Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Review: Skyfall

I’m not sure it’s supposed to be this difficult to see and then write about a film the way it has been for me to do with Skyfall, but finally after what felt like months upon months I have seen the latest James Bond flick and I’ve made it to my laptop to talk about it.

As mentioned Skyfall is the lasted Bond film starring Daniel Craig. It’s his third movie after the awesome Casino Royale and the less than awesome Quantum of Solace. The film likely would have come out earlier however MGM, the studio behind the Bind films, went bankrupt in 2010 and with their financial situation dubious at best they opted to delay production on the film. Once everything was sorted it seemed the film would be coming out to coincide with the 50th anniversary of Dr. No, the first 007 film from 1962.

There has been a lot of buzz surrounding this flick but that means little, especially when you just watched the previous two films and are even more nitpicky than you normally might be.

Full review after the jump.

[WARNING: There is at least one outstanding spoiler in this review. Just be careful when reading.]





Can't you just feel that sexual tension?
James Bond (Craig) is on a mission to recover a hard drive full of names of operatives currently undercover in terrorist organizations. Along with his current partner Eve (Naomie Harris) he ends up in a wild chase across Istanbul. He corners the thief but M (Judy Dench) orders Eve to take a sniper shot in order to neutralize the culprit but she misses and hits Bond instead. With 007 missing and presumed dead MI6 attempts to carry on. However a new enemy, one that knows them so well that it can only be one of them, threatens global security when an attack is launched in the heart of London. It’s enough to bring Bond out of hiding but no on seems certain whether he still has what it takes to be an effective operative anymore.

In keeping with the newly formed tradition we’ll first talk about the film’s theme song. Unlike the last two movies this one actually shares its name with the title and is named “Skyfall.” Performed by Adele it completely lacks the Hard Rock style of the previous two theme songs. However, like much of this movie, the song is very reminiscent of classic Bond but with a modern flavor that greatly separates it. This song is beautiful, hauntingly so. It starts out in a way that isn’t very impressive but it has a slow build that, by end of it, becomes an emotional ear worm that stays with you in many different ways. I love this them, more so than the last two surely. I’m not sure I can say it’s the best but I may be willing to throw my vote towards it if it came to that.


I don't know who this "Adele" person is but I'm giving props
Moving on to the movie itself the most important thing to note about Skyfall is that it feels like a reboot. Thematically the whole film comes off like the first in a new series; if you never heard of Casino Royale you would think this was Craig’s first stint as Bond. It DOES NOT continue the story from Quantum of Solace meaning the fate of that organization or that of Mr. White will likely NEVER be answered which is a really lame situation. I assume this is partly due to the large amount of negative feedback the filmmakers got from the sophomore film and they decided to just start from scratch while also keeping the actor that plays Bond.

So what does that mean for the film? A giant tone shift from the last two movies. The brutal, stripped down nature of Casino Royale? The dumbed down action of Quantum of Solace? Also gone. Instead we get a nostalgic picture that pays respects to the classic films. If I recall I said that the previous film suffered because it tried to mix elements of current Bond films with classic Bond films but now I realize that they just didn’t do it well. Because Skyfall nails it. It’s a tribute to some of the most iconic parts of the James Bond Franchise but, like Casino Royale, manages to avoid the campiness and silliness often associated with them. It has gadgets, it has even reestablishes the character “Q”, but it never felt cheesy. In fact it actually felt somewhat refreshing to see some of those older aspects returned.

More of this, please
The plot is pretty dark, easily the darkest of all the films starring Craig, and despite the change in tone its intense and engaging, and at times uncomfortable, all the way through. Unlike Casino Royale the last act is probably the most exciting. The basics of the story revolve around whether or not James Bond is needed anymore or if he can even still get the job done due to his age and slowing skills. It’s a pretty cool thing to talk about in a film series that stars a permanently middle aged man who constantly dates women half his age.

Ahem. Anyway Craig’s Bond is mostly intact from the previous films in that he’s still the stoic badass who doesn’t have time to make too many quips (but still does from time to time and they’re never terribly stupid). He seems more mature, which makes sense if we think of the previous two films as the movies that turn him into the James Bond we know and love. Judy Dench is at her best here as M but that mainly happens because the plot really revolves around here. Dench is one of the best living actors so it’s no surprise that she can handle her character essentially become the secondary lead as opposed to a supporting one. The character was handled so well and with such grace. I don’t want to get into it too much but then the film was over I closed my eyes and nodded at a job well done by the writers. I also enjoyed Naomie Harris as Eve and Ben Whishaw’s Q and look forward to seeing them in future films (And hopefully Eve’s role isn’t as diminished as the film sort of sets up for).

