Bond 24: Action! Nostalgia! Sequels!   Leave a comment

“Our last film tonight is the new, politically correct version of James Bond, ‘On His or Her Majesty’s Secret Service’.” – Jay Sherman
“Well, darling, thanks to my efforts, Blofeld’s army will now admit homosexuals, the blind, and midgets.” – James Bond

Top Line: Skyfall is exactly what we’ve come to expect from a Daniel Craig James Bond movie.  It’s executed much better than Quantum of Solace, and has a better bad guy than Casino Royale, but it isn’t much different than those two in terms of what happens or whether or not you’re likely to be entertained by it. 

Who (probably) should see this movie: James Bond fans (obviously), and anyone looking for something other than kids fare and overly serious Oscar bait here at the end of the year. 

Who (probably) should not see this movie: People who don’t like Bond movies, and/or anyone who wasn’t all that thrilled with Casino Royale (2006).

Box Score:

Runtime: 2h:23m – It certainly could’ve been a bit shorter in places, but it never drags.

Actual Start Time: Showtime + 20(!) Minutes

Friday Evening Demographics: Packed house. 

MPAA: Rated PG-13 for intense violent sequences throughout, some sexuality, language and smoking

Seems about right, though it is funny that we now actually point out when someone lights up a cigarette in a movie.  (Don’t worry, it’s not Bond.)

Should Be Rated: PG-12

Three Stars:

  1. Javier Bardem – Mincing, Blonde Psycho-Spy: 
    No surprises here.  Bond villains always get to have the most fun, and Bardem is great every time he’s on the screen.
  2. Daniel Craig – James Bond:
    His ultra-tough, ultra-muscled Bond is back for a third go.
  3. Judi Dench – M:
    Her ultra-controlled, no nonsense M is also just what you’d expect.
Need to See In Theater (Baseline: 2):

  • +1 (Definitely some action sequences that look very good on a big screen.)
  • +1 (James Bond is usually more fun with an audience, and that’s true of this one as well.)
  • -1 (It’s a Bond movie, it’s going to be on television and in home video releases from now until the Sun explodes, so it’s not like you’ll never get another chance.) 

Final Score: 4

Need to See Eventually (Baseline: 5):

  • +1 (James Bond!)
  • -1 (James Bond.)

Final Score: 5

Bechdel (Baseline: 5):

  • +1 (for Judi Dench being in much more of the movie than she is in most of her Bond appearances.)
  • -1 (for Naomie Harris not doing much of anything after the opening scene.)
  • -1 (for Bérénice Marlohe not having much to do, period.)

Final Score: 4

IMDb Sez:

Director:

  • Sam Mendes:
    Well respected director of middlebrow critic pleasers like American Beauty (1999), Jarhead (2005), and Revolutionary Road (2008).

Writers:

  • Neal Purvis:
    Wrote the previous two Daniel Craig Bond movies.
  • Robert Wade:
    Pretty much the same as Purvis.
  • John Logan:
    Has been involved with plenty of big budget Hollywood screenplays over the years, ranging from very good (Rango (2011), The Aviator (2004)) to the not so good (Gladiator (2000), Star Trek: Nemesis (2002)).

Rotten Tomatoes Sez:

All Critics: 93% Top Critics: 91% Audience: 91%

Notes:

