Nostalgia and excitement come together in the new Bond film, SkyFall.
I recently had the chance to take some much needed time off from my very busy schedule and watch the newest James Bond film in theaters. I was pleasantly entertained by the fast paced action, the clever dialogue, and the classy style that is nostalgic to the 007 persona. I wouldn’t go so far as to fully endorse the movie for everyone else, but it does present for me a remarkable example for how to be fresh and contemporary with a new and exciting story meanwhile not straying too far from the formulaic nature that has made it a success for generations.
Daniel Craig is clearly the singular defining attribute that has made this new series a success. I remember years ago the confusion I felt in selecting Craig as the 007 replacement. I couldn’t quite imagine then how that would work out. Yet, reflection has confirmed that this was the best decision the producers of the Bond series have made in decades. Craig commands the screen and possesses all of the class and charm that James Bond represents, while maintaining an extremely tough exterior and a complexity of inner turmoil. Apart from the silly way he runs in this film (which elicited laughs from the audience) and the awkward looking duck-face he kept making in Casino Royale, Daniel Craig has endeared himself as the Bond for a new era.
However, an actor is only as strong as the story he finds himself in. Craig captured our hearts and memories with his debut in the intricate story of Casino Royale. Yet, even his best acting could not redeem Quantum’s awful script. Both films took different routes. Casino Royale paved a new path that threw conventionality to the wind, while Quantum of Solace took a formulaic stroll, emulating past successes. With Skyfall, it seems the writers got it right by applying the perfect mix of nostalgia while paving a new direction for their lead character.
This leads me into the point I would like to make about how to write a successful story, and satisfy the conventionality of lifelong fans. Many directors and producers don’t have a clue about what makes their films successful. Too often they depend on the formulas which have worked in the past when writing sequels. But viewers don’t want to see the same story year after year with revolving characters.
What Skyfall did right was absolutely evident. Starting with a fresh story, the writers were able to add in key elements from the past to provoke nostalgia for classic fans and add nuance for first time viewers. Giving Judi Dench her swan song, bringing back the iconic Aston Martin, and showing more of James Bond’s back story all worked together perfectly to give Skyfall it’s own two legs to stand on. There was an impressive amount of detail in the more than two hour run time. All of the class and gravitas you expect from a 007 production was there, and more.
However, it wouldn’t be a fair and honest critique if I didn’t point out some of the things that didn’t work in the film as well. The Bond girls were merely background pieces and didn’t add much at all to the thrust of the story. Their character development seemed forced and underdeveloped. The villain, played by Javier Bardem, was a mix of past archetypes and wasn’t quite scary enough to give the full weight of suspense needed to be a believable antagonist. Finally, while the writers were cautious not to copy the same formula of past Bond films, they clearly had no problem stealing other elements from successful actions films in the past decade such as The Bourne Identity, The Dark Knight Rises and Mission: Impossible IV.
What I love about this film is the fact that it took risks. Daniel Craig is not exactly the Bond we knew from the past, but he is clearly talented enough to carry the series into the future. Let’s just hope that the writers and producers keep taking chances while remaining close to the characteristics we have grown to love.
Skyfall will undoubtedly stand as the example of how to do a successful film which bounced back from a failed attempt to repeat the past. Although I wouldn’t rate it anywhere near Casino Royale, it clearly survived the dead weight it had to carry from Quantum of Solace. While most Bond fanatics won’t have to be convinced to go and watch this film, others might find it surprisingly entertaining.