Previous Joints

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

The Better Bond

It didn’t take long to break one of my blog rules, did it? I’ve only seen Skyfall once.

There are so many things wrong with Skyfall that I’m going to try and make this post about something other than that film. I’m going to apologise from the off about this post because it may come off as angry. I don’t mean to be, believe me - I’m just bitterly disappointed.

James Bond isn’t only an important British institution, the franchise is important in my family. I know I talk about my late father a lot and for good reason, he introduced me to the movies and one of the first films he and I saw together was Goldfinger. Like many people in the UK, I’ve probably seen every Bond film at least once and although that doesn't make me a Bond expert, it at least gives me a foundation of knowledge to roughly assess where new Bond films land in the “best of Bond” list.

I know and I truly appreciate that film can be a very personal experience and everyone is entitled to their opinion, but every time I see, read or hear something about Skyfall, I’m constantly being told that it is one of the greatest, if not the greatest Bond film. God help me, I find this insulting.

I’m one of those obnoxious idiots who eats up all the hype of a big blockbuster film. I'm usually one of the first in line to watch these movies, but for one reason or another, I wasn’t for Skyfall. This gave my friends the unique opportunity to give me their opinion on the film and recommend it to me before I had eyes on it.

To a man/woman, they all compared Skyfall to Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight. I thought nothing of this, in fact, I took it as a positive thing. How can it be a bad thing for a film to be compared to a modern day classic like TDK?

The problem is, Skyfall takes more than just notice of TDK, it damn near ripped it off. Skyfall does not feel like a Bond movie at all – it feels like a bastard child of the Nolan Batman franchise and this is just sad. I'm not only basing this on the dark tone of the film, but mostly on Javier Bardem’s character Silva. Everything about Silva screams Heath Ledger’s Joker and it gets erksome real quick.

Skyfall is a deeply confused film; I mean, ask yourself what it is actually about? Is it about recovering the hard-disc that can compromise undercover secret agents? Is it about Silva’s vendetta toward Bond and M? Is it about Bond being old? Bond’s back-story? I know a film can and often are about more than one plot point, but when a film can’t keep all their balls in the air, it’s a problem.

I think what the makers of Skyfall tried to convey is a changing of the guard; a new Bond for a new age - hence the killing of M which was telegraphed for most of the film. We get a new Q, a new M, a new Moneypenny and an invigorated and vindicated Bond. All of this is fine apart from the fact that they did a better job of achieving this two movies ago.

The most frustrating thing about Skyfall is how fast and how far they run away from Casino Royale – a much superior reinterpretation of Bond.

Casino Royale is utterly fearless. I think this is born from the fact that it was made with a clean slate and hardly anyone had any high expectations. The idea of Bond in the 21st century was almost laughable. We had Bourne and Jack Bauer – both of them could have kicked Bond’s ass in a fight. This low expectation allowed the producers to get away with hiring a “blonde Bond”.

Daniel Craig, unlike his performance in Skyfall, is eye wateringly brilliant. He’s just not being broody, miserable and dreary, there is an actual intensity to his performance in CR. He’s also gets the point across that Bond is essentially a ruthless assassin, which for me is absolutely key. You actually believe that the Royale Bond will stop at nothing to kill his target, regardless of any diplomatic/ political implications – just look at the embassy scene near the beginning of the film. You really don’t get this impression with Bond in Skyfall. He feels like a neutered killer which doesn’t sit well with me.

Despite effectively portraying Bond as a cold blooded killer, Casino also manages to humanize this man – something that I feel no Bond has ever managed to do. The love story in this film is absolutely brutal and it refreshingly takes an essential element of the Bond experience, Bond’s womanising, on its head. It’s a clever way to establish why Bond is cold and mistrustful of women.

It’d be criminal not to mention Casino Royale’s villain who is a chillingly simple but effective Character. Mads Mikkelsen’s Le Chiffre doesn’t have a convoluted plot to rule the world or a plan to kill X character – he is simply some bloke in financial difficulty. Those difficulties may involve owing money to terrorists, but that’s besides the point.

He doesn’t have a secret layer, he doesn’t speechify, and he doesn’t leave the torturing of Bond to some henchman or super machine. He really is some bloke, with an eye impediment and this makes him believable.

It’s frustrating because as well as being an outstanding film; Casino Royale could have been the start of something special. The film could have been a vehicle to deliver a radically different Bond, who isn’t shackled by the older Moore and Connery films. Yes they botched it up with Quantum of Solace but that isn’t reason enough to get lazy and unoriginal like they did in Skyfall.

Casino Royale is the real gem of the new Bond series. All that Skyfall did was remind me how good Royale is and how its is Casino Royale that should be considered the best Bond of our, or maybe anytime.