08 February 2013

Skyfall

SPOILERS: I reveal plot points from the beginning, middle and end of this movie. Stop reading if you care.

The Good

Adele is easily the best thing about Skyfall. There's a reason we've heard that single on the radio more than we've heard about the movie itself. It's reminiscent of the intrigue cold-war origins of the Bond franchise's heritage. It's evocative, stylish, moving, full of mystery etc; all of the things the movie wasn't. Also kudos to her and her team for bringing back the raunchy, devastating, horn blasts. So effective!

Also the first 10 minutes or so are great and full of fantastic action sequences that make you think of the two movies that came before. The train scene is awesome and right up until Naomie Harris's character takes the shot I was on the edge of my seat. Unfortunately the minute Bond seems to reincarnate into a version of himself I didn't really want to watch anymore.

Photography is the second best thing about this movie. It seems like every single shot was set up as a work of art. If you see this film hit mute, put on the Adele track and the experience is just as good.

Acting is third but with lots of caveats. The actors did a fine job with what they were given..... which, in my opinion, was not very much at all.

The Bad

Now the downsides to Skyfall ranked in no particular order:

7) "How much do you know about fear?"  If you're announcing to your audience that the character we're about to meet redefines the word fear then you've set a bar pretty high and anything less will feel like a cop-out. Your uber-desensitized audience probably just giggled its way through Paranormal Activity and you're giving them Javier Bardem with false teeth? Please!

A) Why would a rogue MI6 agent hire 2 dozen guys and a helicopter to help him kill an old lady? Don't thugs have anything better to do? Shouldn't they be toppling governments or helping corporations maintain monopolistic powers?

IV) This world is too small. It's just about the 5 people and everyone else is a disposable extra. The previous two movies had actual stakes and we cared because it was about more than rich people with guns being dangerous and posing pretty around each other.

25) The movie starts like James Bond and ends like Home Alone. Tell me you didn't see it too...

II) Two things that take me out of a movie:

  1. People fake-playing a musical instrument badly (I'm looking at you Brent Spiner)
  2. computer interfaces that defy even my large capacity for suspension of disbelief. Case in point:Q: "Watch while I hack his un-hackable hack with the power of GEOMETRY and giant computer graphics!! I'm hacking! Are you watching me HACK?" Bond: "Stop hacking your hack! I've looked at your un-hackable geometry hack 'code' for 2 seconds and I know how to hack it."

14) Bond seemed almost as upset when his car 'sploded as when M died.

G) What was the purpose of the handprint activated gun? no, seriously what was the point?!? Komodo dragon don't care.

24) Was it really necessary for Javier Bardem to blow up MI6 and lead Bond on a needlessly intricate chase? Knowing that Bond was in the right place to throw a subway train at him was a real stretch. Also, apparently Bond can get into M's apartment any time he wants. Surely evil Javier could have too.

J) Javier Bardem knows how to play a psychopath. Judi Dench knows how to play a stern and powerful matriarch. Daniel Craig knows how to be a badass secret agent with a secret squishy heart. Why did nobody let them just do that?!?

iii) Winking:

Ok, you're paying tribute to your roots. We GET IT!!!

Bond: "hello Q*wink*" Q: "hello BOND*wink*"

Bond: "hello MONEYPENNY*wink*" Moneypenny: "Hello BOND*wink*" 

Bond: "hello M" *wink* MM(Male M): "hello bond*wink*".

Bond: "Hello Walther PPK*wink*" Gun: "...."

Bond: "Hello old gadget*wink* car" Car: "<vrooooom>"

1) Women

Finally, and most annoyingly I had a problem with the ridiculous portrayal of women. If you had seen a bond movie before the Daniel Craig series you might wonder why I expect anything more than Bambi and Pussy Galore, but here's the thing: I do.

Eva Greene's character in Casino Royale was a really interesting 3D character. She didn't fire guns or drive fast but she cut Bond nearly in half the first time he showed her any of his standard womanizing sass. Later she would sacrificed herself to save him; the unsung hero of the piece. Bond spends the entire next movie trying to get over her.

Quantum of Solace's leading lady Olga Kurylenko was (aside from M) another well-written, strong female character who Bond doesn't even sleep with once (GASP). It seemed a lot more like they were working together as equals, even if he did sound patronizing occasionally.

Finally, throughout all of this: M. Judi Dench's M is the only reason I stuck with the series when Brosnan was getting all silly and surfing on icebergs.

I don't know if they realize it but the universe of this movie puts feminism back about 30 years. Consider:

  • M is a man again and so are all the principal characters and villains (and here's where I mention that I have NOTHING against Ralph Fiennes but.....still),
  • Q Branch is back. bring on the useless gadgets and start focussing on visual gimmicks and explosions rather than plots and relationships. Am I alone in thinking the friction between the chauvinistic, dinosaur, secret agent and the strong female leading lady was a major source of tension and interest in previous films?
  • Women are back where they "belong": away from fieldwork and behind a desk being a secretary and getting sandwiches for the big strong men. The patronizing attitude of this made me want to scream. It's as if they were saying to Moneypenny "well, you tried doing a man's job but I guess you proved to everyone that it was a job for a man after all." They don't say she took a pay cut but was it implied? Naomie Harris's character was bordering on interesting. Why wasn't she front and center throughout the whole film?
  • Any women who didn't respect their "place" are dead: M, and Javier's girl whose name was Sévérine but I don't think it was ever even mentioned

Maybe I'm seeing something that isn't there but did this bother anyone else?

Ok, so in summary: visually stunning, great soundtrack. Promising opening 10 minutes. Otherwise not very good.


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