Skyfall: The Significance of 50, The Power of 3
By Tim Romines (@TimRomines76)
When Skyfall was released last year, there were a couple of numbers that received a lot of publicity. One of those was 23, as in the twenty-third film in the EON produced James Bond series, an impressive achievement that is unlikely to ever be duplicated, especially considering the sometimes radical changes in tone that each lead actor, writers & directors brought through the various eras. Of course, the other much ballyhooed number was 50, marking the Golden Anniversary of Ian Fleming’s secret agent on the silver screen and, thus, cementing 007’s status as an enduring pop culture icon that will likely exist in some form forever.
As important and historic as those numerals are, the number that will stay with me whenever I think of Skyfall is 3. That figure represents the generations who sat in a packed, state-of-the-art auditorium in Knoxville, Tennessee anxiously awaiting the further adventures of Agent 007. As I sat there between my dad, Doug & my son, Drake, I was struck by the sentiment that this was the way it was always meant to be; sharing the action & thrills of a Bond film with people you relish spending time with and having a superb time doing it. I became acquainted with James Bond by watching with my dad, my son picked it up from me and now here we were, together among other folks with a communal love for this character, wondering where his latest excursion would take us. As the lights were lowered, I felt like we might be in for something special and I’m delighted to say I was right.
Let’s Do The Time Warp Again
From the excellent introductory shot of an out of focus Bond, accompanied by the familiar musical cue, to Adele’s lush & gorgeously haunting theme, (which, considering my mood on any given day, is constantly battling Paul McCartney’s Live And Let Die for the number two spot, since Dame Shirley & Goldfinger sits firmly on top of my favorites list), all the way up to the magnificent, goose bump raising denouement, (more on that in a bit), Skyfall succeeds by paying just the right amount of respect & homage to all that came before, while continuing to move the franchise in the only logical direction it can go. Yeah, yeah, I know that some of the tributes in this movie made no sense continuity wise, (I’m looking in particular at the Aston Martin DB5, in spite of its unveiling being a highlight moment for me personally), but let’s be blunt, EON has never made tight continuity a high priority in this franchise anyhow. That being said, I chose to just go with it & enjoy the ride, timeline glitches and all; I feel that was a wise decision. The classic elements are all there; a menacingly memorable villain, the ill-fated love interest, the mind-blowing stunts, top-notch scoring and the gorgeous scenery that are Bond hallmarks. We are finally reintroduced to beloved characters, albeit revamped & reimagined, such as Miss Moneypenny & Q, along with a new take on the classic M. However, this story takes the narrative into uncharted waters that I absolutely adore. We get intimate portraits of Bond, deeply delving into his troubled, unfortunate past for the first time in five decades, and we get distinct, plausible looks into what make M & Silva tick, making their actions all the more relatable. Silva, (Javier Bardem, chewing scenery & clearly having a ball), isn’t trying to take over the world akin to assorted SPECTRE, SMERSH or Quantum schemes. He simply wants revenge on the one person whom he feels betrayed him, (she did), and will rack up as much collateral damage as it takes to get said vengeance, (he does). The exploration of his failed professional relationship with M, (played to the bitter end by the legendary Judi Dench), especially when compared with the total trust, respect &, (dare I say it?), love she ultimately shares with Bond, is heartbreaking, compelling and eventually leads to a tragic culmination to their story. In fact, how they both failed to receive Oscar gold based solely on their face to face confrontation scene at MI6 will forevermore remain a mystery to me. Silva’s gut-wrenching revelation of his emotional, mental & physical scarring, (as well as M’s & Bond’s reactions to it), is chilling, disturbing and played to perfection on every hand. With Silva, we view the twisted reflection of whom Bond could have easily became in the right circumstances, were he a man of lesser convictions, and that is simply brilliant. It makes him one of the most complex and convincing rogues in Bond history.
And What of Bond Himself?
