I’m not a special fan of the James Bond films, which is to say that I treat them as I would any other film; each on their own merits. I like some films that have happened to be Bond films, and I’ve disliked others. I’m neutral on Bond. I’m Swiss. The Daniel Craig run, though; Christ, what a dreary, joyless, tiring run this has been.
Craig’s Bond films before Skyfall: one gritty realist reboot that stripped the Bond franchise of personality and one critically-derided, writers-strike-afflicted sequel. To give that some context; George Lazenby and Timothy Dalton both have better hit-to-miss ratios than Daniel Craig. Course, I’m probably in a minority with that opinion, but fuck you, this is my website. The majority wants to argue the point, the majority can get its own damn website and do so from there.
As for Skyfall, for about half the film I wasn’t sure what to make of it. On the one hand, it was as gloomy as the last two but Javier Bardem’s mincing, giggling, overpowered and apparently omniscient antagonist seemed like just the sort of pantomime villain the Bond reboot had been trying to move away from. Eventually it dawned on me that the intent of Skyfall was to finish the gritty reboot off, not continue it.
The film goes to some lengths to reestablish itself as part of the Bond series, reintroducing familiar elements and characters; Q, Moneypenny, M’s office, a gadget-packed Aston Martin, a shaken martini, the gun barrel sequence. Almost all of the most iconic and memorable parts of Skyfall were nods to the past, though not all of them worked for me; Ben ‘character vacuum’ Whishaw with the dress sense of a hipster, the lines of a 70-year-old and the computer skills of my mum was deeply unimpressive as Q, and I was unconvinced that field agent Moneypenny would move to secretarial work, but what do I know? Maybe that’s the secret dream of all female field agents.
As for the rest of the film, it felt anonymous. The action sequences could have been filmed in any country, could have been part of any film. There’s a lot of moping, a lot of fretting about being old and redundant; hardly the stuff of a newly-invigorated series. At best, Skyfall is a barely-acceptable summer blockbuster; nicely shot and scored but overall pretty dumb. At worst, it’s a dreary, overblown and maudlin affair that only perks up when the fan-service kicks in, and these moments only remind the viewer how much more fun Bond used to be before everyone had to be so sad all the time.
Effectively Skyfall marks the abandonment of gritty reboot Bond as a modern-day franchise, which is fine. When Judi Dench’s M is undergoing a public inquiry into the activities of MI6, she points out that, while public perception may be that the agency is out of date, the world actually needs them more then ever, that these old school secret agents may be blunt instruments, but necessary ones. Equally, in the real world, we may say that we want a Bond free of the formula of the past, but we don’t, not really. What we really want is a Bond film that feels like a Bond film, but also isn’t total crap. That’s why Skyfall seemed to end on such a positive note; it felt like a statement of intent, that when the next film rolls around, Bond is back, but really back this time.