Once again, thanks and greetings from the most fragrant blog in the world! We’ve come a long way haven’t we? I know the pressure has been enormous for all concerned. But we keep on climbing up the ladder and with each rung we place underfoot, we manage to arise out of the morass and into the lessass. Wait, what? Never you mind! I’m not cracking under the pressure and the flagon of vodka martinis I keep in my trusty James Bond Jr. backpack hasn’t let me down yet. Granted, the olives are hard to get through my jerry-rigged tube, but removal of the pimentos has proven to be vital for success.
In 2006, when the 007 film series was effectively rebooted with Daniel Craig as James Bond in Casino Royale, it seemed the franchise was on a huge rise both at the box office and critically. But this rise was almost derailed by 2008’s Quantum of Solace. The second Craig 007 film was not the overwhelming critical darling that its predecessor was and more importantly, audiences were simply unfamiliar with the word “quantum”. The stories still abound when audiences left angrily when they didn’t see Scott Bakula show up once during the entire runtime. (Did everyone get it that was going to get it? I can wait a bit longer. Okay…moving on.)
The Bond producers were eager to make up for the slight misstep, but then it was discovered that the studio itself was in trouble. Even after Quantum of Solace, in spite of itself, managed to make respectable worldwide bank, MGM was still in amazing financial problems. When they filed for bankruptcy in 2010, it was completely up in the air if there even would be a new Bond film anytime soon. However the Bond distribution rights were then acquired via Sony Pictures and 007 was off to the races once again. With a budget hovering just under $200 million, which as we remember would purchase 200 volcanic lair sets from 1967 or exactly 200 Dr. Nos, the next Bond adventure went forward.
Speaking of Dr. No, someone at EON Productions looked at a calendar and suddenly realized that the 50th anniversary of that film was coming up in 2012! 50 years of Bond movies. Think about that. This is the franchise of franchises. Some estimates say that over half of the planet that we call Earth has seen a James Bond movie. And the other half still thinks that watching Sean Connery traipse around the Las Vegan desert in a hijacked moon buggy would be a stupid experience. I can understand both sides of the coin on that one.
Still, having 23 movies over 50 years is quite the achievement. Realizing the debacle that came when celebrating the 40th anniversary died another day, the tone for this new movie was decidedly different. Academy Award winning director Sam Mendes was brought in to helm the film. Known for American Beauty and Road to Perdition, Mendes brought critical kudos with him but never really had much to do with action. Presumably, Bond would be stuck in a suburban setting, quit his job, bicker with his wife, and then get in shape by running with his next door neighbor…Scott Bakula! It is all coming together now!
True, Mendes brought along his creativity to Bond but he also brought along his composer Thomas Newman. This meant that David Arnold, who had been the 007 series composer since 1997’s Tomorrow Never Dies, would be left behind. As far as I’m concerned, this was a huge blow to the franchise. No offense to Newman, as his score from The Shawshank Redemption is breathtaking, but the scores for his two Bond films are subpar, barely even hinting at the James Bond Theme, instead of vigorously trumpet blasting it out of the theater.
This is especially frustrating because Arnold had held back on using the Bond theme somewhat for Craig’s first two outings, because the underlying feeling was that Bond had to earn the right to use it with the reboot. Now this was Arnold’s big chance to rebound with the scores and…don’t let the door hit you in the rear on the way out. Pretty low that the producers wouldn’t stick behind their guy and yes, it still burns me up a bit.
However, the title song performed by Adele is actually quite good and after Chris Cornell’s song in Casino Royale, it ranks high on the list among the Craig Bond films. Of course, during 2012 you couldn’t help but hear that goshdamn song on every device known to man everywhere you went in life. Yes, I am glad it got an Academy Award and heaven knows it is everything that “Writing’s On The Wall” isn’t, but I am beyond pleased we are now several years along now because I don’t think I could take involuntarily hearing it anymore.
The new movie would be titled Skyfall, which was the name of Bond’s childhood home, according to the script. Apparently the Chicken Little story was so huge in Scotland that Bond’s folks just couldn’t pass it up the opportunity. In the Fleming stories, Bond’s home was never named. In fact it was only after the success of Connery in the role that he even amended Bond’s lineage to be part Scottish in the first place. Fleming then said that Connery would be ideal to play a Russian submarine captain, but at the time that sounded ludicrous.