Yes, this film has been criticized for being pitch dark at times but there are also moments of levity that are organic and genuine and it serves the story well. Case in point, the museum exchange between Bond & Q is funny, clever and oddly poignant but never induces the eye rolls that some Bondian humor has in the past; I could recite examples all day but I will spare you from such unpleasantness. Daniel Craig is still brooding and cynical, (the same recollection of Fleming’s literary Bond that Timothy Dalton was so unfairly criticized for in the 80’s), but here he finally looks utterly comfortable in 007’s skin and I feel that this is the film that silenced most doubters for good. I’ll say it boldly, Daniel Craig is not a place holder, he IS James Bond, (as much so as Sean Connery), and he has redefined an icon for a new millennium. His portrayal has, thankfully, reestablished Bond as a relevant, contemporary action hero, whilst restoring credibility to a character that has been oft abused in the past. Candidly, I feel for whoever is tasked with stepping into his shoes when he departs the role and that’s the supreme compliment I can possibly grant him. Oh, having said all of that, let us please discuss that final scene. When we get the splendid shot of James looking over London, his city, with flags flying and stirring music in the background, we are reminded that true patriotism isn’t about pushing various political agendas, whatever they may be, but is rather the unwavering belief that you live in the greatest country on the planet, wherever that may be, and aren’t afraid to admit it or embrace it. In a nutshell, this encapsulates what I sincerely love about Commander James Bond; Girls, gadgets & catchphrases aside, 007 loves his country and will defend it, and its citizens, with his last breath and that, my friends, is the definition of a hero. Finally, in my humble opinion, anyone who wasn’t thoroughly geeked at the concluding image of M sending Her Majesty’s Secret Service Agent 007, (licensed to kill), off to his next exploit should probably turn in their Bond fan cards. Straightaway.
When the film was over, amid the elation and applause, I looked to either side of me and was exceedingly grateful to have shared this experience with two of my favorite people on Earth, (I’m getting a wee bit choked up as I write this now). We were thrilled by what we had seen and proceeded to critique the film on the ride home, pointing out our favorite bits. We all agreed that it was time well spent and, in the end, isn’t that the entire point? Looking back, I can’t help but ruminate that moments…memories…just like that will be exactly what keep James Bond valid for 50 years more and well beyond. Thanks Mr. Fleming, we are forever in your debt.
Tim Romines (@TimRomines76) is a husband, father, chef & infrequent blogger, (in that order,) living in the shadows of Rocky Top in East Tennessee. His interests are so varied, they border on absurdity, but food, superheroes, Sci-Fi, horror &, of course, James Bond are but a few. You can read his semi-coherent ramblings at rominesrants.tumblr.com
First Bond Film: Moonraker. I came back in spite of that.
Favorite Bond: With immense respect to all actors involved, Connery & Craig are tops for me.
Favorite Bond Girl: Contessa Teresa “Tracy” di’Vicenzo Bond (Diana Rigg) & Vesper Lynd (Eva Green). So much more than helpless victims, they were smart, clever & brave. They won Bond’s heart and that makes them special.
How I discovered #Bond_age_: When I first joined Twitter, I was searching for Bond content & @007hertzrumble was among the first things to pop up. I thought it all sounded extremely fun & here we are.
GoldenEye: The First Resurrection
by Nicolás Suszczyk (@NSuszczyk)
In Skyfall, Daniel Craig’s James Bond says to an overjoyed Silva his hobby is “resurrection”. Of course he resurrected in Skyfall after a not so bright Quantum of Solace and in Casino Royale after the somewhat grotesque Die Another Day. But the first resurrection 007 has ever had was, without a doubt, the 1995 film GoldenEye.
I was seven and a half years old when I saw a graphic ad in Buenos Aires announcing the cable TV premiere of GoldenEye in December 1997 or January 1998. Against a white background, there was a good-looking fellow in a tuxedo holding a silenced Walther PPK handgun, in an image lifted from the film’s teaser poster under the tagline “you know the name, you know the number.”
I didn’t know the name. I didn’t know the number, but that campaign forced me to learn more. I’d also heard once before some people in a toy store playing the famous GoldenEye game on a Nintendo 64 telling me this was the “agent 007 game.” After my dad gave me some Bond backstory, on January 31st 1998 we watched the film on TV. Multiple things happened to little Nicolás Suszczyk there: I went wow when I saw the hero shooting the audience through a gun barrel. My eyes opened wide when the same man bungee-jumped over 700 feet from a dam, and, of course, I fell in love with Famke Janssen, now the only woman over 45 I would think of dating.
GoldenEye ushered in a new generation of Bond fans and introduced the Cold War secret agent to the last leg of the 20th century. It showed Bond can still survive and arise with success in a generation of Internet and cellphones and that he didn’t really need SPECTRE or the Soviet Union to exist. Of course, the film has taken full advantage of the end of the Cold War, and they didn’t hide the fact (some sort of in-joke maybe) that 007 was a “relic of the Cold War” — a notion perhaps only exacerbated by the more than six-year hiatus where everybody thought Bond was dead after the poor box office for 1989’s Licence to Kill.
