Confession: I’m sort of kind of maybe a huge 007 fan. I grew up on Bond films, and can have meaningful discussions about the ups and downs of each actor who has portrayed the now-iconic character. I know trivia, and I know some of the history, even if some of the older ones blend together in my head. I watched the majority of the pre-Craig 007 movies with my Dad, though he didn’t care to watch the Brosnan ones (he never cared for them). I suspect he would have liked Craig well enough, though maybe not until the end of Skyfall.
I remember when Casino Royale was announced, and everyone was concerned that there was a blond Bond. The complaint seems petty, now. Craig has been called a great Bond, second only to Sean Connery. This assessment, in my opinion, is absolutely spot on: we don’t have the comedy of Moore or the mediocrity of Dalton. Lazenby is simply forgotten, and Brosnan, while relatively solid, suffered from an awkward era for action films (late 90’s special effects don’t age as campy or interesting, simply as outdated). No need to mention the non-MGM 007 films (both of them).
Casino was well received, and rightly so. By rebooting the series, Craig had a chance to play 007 differently, while still engaging the character we know and love. This move was later used by the Star Trek film, which saw a similar reboot–familiar characters, but each one allowed to be unique. It’s an effective strategy, and it allowed Craig to act next to the shadows of actors before him, rather than directly covered by them. Quantum did well, but I don’t remember as much of a buzz surrounding it. Craig wasn’t at his best, and most preferred Casino, and rightly so. As a friend of mine told me recently, the middle film here was filler.
So when Skyfall was announced, I was excited, but with reservations. If the film was more Quantum and less Casino, it wouldn’t be long before the series felt derivative of Bourne, rather than the other way around.
Skyfall sits squarely in Bond’s history, and the references to an era gone by are everywhere. Bond’s old Aston Martin DB5 makes an appearance, and characters made famous by Connery’s interaction with them return. The prequel nature of Craig’s Bond finally comes full circle at the end of Skyfall.
Some have suggested that this is the strongest Bond yet, and I think there’s some merit to that. While Connery defined the role with a suave sense of style (and even had a film where he only killed one person), the character has shifted (Brosnan holds the record for the most kills in one Bond film), and Craig took 007 in a definite ‘action-hero’ direction. He’s finally feeling like a spy again, in this film, even though the action tinge is still at the forefront. I suspect he’ll actually seem like a spy in the next film.
My friend Nick reviewed the film, and suggests that the end of Skyfall falls flat. In his mind, the narrative drops off, and wastes a ton of emotional potential. I felt the ending was strong, but I’ll admit it works well primarily due to its constant references to history: if you aren’t familiar with Bond’s canon, or particularly invested in it, I can understand wishing for something different. But for those of us who remember Connery fondly (as a bit of a childhood memory), the ending was nearly perfect. I even think the way that the villain is dispatched works; it’s mild, rather than explosive, but there’s a history of this sort of demise.
Both the soundtrack and the setting are fantastic, and the action sequences work very well. I was impressed throughout, but Skyfall will best be remembered as a transition, I suspect: we are past 007’s back-story, and we are finally going to see Craig’s interpretation of the Bond of ages past.
In fact, a remake of an old Bond film would be fascinating, though it wouldn’t likely happen.