OVERRATED / SKYFALL

WRITTEN BY LOUIE CARROLL

Casino Royale should have been the last Bond film ever made!  A controversial statement perhaps, but lets break it down. Heralded as the reinvention of the franchise, Casino Royale actually signaled the death knell for the series in terms of the relevance of the Bond franchise. In an effort to actually make a good film, director Martin Campbell wisely stepped away from everything that is iconic about Bond, thus proving that the Bond films were irrelevant in the era of Jason Bourne.  If Casino Royale was the warning, Quantum of Solace was the nail in the coffin.  Instead of building on the good work of its predecessor, the Bond genre proved it couldn’t sustain that level of high octane action without any of the trademark humour, resulting in one of the most dour experiences you’re ever likely to have at the cinema.

And then came the arrival of the titular overrated film, Skyfall. In 2012 Bond was fifty years old, it was time to celebrate all that was great about one of most culturally impactful icons of British culture. But take a closer look, what is there to actually celebrate about this character.  In twenty-four films, there have been a maximum of five quite good ones, and at least ten of them are unwatchable, that’s a pretty terrible batting average for a character that’s held in such high regard.  Rather bizarrely, the Bond that director Sam Mendes chose to bring to life was arguably the most irrelevant and dated of all available. Strangely, he made the decision to hark back to the Roger Moore era, with camp humour and outlandish set pieces aplenty. Not that there’s anything particularly wrong with camp Bond, but having seen the workmanlike Daniel Craig performance of Casino Royale in which he plows through walls and drowns people in a toilets, returning to the quippy, debonair character of a bygone era feels like a misguided and awkward transition.

Speaking of camp, the flirting scene between Bond and Javier Bardem’s theatrical villain Silva is one of the most poorly judged sequences in the franchises history and that’s saying something for a series that also had Sean Connery pretend to be Japanese in You Only Live Twice. Also despite being a released in 2012, Skyfall is perhaps the most sexist of all the Bond films, and once again, that’s saying something for a series that previously featured a female character called Pussy Galore.  Bérénice Marlohe arrives on screen for one shower sex scene and is then promptly dispatched in a most unglamorous manner, much like Gemma Arterton in Quantum of Solace.  However, the real offender here is Naomi Harris’ Moneypenny, whose entire character arc seems to conclude with the realization she’s not meant to be out in the field with the boys but  working as a secretary behind a desk instead.

The decision to explore Bond’s past, a previously untouched area for the films, highlights the filmmakers desperation to find new territory to bring the character.  Showing Bonds roots is a fundamental error that betrays the very essence of the character. James Bond arrived on screen as a fully formed entity in 1962, and has functioned as such for fifty years without needing a backstory.When it comes to the films climax, Mendes aims for Straw Dogs, but ends up somewhere closer to Home Alone territory.

So what next for the Bond franchise? Spectre being the title of the new entry, would suggest another attempt to call back to the characters legacy.  Here’s hoping they actually get it right, otherwise just leave it to Jason Bourne in the future.