Friday, 2 November 2012

SKYFALL - My Initial Thoughts

This started out as just a simple status update on Facebook and then I ended up writing over 1000 words, so I figured I might as well put it on my blog. I will publish a revised version of this post as a review once I've seen the film a second time.

Skyfall is a VERY good Bond film, but it is by no means the best Bond film! 

The best Bond film is still Casino Royale (2006), which is a wonderful example of adapting a novel by completely updating the story, but only within how the material of the novel would dictate it and, therefore, still remaining faithful to the original novel and the original James Bond “blunt instrument” character as created by Ian Fleming. Ultimately, Casino Royale has a solid script and is a film with very few flaws; It is an engaging and complex cinematic experience which presents the Bond character as originally conceived by Fleming and as rarely depicted in any of the previous films (Connery is not the best Bond - read one of the novels and you’ll realise this).

Bond returns from the dead.
Bond dies.

Skyfall isn’t based on a novel, there are unused elements from two of the novels: You Only Live Twice and The Man with the Golden Gun which are used in the first act of Skyfall, but aside from that the script is an original creation. It doesn’t completely feel like something Ian Fleming would have written but it is certainly stepping in the right direction, if not along the exact same path Fleming would have taken.

We see a side of Bond we've not seen before.
Daniel Craig continues to shoulder Bond to his usual high standard and he does it as close to Fleming’s intentions as today’s attitudes towards the character will allow. Craig again shows us a side of Bond we’ve not seen before and has some “interesting” interaction with Bardem’s Silva, which I’m amazed it’s taken the filmmaker’s this long to include in a Bond film - seeing how it’s something Fleming hints at in nearly all of the villains in the novels!

Silva and Bond have some "interesting" interactions.
Javier Bardem is wonderful as the villain (he’s a lot like the Joker) and is completely underused - he needed more screen time! He’s a nice blend of the post-90s and pre-90s Bond villains (I won’t say anymore).

Bérénice Lim Marlohe as Sévérine.
Naomie Harris as Eve.
The two Bond girls, Severine and Eve, both shift against the grain and come across as more complex and interesting than any of the pre-Craig or pre-90s Bond girls and, thankfully, more so than Fleming’s cardboard cutouts (there are a couple of exceptions). Again, though, the Bond girl element was slightly underused and would have benefitted from a bit more screen time and juxtapositioning against Craig’s Bond. 

The Joker intended to get caught.
The latter half of the second act is actually a very close copy of a section of the The Dark Knight and there is even a line of explanatory dialogue which is almost a complete copy of an explanatory line Commissioner Gordon says! But it works for the film and creates a very thrilling sequence which leads logically into the next and vastly superior stage of the film. 

James Bond - defender of the realm.
The visuals are spectacular and the whole film is beautifully shot! We get lots of London (finally, the filmmaker’s have got past their resistance of having a Bond film that mostly takes place within the UK). Just watch the film - the visuals speak for themselves.

There is this absolutely stupid fight scene in a pit with shamefully bad CGI (You’ll know what it is because it’s sticks out like a great big sign saying: “Look at me, I’m CGI and because I look crap you know I’m CGI.” ). The scene is completely redundant and only serves one purpose: to provide the punchline to one of Q’s gadgets which, let’s be honest, Bond doesn’t really possess for long and doesn’t really need. There is only one place this scene belongs and that is on the cutting room floor! They should just have had Bond knock the goons out, straighten his bow tie, walk off camera - cut to the next scene.

It's not the one you would expect - but it still makes for a nice surprise.
The DB5 is back! It’s not the one you would expect to be back and you may not see it fitting comfortably into the film, but I can buy Bond having a bit of a tinkering with it (Fleming himself liked his gadgets).

The title song is very well done - it definitely conveys the tone of the film with a very overt Bond-esque-ness. I’m actually glad I refrained from listening to it until I saw the film; it was so much better to experience it as featured in the film. 

Adele tweeted this picture during the film's postproduction.
Also, the title sequence - WOW! I'm glad to see they're still putting considerable effort into what will soon be an extinct component of the motion picture (except in the Bond films, of course).

The script still needed some work - there are areas of the film that could have done with being expanded on and explored more. The first act could have used more work to fill in some quite significant gaps. The dialogue is a bit too overtly explanative in places. 
Skyfall Lodge burns.
While providing the conclusion to the film, the final acts feels almost like its own separate entity and allows you a bit of thinking time; as well as re-establishing who and what Bond is. It’s not completely perfect (again, the script needed some work here and Bardem needed more to do), but visually and thematically it’s incredibly satisfying - it looks and feels like nothing you’ve seen or would expect to see in a Bond film and yet it provides an ideal catharsis for the film and the Bond character. This final act is definitely one of the film’s redeeming features.

The BFI IMAX, where I saw Skyfall.
And IMAX? Bond and IMAX were made for each other! These two are going to have a very prosperous future together. 

IMAX poster.
Skyfall is a hugely entertaining, visually stunning and topical film that sits nicely in the times we live in; while reminding us not to abandon all the values that have benefited and protected us in the past. The film is definitely a step-up from Quantum of Solace and well on its way to being another Casino Royale; even if it doesn’t quite top it, it still makes for a good companion piece. The film is very much an analysis, an appreciation and a re-establishment of the Bond formula and nicely sets the franchise up for what will presumably be another fifty years of everything epitomised in that famously simple line: “Bond... James Bond.”

James Bond will return.
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