Sunday, December 16, 2012


          Probably one of the most interesting things about Skyfall is that, in its 23rd volume (24 if you count the original Casino Royale), the James Bond series has finally succumbed to an overarching theme in action movies (particularly sequels) from the last six or so years.  The protagonist not only has to battle against a mastermind foe and his scores of henchman, but also aging and obsolescence; mirroring the same fear that this kind of movie’s once-core baby boomer demographic is grappling with of late.  The hero is a creaking shell of his former self, held together with gobs of spit and disdain for the establishment.  Gone is the somewhat more youthful tallyho mentality, and in its stead we find a “gotta die sometime…” philosophy.  Couple that with an acute techno-fear, and we begin to see a pattern emerge.  The most egregious example of this is Live Free or Die Hard; but it can also be found to a lesser extent in Indiana Jones & The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (a work of utter blasphemy), The Dark Knight Rises, The Expendables, and Red to name a few.  The biggest difference between Skyfall taking the plunge and the others is because there were functional reasons for each above and beyond just the plotline.  For some movies, it’s a function of the franchise star himself getting too old to do it and must therefore pass on the mantle in order for the franchise to live on.  In others, it’s because the director and/or star is bowing out of the series, and it allows a more poignant and understandable exit for the whole series as we know it.  And for yet still others, the entire premise surrounds the notion of persons too old or too forgotten to be taken seriously enough.  The thing about James Bond is that the precedent has been set up where a young-ish actor can take over at any point in the series.  It’s possible that Daniel Craig is signed on for ‘x’ number of sequels, but given the history of Connery and Roger Moore, there was no real impetus for explaining away Craig’s craggy and rugged middle-aged appearance.
Murtaugh and Bond: "Too old for this shit"
          And going back to the mention of techno-fear, Skyfall falls prey to a movie cliché as old as personal computers in movies themselves.  The writer (and by extension, the director) view computers and computing language as magic; where symbols, pictures, animation, and other nonsense take the place of actual hacking, programming, and even the foundations of an operating system.  This reviewer isn’t sure if it is that the people creating the movie are tech-retarded, or if they just think the moviegoing public is too daft to take cues from the dialog about what’s happening on a screen.  Frankly, this reviewer finds it demeaning in a way that few other tropes in movies can be.  If you’ve seen Hackers and its Technicolor nightmare depiction of what hacking is and does, you then understand the complete break from reality that happens on computer monitors in Skyfall.
Computers... as seen through the eyes of Hollywood
          One last strange move by this film, and the reviewer should note, SPOILERS are in yon paragraph… this movie makes a lot of unnecessary moves to sew up canon.  A longtime debate amongst Bond movie fans was whether or not each actor portraying James Bond was in fact portraying the same person.  That is to say that there is a theory floating around that the name ‘James Bond’ is a code name just as ‘007’ is… and that Connery, Moore, Craig, etc. are actually playing different men who all happen to be code name ‘James Bond’.  Skyfall diminishes that theory (but doesn’t entirely extinguish it); we know that Daniel Craig’s real name is James Bond.  What we don’t know, technically, is if the other actors assume that mantle or they are playing the same guy.
          But enough of complaints and theory.  Let’s take a look at what actually qualifies Skyfall as a Man Movie.  The fact that this is a James Bond movie automatically confers Honorary Man Movie status.  Some of the Bond movies are pretty horrible.  Some of the pretty horrible Bond movies are pretty damn entertaining; but that doesn’t give all of them an automatic MMG pass.  This one, however, had all the markings of a good action movie on top of the Bond brand and mystique.
Also part of the Bond brand and mystique
          The action sequences in this movie are pretty unrestrained.  The chases have a floaty feel to them that diminish their impact, but the fights and the destruction have a visceral feel to them that more than makes up for everything else.
          Javier Bardem got this reviewer thinking that he should legitimately contend for all the major acting awards as a Bond villain (unprecedented, but warranted).  He managed to encompass everything the character was about:  devious and a slave to obsession, unbalanced and a badass.
          Overall, this title is a very solid movie.  It continues the trend of lacking the hi-tech trappings of previous Bond titles; instead focusing on Bond as an operative more than a novelty-wielding dandy.  Overlooking the play-it-again themes and events of the film, we are presented here with a refined take on the super spy film… directed finally by someone with a gorgeous and artistic eye and sense of pacing.

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