Thursday, 8 November 2012

Skyfall 2012

I had no intention of reviewing this latest James Bond offering, but I keep hearing from people how wonderful this film is, and I really can't take it anymore. So, here are my thoughts:

It has been 50 years since James Bond made his first appearance in an Eon Production (Albert R Broccoli and Harry Saltzman). Dr No (1962) established the Bond character we have come to know and love for six decades, and set standards that we still measure the 'sequels' by. In this time, the face of Bond has changed (from Sean Connery to George Lazenby to Roger Moore to Timothy Dalton to Pierce Brosnan to Daniel Craig), but the concept of the 'suave spy' has remained constant. Yes, he may not exactly be the secret agent that Ian Fleming had created when he started writing the novels but, like Sherlock Holmes before him, James Bond was re-imagined for the audio-visual medium. Unlike Holmes though, Bond's film characterisation has been fiercely protected by the Broccoli family, and has been far less arbitrary since his first screen appearance.

After 40 years and 20 films and 5 actors, Bond got a reboot. Daniel Craig stepped in and we went back, all the way back, to Casino Royale (2006). I was one of those who were quite apprehensive and unconvinced about the choice for this lead. Yes, Craig is a decent actor, has a strong screen presence and is fairly attractive, but he just did not look like Bond. It wasn't just that he is blond. It was the fact that if I wanted Roger Moore replaced, I'd opt for someone like Pierce Brosnan (and we had him)! And if I wanted Sean Connery replaced, I'd go for Clive Owen. Daniel Craig seemed like a replacement for Timothy Dalton, who, let's face it, was just a little less forgettable than George Lazenby. What's worse is that the trailers showed Daniel Craig pouting sexily in all his scenes, whether they were romantic, stylish or action.

Anyway, the film came out and I grudgingly went to watch it. Pouty or not, Craig put my fears to rest. The characterisation had been adjusted to suit his persona and with a little more hand-to-hand action thrown in (as per post-Bourne blues), this Bond was fresh, spirited, intelligent, suave and yet somehow inconspicuous, as a spy should be. The flamboyance was toned down, the dialogue un-cheesed and the storyline simplified to create an engaging, more believable film. Casino Royale and Daniel Craig won me over, in spite of myself.

That is why when Quantum of Solace (2008) came out, it actually hurt my feelings. I had finally opened my heart and mind to a new Bond, accepted the differences between him and Brosnan and I then got served an exceedingly boring, unbelievably irritating film, giving me no reason to root for the world's most famous spy.

So, I waited another four years, in the hope that the magic of Casino Royale will be recaptured in Skyfall. Alas, I was so very, very wrong.

Opening Scene: Fans of the past films will remember some of the more iconic opening sequences from The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) and GoldenEye (1995). Casino Royale had a perfect, stylish, brilliant opening scene as well. Skyfall's opening was lengthy, boring and trying too hard. As much as I love Istanbul, it seems to be the filming location of choice for way too many films these days, and I'm getting a little tired of the rooftops of the Grand Market now (see Taken 2). Even the lengthy, over-the-top boat chase scene from The World Is Not Enough (1999) was classier in comparison!

Theme Song: Bond films have given us some very popular theme songs over the years. Nancy Sinatra's You Only Live Twice, Shirley Bassey's Diamonds Are Forever, Paul McCartney's Live and Let Die, Tina Turner's GoldenEye, Garbage's The World Is Not Enough and Madonna's Die Another Day to name just a few. Chris Cornell's You Know My Name (Casino Royale) wasn't amazing, but it was still good enough to set a tone for the film. Skyfall's song, despite having amazing Adele's vocals, is really no great shakes. It's too reminiscent of an age past, but is a little all over the place. I'm not about to download it in a hurry.

Gadgets, Cars, Guns: These have been signature items for Bond films, but with the reboot, there has been a concerted effort to tone these elements down. In Skyfall, this being the 50th year and all, there are corny references, for the aficionados, to past films' gadgets: a pen that explodes, an ejector seat in a vintage Aston Martin DBS, etc. And finally, in this third instalment of the renewed franchise, Q is re-introduced (played by Ben Whishaw). He will probably develop into a character less disdainful of Bond, than previous Qs (Desmond Llewelyn and John Cleese). But, in this film at least, all he offers is a radio transmitter and a personalised gun. *Yawn*.

Villain: This is probably the most disappointing factor of Skyfall. Raoul Silva is meant to be deranged, out of control and very dangerous because he knows all the inside secrets. He seems to have been modeled on the Joker and Moriarty, a true nemesis for our protagonist, created from the same mould as Bond, but one who took a different turn when abandoned by M. But for some reason, he is not scary; he is simply annoying. Javier Bardem, how ever brilliant he may be considered, has given one of his worst performances, by completely over-acting in all his scenes. Considering how outrageous some of the previous Bond villains have been, it actually feels strange to say this, but this character was not very 'believable'!

Women: Another essential for Bond films: beautiful women. In recent times, especially in Brosnan's films, they became actual characters that moved the story forward, rather than the helpless, irritating damsels they used to be previously. This is why Skyfall's female 'lead' Severine, (Berenice Lim Marlohe) was such a disappointment. Not only is she completely useless, she is not even the most attractive distraction! And the twist with Naomie Harris's Eve character was so blatantly inspired by John Blake's revelation at the end of The Dark Knight Rises (2012) that I actually groaned in the cinema.

