clamped down on my pee reflex so I wouldn’t miss anything — it made me a bit worried we’re heading back that way.

Featured image: Some rights reserved by Marcos Kontze. You can view the original on here.

2 Responses to “Skyfall Review”
  1. Ben K. says:

    As we’ve discussed, I completely agree. Casino Royale is the ultimate Bond movie for me, and while it didn’t contain a lot of the Bond tropes that made the series so popular, no one can argue it’s “not Bond.” Having read Casino Royale, I think the movie is amazingly loyal to the book’s plot and overall feel. The gadgets and camp are a construction of the movies, so no one can say those “are Bond” and the reboot is “not Bond.” The most anyone can say is what Bond “is” for them.
    Having said that, I also cannot argue that the camp and formulas are part of what made the series popular and the reason the movies are still going. What I can say is that the movie makers of this series need to nail down a style (preferably the one from Casino Royale) and not half-assedly pander to the classic Bond fans. There will be another Bond. We know this. If they want to go back to formula, fine. I’ll be disappointed because (at the risk if making this a Whovian rant) I think of Daniel Craig as “my Bond,” despite growing up with Roger Moore, but I’m willing to let the next Bond be whatever he is. At least I would be if they had let Daniel Craig consistently be the Casino Royale Bond.
    That brings me to the reason I like the “Bond is a codename” theory (and those of you who cry “Moneypenny,” why can’t M’s secretary be something that’s passed down the family line? Why can’t Moneypenny be a codename?): MovieBob says that Bind isn’t so much a character than a “tour guide” through his chaotic world of superspies. He has been, of course, but I see no problem with the movie-makers bringing out more character depth in him, and the Codename Conspiracy allows them to do that with impunity. Arguably it was done before in the Lazenby movie … oh God, I just thought: What if they bring Tracy Bond into the reboot? Things will get a mite confused, methinks. Then again, Skyfall’s references to past Bond tropes, as Scott said, have already served to do that.

    • Scott says:

      Thanks for the well-thought-out comment. I agree, especially with the fact that character development shouldn’t take a backseat just because that’s how it’s always been … because it isn’t. I’ve read Casino Royale too, and your assessment is spot on. And even if it wasn’t the original intent of the character (I seriously doubt it was), someone should put together a detailed timeline of the Bond-as-a-codename theory. If that’s possible.

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