The remarkable direction of Martin Campbell (who has never disappointed me with any film, inside or outside Bond), the sharp photography of Phil Mehéux, Terry Rawling’s breathtaking editing and of course, the vivid imagination of the late Michael France who choreographed the unforgettable face-off between two double-oh agents. Bruce Feirstein and Jeffrey Caine turned France’s script into the the exquisite final recipe for GoldenEye, made even better with Pierce Brosnan, Sean Bean and Judi Dench in the cast. I even like Eric Serra’s score. Of course it has many flaws, but those metallic pings and pops capture the essence of the film, not to mention its time and place. As does the score for the epic tank chase by John Altman and the end title song “The Experience of Love,” which fits the triumphant feeling of the film’s romantic ending.
GoldenEye is the Bond film that has it all: the inclusion of the Internet in a Bond film with a small pinch of a Soviet Union Cold War dread sprinkled about, explosive and breathtaking action scenes, a solid script dealing with Bond’s emotions not only toward women but toward friends, an innocent and lovely girl in Izabella Scorupco, a sadistic sex-bomb in Famke Janssen, a charming but evil rouge agent in Sean Bean and of course, lots of humour with Robbie Coltrane and Alan Cumming.
Want to jump into the Bondwagon? Need a good introductory film to watch? Start with GoldenEye.
Nicolás Suszczyk was born and lives in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He became a James Bond fan at eight He studies journalism and runs the 007 fan sites The GoldenEye Dossier and Bond En Argentina.
First Bond Movie: GoldenEye on TV, Tomorrow Never Dies on the big screen.
Favourite Bond Actor: Pierce Brosnan
Favourite Bond Girl: Eva Green to marry, Famke Janssen for an occasional fling.
How I discovered #Bond_age_: Discussing Bond with unknown people worldwide.
Skyfall: James Bond, 50 Years Young
by James Tracey (@JamesEditsFilms)
“I like to do some things the old-fashioned way.”
“Sometimes the old ways are the best.”
After 50 years, you would think we’d eventually tire of James Bond. But something about the way the films have evolved and grown over the decades, and still fundamentally remained the same, has left us coming back. We may not love every film of the series, but we have remained loyal through and through. But I’m sure a lot of us have felt the growing age of the series at one point or another.
Skyfall tackles that age head-on. Unlike the tail ends of the Connery or Moore films, Sam Mendes entry into the Canon makes no attempt to hide the age of the series or its star, Daniel Craig, who was (and still is) 45 at the time of the film’s premiere. Most of the film centers on a battered and bruised 007, whose alcoholism and age is proving to be limiting. He’s not as strong anymore, he’s not as fast as he once was, and he can’t even shoot straight. Like the grand, old warship being hauled off for scrap, Bond is feeling the inevitability of time. The only question that remains is whether Bond can endure in the post-cold war environment.
For most of us here at #Bond_age_, we can answer that question with a big fat “DUH”. We love Bond so much that we’ve dedicated a day a week to watch and celebrate a Bond movie. We will probably keep doing for years to come. We celebrate this series because the films offer glimpses into the eras they inhabit. But Skyfall is a film that joins that celebration while still fearlessly leaping forward into the future. Gone are the exploding pens of yesteryear, which are replaced with DNA encoded guns and radios. But the essence of the series remains intact.
Skyfall is ever faithful to its roots. Take, for instance, the film’s antagonist; Javier Bardem’s Silva embodies the spirit of a classic Bond villain. His plans are big, epic and even a tad nonsensical. He has a terrifying back-story that has left him with a disfigured face in a return to the same spirit as Blofeld. His reveal shot and monologue is the kind of moment made only for a Bond villain. For chrissakes, his lair is a giant, abandoned island! Yet he inhabits the type of crypto-warfare that is all too popular within our modern Hollywood films. He’s a hacker who works out of sight, and can effectively be anywhere at once. He represents the threat of cyber terrorism; a threat that is all too common post-9/11. He is the modern and classic villain. He’s the best of both worlds
Bond, on the other hand, is struggling with his sense of self. Still shaving with a straight razor and MI6 is feeling the pressure from higher ups. In a world with no shadows, what use is there for a man like Bond when they have agents that can do all their work from a laptop in nothing but pajamas? Evolving with the times has always been a challenge for the Bond series. There was something so self-assured in the 1960s films that could arguably never be fully recaptured. By the 70s, the formula established by Goldfinger was already feeling a tad stale. Anyone remotely familiar knew the usual Bond trappings: Bond wraps up a previous mission, gets briefed by M for next mission, he investigates, sleeps with women, Bond gets captured, escapes, sleeps with more women, then beats the bad guy, and gets the girl. Wash, rinse, repeat. There was always some wiggle room and the series still produced gems from time to time, but for the most part, it was starting to get old.