And is Skyfall worthy of being the 50th Bond anniversary film? It isn’t bad, really. A new Moneypenny and Q are introduced, Judi Dench’s M passes away, and Ralph Fiennes becomes the new M by the end of the movie. So there are some fairly large series events that pop up. The pre-credits teaser sequence is good and has a “whoa” ending. There’s also a rather nifty end sequence at Skyfall where basically Bond, M, and the house’s caretaker played by Albert Finney start to go all Straw Dogs on their attackers. Ejector seats are mentioned at one point.
But upon review there are some negatives too. For one thing the movie is 143 minutes long. It was the longest Bond movie up to that point and it shouldn’t have been. There’s at least 20 minutes that probably could have been shaved off. If the story supports the length, then great, but Bond plots are certainly not comparable to a Lord of the Rings level of scale in any case. 105 minutes sounds good for me and my bladder thinks it is even better. Perhaps if Craig’s Bond used more cars instead of sprinting everywhere, the movie could be shorter.
I’ve also had an issue with Judi Dench… (“Hey waitaminute!” you’re about to read on this page as I pretend to be your presumed outrage but let me finish)…in the Daniel Craig Bond movies. There, better. Dench’s M had a very good relationship with Bond during the Pierce era. Sure, she was a bit of a tightarse in GoldenEye, but she eventually warmed to Bond, usually picking up right where the last movie dropped off. But with Craig, she has a nasty habit of being stern to the point of cold, until the end of every movie when she would warm up ever so slightly.
Yes, the series was rebooted, but she is still Judi Dench and she had already played M for four movies prior to Craig’s first appearance. I should think she was asked to stay because there would be some continuity and on top of that, she’s good in the role. But why no continuity to build from film to film with her? Even in Skyfall, she starts off cold again and starts to warm up again but then dies. It even feels off that she dies in Craig’s arms too, as Brosnan’s arms would have been more emotionally satisfying with good closure.
Javier Bardem is a unique choice for a Bond villain and is definitely different. He has a quirkiness that is refreshing even if he chews up the scenery a touch. His plan for getting to M in order to kill her requires a network of assistants that would number in the several thousands, all with synchronized watches to maintain inhuman crackerjack timing. This is the only explanation that works unless Bardem` has mutant powers that were hitherto unknown in the Bond universe. In which case, Wolverine should have crossed over to handle him.
To that end, since Spectre retconned the Craig Bond movies into having supposed storyline continuity across the board, this means that Ernst Stavro Blofeld okayed Bardem character’s name to go ahead with such a loopy mission in the first place. I understand that he wanted to bring chaos in the life of Bond, but how for a second did Blofeld think that this was a good plan to back either financially and/or through plain employee encouragement? Did they have a conference table moment where Blofeld told him, “Now when you attack Bond in your helicopter, can you play loud oldies like at the beginning of Predator? Yeah, that’s great. Oh and you’ll probably need this London Underground tube station schedule. Look, just take it. You never know.”
After the first two Craig 007 movies, it was established that Bond was just earning his spurs and experience will come to match his skills as an agent. That’s just fine, but one thing that I don’t like about Skyfall is how it spends far too much time in talking about how Craig is now past his prime and he enjoys the old fashioned ways due to his age. Um, what? He ends Quantum of Solace after essentially one mission over two movies, ready to move on and go off on new assignments but by the next movie, he’s an old fart? No, I don’t think so. That would be like telling Connery in Goldfinger “Well, you might as well hang it up soon, Grandpa Bond.”
Skyfall is a perfect example of a movie that you start to question once you get up from your seat. The plot is not airtight and you end up wanting to watch more of Albert Finney’s character but get denied. Granted, the visuals are rather stunning at times, especially for a Bond movie. Skyfall did push the character forward and did cover some new ground, despite its lengthy runtime. However, it unfortunately now has the retroactive stink of Spectre all over it. It is a shame because it was such a leap from Quantum.
Waitaminute! Leap? Quantum? Is that Scott Bakula I see?!