BY MICHAEL SMITH World Scene Writer
Friday, November 09, 2012
11/09/12 at 5:40 AM
Quiz. Bond quiz.
Bond Quiz answers
Craig puts emotional spin on Bond character
I want James Bond back. I've seen "The Bourne Legacy," and I don't need to see it again.
With the release of "Casino Royale" in 2006, I hailed it as one of the best films of that year and the best Bond movie to date, with Daniel Craig's debut matching Sean Connery as the definitive British superspy.
That movie gave Bond a much-needed update as world-protector, making him a tough-minded yet vulnerable spy-with-a-heart for a new age.
If the inspiration for a more no-nonsense Bond came from the successful Jason Bourne films, fine, but "Casino Royale" took this step forward while retaining all of the qualities that make Bond films great.
Great action and great fun. Beautiful women and locales. Cool gadgets and a memorable villain. "Casino Royale" left me shaken and stirred.
"Skyfall," Craig's third outing as 007, leaves me somewhat cold. This is Bond as a sourpuss, battling a stylish but poorly conceived villain who uses computers as his weapons.
Bond rarely looks challenged so much as he looks ticked off. As for a softer side, 007 shows about as much vulnerability as Craig's abs.
What's missing is the fun factor. Director Sam Mendes ("American Beauty") is a fine filmmaker, but his collaboration with screenswriter John Logan is that of a stone-cold revenge tale.
A bonus with Mendes is that this is one of the most gorgeous Bond movies to date, and that's regardless of international locales (although Shanghai's skyscrapers, neon and paper lanterns at night are made swoon-worthy).
Who's out for revenge? Seemingly everyone. MI6 is under attack by a computer genius named Silva (Javier Bardem), who proves to be a ghost from the past for M (Judi Dench as Bond's immediate superior), as well as 007. In addition, M and Bond are in conflict with each other, and Bond has personal issues from his past to sort out.
That's the less-than-scintillating prospect of "Skyfall": personal grudges and internal strife to settle: 3; threat to the world that must be stopped: 0.
The Bond-fixture of a "How did they do that?" opening sequence features motorcycles chasing atop grand bazaars in Turkey and then finishing atop a train, with Bond determined to snatch back a list of CIA operatives' covers to keep them from being blown.
Failure to do so results in MI6 looking rather long-in-the-tooth in the spy game. M is seen as retirement-ready by some, and just six years after Bond was re-introduced as having not even earned his license to kill, some superiors suggest that maybe he's past his prime.
That didn't take long. It is another of the elements of "Skyfall" that just doesn't feel right. Time for Craig to pack it in? Please. It's not like we're talking about Roger Moore in "A View to a Kill" at 57.
Logan has signed on to write the next two Bond pictures, and "Skyfall" feels like a transitional picture, which is how I think it will be seen historically with respect to the series. I'm not sure that I like where it's aiming, especially if turning Bond into a generic spy is the target.
It doesn't help that while he leaves Craig offering the occasional quip, the actor delivers them with the gusto of a man spitting a fly out of his mouth.
"Why so serious?" was a line from "The Dark Knight," another film that people accused of taking the fun out of the longtime hero of a series. I couldn't help but be reminded of that sentiment here.
There will be substantial debate among viewers as to Javier Bardem's villain, a flamboyant psychopath who makes a grand entrance and uses a new device in the Bond canon with which to intimidate 007 upon their meeting. Reactions will range from, "Wow, didn't see that coming!" to, "What are they thinking?"
While this scene is totally original, Bardem's character falls into caricature for the remainder of the film. There has never been a great Bond film without a great Bond villain, and that remains true.
Mendes forgoes a cache of fancy weapons in favor of guns and the simplicity of a homing device. It's a nice nod to Bond films from a half-century ago.
"It's not exactly Christmas," Bond dryly banters of the low-tech hardware. The film has too few of these moments; so few that when an Aston Martin is revealed and we hear the familiar strains of John Barry's classic theme, the pulse quickens for longtime fans in a way that otherwise rarely happens.
The Bond girls played by Naomie Harris and Berenice Marlohe are smart and sexy, and Ralph Fiennes acquits himself well as a British administrator eyeing M's performance. But it is not until a smashing concluding scene that we realize the importance of these characters.
If "Skyfall" proves to be a transitional film, let it be as an introduction to an agent who comes back better than ever, and with his sense of humor intact.
Don't change James Bond. Tweak him, make him current with his era, make him more of a lover than a Lothario, but please, let the guy smile occasionally.
If 007 isn't having fun, we're not having as much fun. After 50 years of other spies wanting to be more like James Bond, why have 007 be more like Jason Bourne or anyone else?
Daniel Craig, Javier Bardem,
Judi Dench, Ralph Fiennes, Ben
Whishaw, Naomie Harris
in IMAX and non-
IMAX at Cinemark Tulsa and
AMC Southroads; also playing
Cinemark Broken Arrow,
RiverWalk, Owasso, Starworld
20, Eton Square, Sand Springs,
2 hours, 23 minutes
G-13 (intense violent
sequences throughout, some
sexuality, language and smoking)
(on a scale of zero
to four stars)
Original Print Headline: Cool to cold
Michael Smith 918-581-8479
With Daniel Craig in the role for the third time, James Bond comes across as a sourpuss in "Skyfall." COURTESY / Sony Columbia Pictures
James Bond (Daniel Craig) rarely looks challenged in "Skyfall," battling a poorly conceived villain who uses computers as his weapons. FRANCOIS DUHAMEL / Courtesy
The villain Silva (Javier Bardem) will stir up much debate among Bond fans. COURTESY / Sony Columbia Pictures