When Bond got the reboot, it was long overdue and it felt fresh and reinvigorating. But to some, it wasn’t the James Bond we once knew. The series had been suffering from an identity crisis for a long time, but long-time fans really took note after the paltry reception of Quantum of Solace. But Skyfall eased their conscience. The film plays the familiar beats that series has been known for, but it somehow made them feel fresh and shiny again. James Bond and MI6 both embrace their former glory and how it has come to define them. “Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will; to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield”. Bond and M of course hop into the legendary 1963 Aston Martin and drive to the crumbling estate where Bond was orphaned. A tragic past that has come to define the character we know.
The film also takes substantial opportunity to explore the working and personal relationship between Bond and his well-known superior M. by casting Judi Dench in a more motherly role this time around, Skyfall finds its heart in the relationship between the pair. As the two look over the beautiful scenery of Scotland, their conversation isn’t one of business. The subject is Bond and his life before the agency. M’s remarks are hollow on the surface, but it is Dench’s delivery where she finds something truly personal between the two characters. This dynamic helps build up one of the series most heartbreaking finales. And the series has had its fair share thus far.
One of the hallmarks of the 23rd entry is the breathtaking cinematography provided by the legendary Roger Deakins. The use of lighting and color is so crucial to this film’s success, that it is even used as a plot point: Bond keeps his presence unknown from an assassin by hiding behind the shimmering glass that is reflecting the light of Hong Kong. The single take of the fighting silhouettes that follow shortly afterwards is technically flawless. And as Bond enters the casino in Macao, it is nothing but sheer visual bliss. Even the simplest scenes look beautiful, like M’s office. Skillfully winking towards the stylized 60s office and giving it a modern feel through by its framing and lighting.
It’s within this final scene of the film where everything comes full circle. Once Bond has dealt with the terrorist threat once and for all, and has proven his worth to the British Intelligence, he walks into the room all too familiar to Bond alumni. A scene the casual Bond fan would find rather unremarkable, but to us, it is punctuation of the film’s thesis statement. To see the scene unfold on opening weekend stunned me to my core. I walked out of the theater with the biggest grin on my face. If James Bond was brought back from the brink in 2006, then it was with Skyfall that his resurrection was complete.
I’m always at a loss for words when someone asks me the dreaded question: “What’s your favorite James Bond film?” I mean there’s so many I can make a case for. I wish I could say all of them. Skyfall is the Bond film that lets me celebrate the series as a whole, and allows me to look forward to a future where James Bond continues to dominate the popular culture landscape like no other hero before. For 143 minutes, I find myself in utter Bond heaven, and I smile with glee when the credits role and those familiar words grace the screen:
James Bond Will Return.
First and foremost, James Tracey (@James_at_movies) is a movie lover. Not the oldest of Bond fans, he is of vocal one. He studies film in his native city of Windsor, Ontario, writes periodically for www.zombiesquirrel.com (@ZombieSqwrl ) and edits films like this one (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4tGcdODpmkI). Also, he LOVES cats.
OTHER Favorite Bond Films: *Takes a deep breath* “Dr. No”, “From Russia With Love”, “Goldfinger”, “Thunderball”, “You Only Live Twice”, “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service”, “The Spy Who Loved Me”, “Goldeneye” AND “Casino Royale”
First Bond Film: Tomorrow Never Dies
Favorite Bond: Changes daily. Today it’s Timothy Dalton
Favorite Bond Girl: Diana Rigg. Hands Down.
How I discovered #Bond_age_: Don’t remember how it happened, but Scott Weinberg (@ScottEWeinberg) definitely had a supporting role
Casino Royale is the 21st essay in a 24-part series about the James Bond cinemas. I encourage everyone to read the other essays, comment and join in on the conversation about not only the films themselves, but cinematic trends, political and other external influences on the series’ tone and direction.
Of [In]human #Bond_age_ #21: Dispatching the “Reboot” and the Derring-Do of the many Casino Royales
by James David Patrick
The term “reboot” first became buzzworthy in 2005 when Christopher Nolan begat a new Batman universe only eight years after George Clooney last donned Joel Suckmaker’s bat nipples. The word “remake” had become tarnished from frivolous overuse and poor decision-making and synonymous with the industry’s dearth of creativity, or perhaps more appropriately, trembling risk averseness. As what can only be seen as a sly marketing ploy, the term “reboot” replaced “remake.” The term, of course, wasn’t a Hollywood original. True to form, Hollywood, the great appropriator (and/or corruptor), borrowed “reboot” from the comic book industry, which had, in turn, borrowed it from the computer science industry. “Reboot” derives from the idiom to “pull oneself up by the bootstraps” – an apt description for what happens when a franchise finds itself at the bottom of a creative well. (more…)
This is the 19th essay in a 24-part series about the James Bond cinemas co-created by Sundog Lit. I encourage everyone to read the other essays, comment and join in on the conversation about not only the films themselves, but cinematic trends, political and other external influences on the series’ tone and direction.