  • Skyfall is a good James Bond movie, but I’m surprised at the rapturous Rotten Tomatoes numbers.  It suffers from way too many typical Bond problems (incompetent henchmen, a bad guy who prattles on instead of getting shit done, goofily dumb computer jargon/hacking) to be a truly excellent move on its own. 
  • The opening chase scene in Turkey is just wonderful.  It’s exactly what you want from a Bond movie: a cool location, lots of neat stunts, and over the top action. 
  • As Bond and the bad guy are riding motorcycles on the roof in Istanbul, there are two close shots of Craig that are hilariously, obviously shot in front of a fake background.  I’m honestly not sure if they left it looking that fake deliberately as a nod to the countless times that Sean Connery, Roger Moore, et al did the same thing. 
  • Okay, Sony, we get it.  You make cool electronics. 
  • Speaking of the many instances of product placement, they do feel more out of place in these grittier Craig movies.  Near the beginning of the film Bond is holed up in some tropical paradise drinking himself into a pleasant stupor after being accidentally shot by one of his own.  Despite his state as a physical and emotional wreck, he remembers to keep the label of his beer bottle facing the camera. 
  • Oddly enough, and somewhat disappointingly, the final showdown is probably the weakest part of the movie.  For a film that likes its twists and machinations, there’s something inherently unsatisfying about a bunch of nameless henchmen getting blow’d up and shot in a pretty anodyne action sequence.  There’s nothing terrible about it, but the rest of the movie’s big moments show a bit more creativity. 
  • The numerous nods and winks to Bond traditions and predecessors is a constant and amusing undercurrent.  So, for example, we get Bond wearing a tuxedo in a casino, but when he goes for the drink with the beautiful woman we don’t see him order his martini shaken not stirred, we see the bartender shake it and then simply have him thank her. 
  • Many of the above are subtle, the Aston Martin DB5 is not.  It’s just pure fan service, so much so that it actually got a smattering of applause. 
  • For all its talk about Bond getting old and broken down, Skyfall makes very sure to leave the table set for the further adventures of Daniel Craig as James Bond. 

Bottom Line: The James Bond franchise has survived, as Skyfall happily reminds you at its ending credits, for half a century now.  It has managed to stay relevant and popular through all that time by changing with the culture.  The days when Sean Connery can smoke like a chimney and more or less force himself on any woman on screen are long gone.  So too are the campy 1970s versions, the 1980s late Cold War ones, and the bombastic Pierce Brosnan movies that felt the generic Hollywood need to make each sequel bigger and louder until the audience went numb with the sheer absurdity of it all.

Since 2006’s Casino Royale we’ve had Daniel Craig’s tougher and harsher version, where Bond still comes out on top, but not without getting bloodied, bruised and emotionally tormented first.  Skyfall is a very good addition to this current version of Britain’s super spy.  Bond performs heroic stunts and impossible feats, all in the name of patriotism and beating the bad guy, but he isn’t a hopeless smartass who seems above it all. 

The particulars (the chases, the locations, the comic relief with Q) are all up to snuff, and Javier Bardem steals every scene he’s in.  As Bond villains go his ambitions are considerably smaller than world domination, but he brings a novel enthusiasm to the requisite callousness that lets him do terrible things.  He straddles the line between glee and insanity so well that you almost don’t notice him making classic Bond villain mistakes like not killing Bond and then simply asking his goons to make sure he’s dead. 

All in all, Skyfall is an entertaining and worthy addition to the franchise.  Since Bond movies are destined for a long shelf life, it’ll take a couple of decades before we can properly situate it among its peers, but I’ll be surprised if it’s considered a poor entry. 

Movies Deemed Commercially and Demographically Similar Enough to Merit Trailers Before Skyfall:

Promised Land – Matt Damon sells fracking to economically distressed farming communities, becomes conflicted.  He’d like to thank the Academy. 

Side Effects – Taught, sexy thriller from the makers of . . . Contagion?  Ugh. 

Jack Reacher – Oh good, another massively cliched Tom Cruise action vehicle.  That’s what the movie going public has been clamoring for.  (Is he a loose cannon cop who plays by his own rules, but, damn it, he gets results?  Yes.  Yes, he is.) 

The Hobbit – Well, at least it was a new trailer, even if it does it’s best to make sure that the general movie going public won’t realize that Gandalf and the rest of the characters they recognize are barely going to be in these movies.

Red Dawn – Surgeon General’s Warning: The massive stupid of this movie may be harmful to pregnant women, people with heart conditions, and anyone with a BAC below 0.08. 

Die Hard 5 – As if Die Hard 4 wasn’t awful enough.

Django Unchained – I know what I’m going to see on Christmas.  Woo-hoo! 

WARNING: The comments section is a spoiler friendly zone.  By reading this with your inner monologue, you have waved any right to bitch about spoilers in perpetuity throughout the universe.

Posted November 10, 2012 by Charlie Sweatpants in Box Score Cinema, The Critic

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