11 November, 2012

Skyfall: Needs More Bond

*Yes, I know the Fleming novels are very different from the Broccoli vision.

I love Bond films. Love. Them. They're campy enough that you don't have to take the politics of the thing seriously while realistic enough to evade B movie tedium. Daniel Craig is a fine actor. He's attractive. On paper, this should be great. On the screen, Craig is playing Generic Action Hero instead of James Bond. He's going for a realism that the Bond films can't support. (Tony Stark is a better James Bond than the Bond of Skyfall.)

Right up to the point where the aging retainer whisks someone into a cave I was thinking this Bond owed way more to Batman than to Bond. He's dark, he's moody, he has an artfully placed tombstone of his beloved parents. Give the guy a cowl and call it a day. Instead of having an aging Bond face his Peter Pan complex squarely, Skyfall goes with Get Off My Lawn Bond. He's out to prove that his franchise's 50th anniversary means that the old ways are the best ways. This Bond doesn't need technology, he just needs experience. (No really, this Bond is more into his vintage car than the latest cool gadgets. I know. Believe me. Also, Loki wants to be captured? You don't say.)

If you take Bond out of its cartoonish villains and super evil seductresses, you force the audience to make ethical choices about Bond's actions. Craig's Bond comes across as a date rapist. From the island woman he ignores in bed (with mild contempt) to the Bond Girl lead, Craig seems less a lover and more a customer. Let's go with a mild spoiler and examine Bond Girl # 3 in the film. Bond identifies her as a victim of the sex trade. Sold around age 12, she's put herself into the control of a madman in an effort to escape servicing endless numbers of men. Now living in a level of fear she tells Bond he cannot comprehend, she is desperate for deliverance. Later that evening Bond sneaks (naked) into her shower for the obligatory sex. Bond Girl # 3 has no agency. She is not there for any purpose other than to sleep with Bond and deliver the men in the plot forward. She does not seduce Bond, nor does she offer sex prior to his appearance. The sex between Bond & Bond Girl # 3 is not joyful, it is a bill she must pay to potentially escape relentless terror. Afterward, in the grand tradition, she pays dearly for that frantic gamble.

Skyfall does offer a Bond Girl worthy of this Bond's respect and charm. (The question is why she's interested in him.) Naomi Harris (as Eve) sets the bar for Bond Girls. In fact, if Skyfall had taken a real risk and killed off Bond so Eve could become 007, I'd have cheered the film on. She was a far better Bond (seductive, daring, dangerous, amoral, and effective) than James Bond himself. By the end of the film we've learned her true place, and it isn't one that involves code names. Also keeping me from giving up on Skyfall was an absolutely brilliant Bond Villain. Javier Bardem completely understands the lines between campy and creepy that Bond Villains walk. It is Harris and Bardem that deliver the true Bond film moments. The rest of the cast seems plucked from Generic Suspense Film 101. Beautiful effects and sets can't repair the damage done by a Bond who leaves one wondering what right he has to run amok in other people's countries.


  1. I was reading Fleming when I was 15, at the same time as Anne of Green Gables (oh, I probably should have mentioned that to my therapist first) and also love the films, though I didn't pay much attention after Sean Connery. I really like Craig as an actor but I can see he's not a good fit. There needs to be an unreflective arrogance along with charm that Connery and the scripts of that era pulled off so well. I can't see it ever working in a Bond film for the women to be his victim. If he's not irresistible, he's not Bond. Too bad. I was thinking about seeing this one. Thanks for the warning.

  2. Unreflective arrogance is the perfect description. I don't know if I'd say skip it entirely, Bardem & Harris are completely worth seeing. Maybe a rental?