Of [In]human #Bond_age_ #19: The Tragedy of The World Is Not Enough: Shakespeare and a Sewer of Misogyny
by James David Patrick
“Something is very wrong with the way American women are trying to live their lives today… [T]he problems and satisfaction of their lives, mine, and the way our education has contributed to them, simply did not fit the image of the modern American woman as she was written about in women’s magazines, studies and analyzed in classrooms and clinics, praised and damned in a ceaseless barrage of words ever since the end of World War Two. There was a strange discrepancy between the reality of our lives as women and the image to which we were trying to conform, the image that I came to call the feminine mystique.”
-Betty Friedan, The Feminine Mystique
“There’s daggers in men’s smiles.”
-William Shakespeare, Macbeth Act II, Sc. III
There’s a temptation to reduce The World Is Not Enough and Die Another Day into one ghastly entity, a turn of the century mistake. I even considered distilling both films into one entry in the #Bond_age_ essay project, focusing on how pandering to the audience through nostalgia and cinematic shorthand can go ever so horribly wrong. I thought this would save sanity. Doing so, however, would be a disservice to TWINE and a marginalization of the DAD’s scourge of terror. First of all, I owe myself a full essay to vent my frustrations, to detail the ways in which Die Another Day curdles the entire Brosnan era and tarnishes Bond for a whole generation of fans. Second, in order to fully appreciate (and perhaps loathe) the ways in which The World Is Not Enough both uses and abuses the Bond formula, we must use a scalpel to peel back the layers of rabble and hyperbole and cut right to the gooey innards. Only then can we dissect what makes that movie tick, what makes it at once more interesting and more loathsome than the average mid- (or bottom-) tier Bond movie.
I first confronted the issue of feminism in James Bond in my discussion about the rape of Pussy Galore in Goldfinger. Ultimately I concluded that the treatment of Pussy Galore was born out of the confused sexual politics of the early 1960’s and the Bond filmmakers’ need to up the titillation factor with each successive Bond film. Again, I stress this does not excuse the questionable abuse, merely provide context and history that could produce a narrative miscalculation, a miscalculation that appears to our eyes brutish and Cro-Magnon. In the 48 years since Goldfinger, the James Bond series has received more than its share of criticism for the treatment and hypersexualization of women, some of it fair, some of it shortsighted and cribbed from hearsay and reputation.
Women threw themselves at Connery after merely a glance, even when they played pro-active roles in the drama. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service remains an outlier – Bond giving himself wholly to a strong, independent woman who also happens to save his skin. Moore had to work (slightly) harder at his womanizing – a quip and a seductive eyebrow. During the Moore years, the series even attempted to place a few of Bond’s female counterparts as de facto equals, in between the 1970’s serial bimboism, of course. Bond became a one-woman (per movie) monogamist during the Dalton years, a direct result of the newly widespread fear of AIDS. GoldenEye presented a mission statement on the ways women would be treated in the Brosnan years – strong, independent, occasionally in-charge, and skeptical of James Bond’s charms. Flash forward four years to The World Is Not Enough and the certainty of this thesis becomes murky and confused, like the enveloping darkness of the facepalm through which you’re forced to watch every line spoken by Dr. Christmas Jones. (more…)
Fools Gold and Pools of Blue: Color Symbolism in Quantum of Solace
by Array Jackson (@ArrayJackson)
Beyond the surface is my unknown
I could fall
But could I reach the elusive destination?
If I stepped inside would I ever know I was there?
Is it possible to transcend
to crack the surface
to submerge the impenetrable barrier
Into your vibrant pools of blue…
My love letter to Daniel Craig ~ Array Jackson
I can’t get the image out of my head. Larger than life. Vast. Deep. Breathtaking… The most amazing shade of blue. Can it be only a coincidence? I don’t think so. I’m flooded with theories about Quantum of Solace.
I honestly can’t remember if I saw Quantum of Solace in the theater; it’s more likely I first picked up bits and pieces on cable. So when I sat down to watch it in preparation for this essay, I knew I’d already seen something of it, and unfortunately I’d heard a lot—a whole lot of negative. But I went into this project positive, determined I was going to find something in the film of immense richness, digging below the surface if necessary. If you will, I was questing for gold. And I found it. As a matter of fact about a quarter of the way into the film I was overwhelmed with gold. And then black. And suddenly that vibrant, poetic blue. I asked myself: what the heck does all this bold color have to do with the plot? My ultimate answer: everything. (more…)