In its amazing fifty year cinematic history, the James Bond franchise has followed a tried and true formula with incredible success. Through 23 films (I count Never Say Never Again – a rogue production) and six Bonds, the suave and debonair 007 used gadgets, sexy Bond girls, and incredible action to find a favored spot in our movie going schedules. Every film featured several signature actions scenes that were just too hard to believe but we just didn’t care. Those unbelievable action sequences are part of the Bond legacy and we have come to expect them, and even look forward to them.
Skyfall deviates from that old formula. Daniel Craig’s modern, 21st century 007 is more physical and brooding than his more suave and debonair predecessors. Skyfall is more story than action and we receive more of Bond’s personal background than in maybe all of the other films combined. Craig’s Bond isn’t as witty or outgoing as previous incarnations but there is more effort put forth in this film. Craig’s Bond is more serious and less interested in looking dapper. Daniel Craig’s Bond, after three movies, is a truly unique Bond and the franchise seems willing to go along.
The formula is truly broken in Skyfall. There is a Bond girl – sort of. The femme fatale, Severine, makes a brief, yet memorable appearance and I guess she get the title of Bond girl henceforth. Yet, she was hardly a blip on the old radar. Those signature action scenes were fewer and much more believable. Except for just a couple of small things, they were realistic even. In following with Craig’s previous Bond flicks, this builds upon the theme of a more personal story line and is central in Skyfall. Historically, the 007 franchise has kept its distance from the personal.
Finally, the villain. Silva, portrayed with creepy brilliance by Javier Bardem, is a traditional Bond villain in appearance and personality. You know what I mean, just a little weird and eccentric. It is the plot, though, that goes off the beaten Bond trail. Silva doesn’t seek anything as mundane as world domination. He isn’t working for any grand organization who wants to sell arms or state secrets. He is not trying to control the world’s oil supply, or news, or anything so grand. Silva wants but a single, simple thing – revenge. Skyfall is a story of simple, festering vengeance.
I am torn a little by the new direction the Bond franchise seems to be heading. On one hand, the story and the acting are much better than is traditionally the case. Bardem is terrifically flamboyant. Dame Judi Dench gives a performance that is worthy of a Supporting Actress nomination. Daniel Craig’s mentally and physically battered, imperfect Bond is a much deeper, realistic 007. The characters and the plot have much more flesh and depth to them than any previous entries. All in all, Skyfall teeters on the brink of being a real movie of substance.
On the other hand though, do we want Bond to take himself so seriously? One of the great attributes of the 007 franchise was its escapism. The breathtaking, impossible stunts and action scenes were a pure joy. What would they come up with this time? There was always anticipation for that fantasy aspect of each and every Bond film. Do we really want to lose that? Do we really need another dark, brooding, moody hero? This is the conundrum I have with James Bond right now. Skyfall is truly a good movie with more depth and feeling but is that what we truly want from our 007?
Lastly, for some of the reoccurring characters in the Bonds movies, this edition is clearly a transitional movie. Without going into it too much and giving too much information away, this franchise is going to grow and move forward with several of its supporting characters. I know Daniel Craig is going to do one, probably two more, Bond films, but I doubt it will be more than that. There is clearly a plan to continue the series indefinitely. I have always loved Bond, no matter what Bond incarnation (even those two Timothy Dalton disasters). I will go see each and every one, whether they are action fantasies or serious movies with action. Regardless, it is still 007 and that is enough for me.