Thursday, December 20, 2012

Building A Deeper Bond

James Bond turns a corner and a new leaf in Skyfall–arguably one of the best Bond films ever!


ARTH VADER (AV): I wonder what the prolific Ian Flemming would think of Skyfall, the latest installment in the ongoing saga of the world's most famous super spy, James Bond. Skyfall (Paramount Pictures) is a bold re-imagining of the James Bond continuum. Daniel Craig's flawless characterization of the infamous assassin/spy/agent 007 is quite a detraction from previous characterizations. He is his stoically smug, witty and confident self but Skyfall delivers a different caliber of Bond than even the first two Daniel Craig 007 journeys. Darker, more insidious and even more vulnerable. For me, this makes the new Bond light years more believable and more awesome. Thoughts, Pontificator? 

THE PONTIFICATOR (TP): Well Vader, this film was something of a departure, even a bit from the last two films, but still fits snuggly into the new continuity the recent Bond films have created. Bond has been updated and made more real...and although the rewrite isn’t exactly what Bond has always been, the mythos hasn't suffered a bit.


AV: Casting Craig was a masterstroke of movie-making genius. Daniel's two earlier Bond films, Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace were both solid but for me at least, Skyfall goes somewhere much greater, beyond the scope of mere "next installment". Skyfall is a crowning jewel in a long list of great–and not-so-great–bond stories. The action is paced in such a way that the films tempo is actually a part of the storytelling, Ponty. What's more, the direction was a winning array of close, medium and wide-angle shots, even in the non-action sequences, the films keeps the viewer engaged in the larger tapestry of events. And I just have to say, casting Javier Bardem as the sniveling and uncomfortably sinister Silva makes this one of the more believable Bond experiences to date. 

TP: Daniel Craig is quickly winning the title of the best Bond for me. He’s gritty and takes a serious approach to the role. This difference from the usual suave, cool as ice-water, modus operandi of the past actors is what sets Craig apart from all the rest. Craig makes Bond more human by making him vulnerable while still delivering everything else that audiences have come to associate with Bond. Javier Bardem seems to be born to play Silva, the latest Bond villain. Very few people are destined to be the perfect fit for a Bond villain... so bless Bardem for answering his calling. Naomie Harris may not be as glamorous as Bond women have been in the past, but she is perfect for her role and was a nice surprise for longtime fans of the old films.


AV: You know, pontificator, I really enjoy movies where the experience so completely rolls the visual effects into the DNA of the movie that I don't even notice them. Such is the case in Skyfall. Iconic scenes like the train crashing through a London street, the Bond estate blown to bits or even a hapless duel in a pit of Komodo dragons are all SF/X shots that the viewer just absorbs as part of the film's experience. Even a harrowing fight sequence on the top of a fast-moving bullet-train is a believable event in a movie that goes to great lengths NOT to make me go "Whoa!" at the visuals and focus on the event at hand. Could this mean our little Hollywood is finally growing up, Ponty? 

TP: You are spot-on here Vader. The special effects were a seamless part of the visual experience and nothing was so over-the-top as to take away from the tone of the film. Even the opening chase scene was pretty straight forward and although thinking back on it, in reality it could probably never happen like that, at the time I was watching... it was real enough that I wasn’t even questioning the crane scene. 


AV: As always, there is a tantalizing array of Bond-girl beauties here Ponty but I have to address another more pressing observation for Skyfall. This movie goes to great lengths to distance itself from the campiness of earlier James Bond flicks. The movie's dialogue even goes so far as to have the new "Q" talk smack about exploding pens and silly devices. I see this as a step toward farming a more believable, more relatable and more sophisticated Bond for future films. Look, no one loves exploding pens, jetpacks and cars that 'become' submarines more than I do, but… well… been there, done that. Often those things become fillers or 'eye candy' meant to distract me from a weak script or completely implausible villains. DNA-recognition sensors in Bond's Walther PPK? Now you're talking! This is a new, re-invented bad-ass bond–just what the doctor ordered. 

TP: I think the most significant aspect of this film is Bond’s vulnerability. He is shot in the line of duty, fails to qualify for active duty later on, and can’t quite compensate for his injuries. I don’t remember the character being this vulnerable since the beginning of Die Another Day. Gone are the gadgets, replaced by an updated Q with superior hacking ability. I thought this was very significant as this was a hefty statement that Bond is now in the 21st century. The Bond of today isn’t the can-do-anything slickster and this is what really makes it work. I thought this film might have gone a little too much in this direction though since certain expectations are now associated with Bond. I think this will change as the new direction is embraced by a new audience.  


AV: What, are you kidding me? Of course–bring 'em on! We ain't stopping here kids, we have ole Jimmy B right where we want him, cool, hip and delivering a world of hurt to those who would hurt our world. Ten more please! Yes, yes I'll wait… 

TP: I thought I heard somewhere that this was Craig's last film, but fortunately I also read that he has signed on for two more! So rest assured, we will have ample opportunity to discuss the direction of Craig’s ever-evolving Bond. 

ARTH VADER rates Skyfall: This movie is, without a doubt, the VERY BEST Bond movie I have ever seen. And that says a lot since I have seen a TON of good Bond films. Deliciously intelligent, riddled with scorching hot–and ethnically diverse–"Bond girls" and a deeper, darker premise with a glimpse into the more sinister machinations in the world of 007 and MI6, Skyfall is a delightful action epic that delights and dazzles and well-worth seeing. And this is one fan-boy who can't wait for the Blu-Ray release. 

That said, I gladly encourage no fewer than 9.5 busted blocks to fall from the sky for Skyfall. 

THE PONTIFICATOR rates Skyfall: There have been about 25 Bond films, and Craig’s have been some of the most enjoyable for me. Although this was a great film, it wasn’t the best ever. It was probably the most realistic, but certainly not the most entertaining... and in the end, that’s what it’s really all about. As I look skyward, I only see 7.5 busted blocks falling for this film. 

Skyfall: 8.5 Busted Blocks
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