Recurring Characters: Laying the overdue groundwork for the arrival of new recurring characters and departure of old ones in the third film, is just lazy. And that's what this new Bond series is: lazy. Since Casino Royale, I have wondered why Judi Dench stayed on to play M for this new Bond. She seemed out of place and almost out of her depth, which is a strange thing to say about such a legendary actress. There has been no chemistry between her and Daniel Craig. She has just appeared tired and haggard and very disinterested in him, and he has always seemed uncomfortable in her presence. She abandoned Brosnan's Bond during a mission once (Die Another Day, 2002); his reaction to that was pain, but a grudging understanding and respect. When she abandons Craig's Bond, he really seems not to care. There has never been a connection between them. If only they had replaced her when they rebooted the franchise, we wouldn't have had to go through three films of uncomfortable moments.

Title: I've seen better. The mystery created around 'Skyfall' during the word association test Bond has to take, fizzles out so badly when you finally find out what that word means to him. Come on guys...think of titles like 'You Only Live Twice' or 'A View To A Kill' or 'Octopussy'...then think 'Skyfall'. Ho-hum.

Story: Ah what a patchwork job this was. Scenes and themes have been lifted directly from previous (recent) Bond films (Bond gets abandoned by M, Bond breaks into M's house, MI6 building blows up, etc etc). Then there's the lack of consistency. So Bond can't really shoot straight any more, he fails his tests, he can't kill Silva who is right in front of him in a tunnel; less than a week later, he is a sharp-shooter again and is able to kill an army of men in a dark house. What? Despite having the most advanced medical facilities at his disposal, Bond sticks a knife into his shoulder, pulls out remnants of a shattered bullet lodged there for months, and delivers these to the afore-mentioned facilities. Why the drama? Don't ask. Kincade (Albert Finney), the gamekeeper of Bond's estate is oh-so-wild and clever, and saws a rifle off for better you do. Couple of scenes later, like an idiot he uses a bright torch in an open field, while trying to escape the enemy, who can now obviously see him a mile away. WHAT? Was this script written 50 years ago, when cinema logic used to be a little bit skewed?

The problems with this film are not Daniel Craig's fault. HE is not the worst Bond ever (Lazenby and Dalton have ensured that), but the promise he showed six years ago is now wearing thin. The writers and directors really need to work harder to keep the Bond tradition alive - and yet, keep the premise palatable for a new generation. What they seem to be doing is mixing old Bond, with new Bourne, with future Bond and making some weird concoction, which will not withstand the test of time. This 50th anniversary offering is weak and unfortunate.

Instead of the terrible references they pulled, it would have been so much better if the producers had got all 5 previous Bonds together (they're all still alive), dressed them in dinner jackets, and sat them around a card table in a casino. Even without a single dialogue, just an exchange of looks, between them and Daniel Craig, would have delivered a scene to remember for ever. That would have been an homage.

Skyfall is a fairly tedious, interminable film, devoid of logic and grace. It's not the worst action film ever, but it is definitely one of the lesser Bond films.

Do watch it though. I hear it is 'brilliant'.


  1. It’s interesting because all the problems you had with the film: The women, the villain, the theme song, the opening scene - those were the things that I especially LOVED. Not to go off too much, but Javier Bardem was memorable as the blonde, pale skinned villain. He delivered his lines with a flirtatious sneer. And Adele's song? It feels so iconic like Shirley Bassey’s Goldfinger. That's really the standard by which we measure James Bond themes isn't it?

    You sound so disappointed. I almost feel like you needed a hug after watching this. . Ha ha.

    1. Oh I did need a hug! I'm a Bond fan and this broke my heart, as did everyone else's reaction to it!! Still, I guess so many other people can't be wrong :(

  2. I agree with you on many levels!!

    Especially about Bardem's Silva. I do not understand the "love" he is receiving. Yes, the performance is entertaining--but I, too, could not believe his character. There were too many mind boggling actions. (Why plan an elaborate hack job of MI6 to only escape and derail a train?? What was the purpose?--Just silly. And also he was caught monologue-ing--that always annoys...if you want someone dead, you just do it!)

    And I really do miss my Bond of yesteryear--I want the playfulness--the arrogance--the danger. Yeah...this version is why too serious. It is a bit exhausting.

    But, I was able to put some of that aside (not enough to love it) enough to enjoy it. I thought it looked beautiful and had well-planned action sequences, but it could easily be any spy film and not my beloved Bond.

    Glad to know I am not the only one that was disappointed.

    Great write-up!!

    1. Nedi, you rock! This statement said it all: "it could easily be any spy film and not my beloved Bond". That was very much the problem!

      Thanks for the come again :)

    2. Will do!

      I am sure we will disagree with world again soon...


  3. Skyfall was the most awaited and hyped flick of the year for sure and the director does not disappoint its audience in any way. It’s not the best Bond film of all-time, but it’s a very good one and that’s all that matters. Good review Somaya.

    1. I am so much in the minority of the very few people in the world who didn't like the film. Oh well! Glad everyone else got their money's worth :)

      Thanks for stopping by!