The best thing about his film though has to be the character Raoul Silva played by Javier Bardem. After two villains who were less than inspiring we finally get a bad guy that feels like a proper bad guy. Silva is the most dangerous combination of brilliant, insane and determined. He’s not unlike The Joker in The Dark Knight in this regarded and, just like that film, it’s greatly appreciated. Silva isn’t trying to make money and he’s not trying to buy some damn water; he’s out to settle a personal score and he gives exactly zero shits how much collateral damage he creates. He’s also memorable from his attitude to his clearly unhinged mind to his, ahem, hidden features that we don’t get to see right away. He is a villain that we’ll be talking about both because of the character himself and the terrific performance. He is probably the best Bond villain in decades. 

Pictured: Basically the Joker
Sadly there were a few problems that kept Skyfall from getting a perfect score. The film does at times dip a bit too much into the nostalgic such as the reveal of the classic Aston Martin, complete with ejector seats and guns. It brings up too many weird questions for me. I find it hard to accept that a film that shares continuity with Casino Royale also has an MI6 that had laser firing pens and jet packs in the 60s. Also while Bond is mostly fine he does seem a bit less…I don’t know, “hard” than he did in the did in the last two films. He was a coldhearted killer and was not about sentimentality but here Bond actually shows, *gasp*, concern for a wounded fellow agent? To the point that he wants to risk the mission by helping him? The Bond I’m used to would have just looked him over for something useful then moved on. He also seems oddly hurt by M ordering Eve to shoot him dangerously close to his head (though I suppose in that case it could totally be an ego thing which fits completely in what we know about Bond in this series).

The worst part in the lack of Bond Girl. Well unless you consider M to be the Bond Girl…which I do. But there’s no one in the role that Vesper Lynd and Camille Montes filled previously. Yeah, there was a shit ton of media attention centered around Bérénice Marlohe as the new Bond girl but her character is only relevant to the plot in that she helps Bond meet Silva and also has sex with Bond. Soon after that she [SPOILER ALERT] is killed off even before the halfway point of the film and NEVER MENTIONED AGAIN! She isn’t important to the story in any meaningful way other than to make sure Bond gets laid. She’s Strawberry Fields except she’s French. As I mentioned M seems more like the Bond Girl of this movie since she crucial to the plot and its resolution. Hell, Eve would have made a fine candidate if she had joined Bond in the final showdown at least. Nope!

Really? That car? Okay, whatever guys
Still I have to say that Skyfall is the best film of the Daniel Craig era of Bond movies. It’s very different from Casino Royale and lacks all of the aspects that I loved about that film but it works just as well if not better as a jumpstart for the franchise as a whole. It basically solves all my major problems from both previous films; it’s exciting from beginning to end, it doesn’t talk down to its audience, it has a great villain and t actually has something to say. It’s a great flick and whether you like James Bond or not I’d say there’s at least a decent chance you’ll enjoy this one. 

I give Skyfall 4 out of 5 Adorable Pandas


Pro 

 -Daniel Craig is still awesome as James Bond 

 -The plot is captivating 

-Great villain 

-Great use of the new and the old 

Cons

-All plot threads from the previous movies are ignored 

-Lacks a proper Bond Girl 

-Occasionally dips too far into nostalgia

6 comments:

  1. Whatever throwbacks they attempted, clearly they've been watching too much of the Dark Knight to pull it off. This was not a Bond movie to me. At all. First of all, and most importantly, Bond always wins. In this movie he loses. (SPOILER) The villain kills the target Bond was trying to protect, and even kills the Bond girl right in Bond's face. For some bizarre reason Bond stands and watches the Bond girl get killed, then proceeds to beat up everyone present and take control of the situation. Why he didn't save her is inexcusable.

    Second, the villain is, exactly as you pointed out, the Joker. Plain and simple. Always two steps ahead of Bond. Not once does Bond gain the upper hand or take away the initiative. Very un-Bond like.

    No gadgets? A little smart alek kid who talks big only to get it handed to him? Not even close to Q.

    Change the main character's name to Smith and the movie is fine as an action movie. But as "Bond", this wasn't it. Bring back Goldeneye, the last good Bond movie :-/

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    1. We'll have to agree to disagree on that one. I'm pretty uninterested with most older Bond flicks and I especially found Goldeneye to be pretty dull.

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  2. I agree most of the old ones are only watchable for something akin to research... but Goldeneye dull? lol I found your site looking for reviews for Black Blood Brothers. I read through some of your anime reviews and was going to recommend a few, but our tastes are clearly different ;)

    I'll just suggest one. Hunter x Hunter, but stop at the Greed Island saga. It's all downhill from there. Starts slow, but otherwise great series.

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    1. I'm not sure I can stop watching a show after a certain point and still give it a fair review.

      I saw the first episode of Hunter x Hunter way back in 2003 and wasn't all that moved by it but maybe I can give it another shot. It's kind of long but may still possible to do.

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  3. I didn't even think about this until just now for some reason, but the new, snot-nosed Q in Skyfall made a direct reference to Goldeneye when he said, "What did you expect, 007? Exploding pens?" This was one of the weapons the original Q gave Bond in Goldeneye, had a great scene with it.

    Anyway, another anime you might be interested in is Death Notes.

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  4. It remind me James Bond Movies!!

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