The James Bond franchise is 50 years and 23 installments long. Purely from a scientific approach, the franchise should be long dead, or at least walking dead, trailing an array of overused and misused plots and subplots behind it, but, surprisingly, it’s very much alive with the latest addition of Skyfall, which is solidly impressive, from the haunting lead song by Adele (prepare for non-stop radioplay) to the brand atmosphere of death, danger, sex, speed and cheeky humor James Bond movies are known for.
Skyfall is breaking all sorts of records right now; that’s testimony to the fact that the audience doesn’t need to see anything new to be entertained. Skyfall is a monument to postmodernism where deconstruction, pastiche, quotations and metanarratives are thrown together to bathe the viewer in all things Bond yet do it in a way that is decidedly 2012 thanks to skilfully used intertextual references to the Bourne franchise, The Dark Knight and, gasp, 28 Days Later, to mention just a few. The familiarity of the Bondian chases, the usual plot developments and traditional one-liners are comforting and satisfying, because Skyfall isn’t just an addition to the franchise but a sum total of all its predecessors, plus the movies that are hot right now, which makes it better than all the previous Bond films.
The Near Death Experiences
From the pre-credit sequence it is clear that this film is a reinvention, since Bond plunges to his death when Eve Moneypenny (Naomi Harris, who kicked major ass in 28 Days Later) takes a bad shot at him. When the Daniel Kleinman designed opening credits roll with tombstones and skulls to foreshadow misfortune and death, instead of the usual gyrating girls and guns, it is clear that Bond has indeed evolved. Mortality surely isn’t something previously associated with agent 007, so when he gets his chance to be ‘dead’, he enjoys it to the full (booze and babes, shot gloriously by cinematographer Roger Deakins).
But when M16 explodes, Bond is back in the game, even if his strength isn’t back in his body. We have never seen Bond at such a low – he fails test after test, his mental health shaken and his shooting arm unsteady. But M (Judy Dench, at her best) is ready to sacrifice anything for the greater good, so she lets him pass, putting him right into the line of fire, and it’s difficult to blame her with a villain like Silva (Javier Bardem).This guy could pass as a regular business bee in the street, with his blond hair and nice suits, but when he turns vicious, he is a 100% creature, not a flake of humanity in his pitch black soul.