(The Verge)- 50 years and 23 movies later (unless you count that unofficial one), James Bond remains a cultural icon in film. The character of 007 has endured through decades of movies and numerous portrayals. And before you say anything, yes, I know he’s based on a character from literature, so shut up already! Despite having only seen the three most recent films in the series, Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace, and now Skyfall, I can safely say that Daniel Craig’s latest Bond movie is the best one I’ve seen…I think.See, here’s the thing. I saw both Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace when they were in theaters and haven’t seen them since, so I don’t exactly remember them very well. I vaguely remember liking the first one just fine, and the latter film was so forgettable I honestly can’t say if it was as bad as everyone made it out to be. For those reasons, it is difficult for me to compare Skyfall to the previous Craig movies, let alone the almost two-dozen other Bond films. Why am I even telling you this? Because hearing legitimate film critics praise this as being “the best Bond movie in years” or even “the best Bond film ever” has left me slightly perplexed. While I feel that Skyfall stands on its own as a decent film, the fact that I can’t compare it justly to the other installments in the series makes me feel as if I missed something that is causing the critics and film enthusiasts alike to go crazy. With all that being said, Skyfall is still an enjoyable experience in its own right, while being a bit by-the-numbers.
The film wastes no time up front by showing Bond perusing a target with the help of fellow agent Eve (Naomie Harris), chasing by car, motorcycle, and eventually train. Daniel Craig has already proven himself as a more than capable 007, and seeing him reprise his role is a welcome site. Naomie Harris’ character is also a welcome addition, serving as a useful partner to Bond whenever she is needed. After seeing the result of the mission, the movie transitions into the traditional “Bond theme” during the opening credits, this time sung by Adele (because, of course it is!) Adele’s performance comes across as somewhat lifeless, failing to showcase her full range. I’m not even a huge Adele fan, but I’m still used to hearing her belt it out whenever I’m forced to listen to her, and she sounds straight up bored here!
We then come back to Bond, who appears to have been spending his time in the footsteps of Odysseus after washing up on Calypso’s island. Once he has learned that someone is hunting down M16 agents, he decided to return to England and receives his new mission from M (Judi Dench). During his mission, we learn that Bond isn’t quite as flawless as we were once lead to believe. Aside from being rusty as a result of being out of the field for so long, 007 appears to be more concerned with getting the job done than making morality checks. There are a few instances where he could have easily saved the lives of victims while still accomplishing his mission, but he instead chooses to focus on the task at hand. This gives Bond an added layer of personality while still managing to retain his likability. It also shows how the agent has been through a lot over the years, and the issue of his age is brought up several times (it’s worth mentioning that Daniel Craig is only 44.)
Skyfall‘s major theme is that of being “old-fashioned.” Several characters question whether doing things the old-fashioned way is truly the best way, and the film addresses this concern with both its characters and set-pieces. M’s character is the biggest defender of the old ways, with her character having a more prominent and personal role this time around. Her speech towards the back-half of the film on the matter is one of the shining moments of Skyfall, and can be contextualized in terms of the real world quite easily. The reintroduction of the “Q” character (Ben Whishaw) also brings credence to this concern, with his high-tech means of problem solving supporting the theory that Bond’s job is irrelevant. Whishaw’s character is a breath of fresh air to the series, and is reigned in enough to prevent his character from overstaying his welcome. While this overall theme gives Skyfall an extra layer of substance, it is not enough to elevate the film to a higher level, which is ultimately its greatest flaw.
While Skyfall is an entertaining action film that doesn’t fall into the trap of “dumbing itself down” for general audiences, its greatest shortcoming is that its overall plot is fairly by-the-numbers. This may be fine for a formulaic series such as the Bond films, but there is nothing here that is truly groundbreaking, as opposed to something like The Dark Knight. The generic plot is mostly hampered by the main villain. Javier Bardem’s character, while well acted, is ultimately bland and uninspired. For these reasons, I am left baffled as to why this film is being praised as highly as it is. I know a film should be judged on its own merits rather than the opinions of the masses, but as I was watching Skyfall, I couldn’t help but feel that I was missing something that pushed it over the edge for most people. When the movie was over, I was left satisfied with the overall experience, but also dissapointed in the general hype.
If you are looking for a revolutionary action movie that redefines the genre, you probably won’t find it here. There are moments where Skyfall attempts to be more than the sum of its part, but it never succeeds in achieving that level of greatness. What it does succeed in, however, is being an enjoyable Bond film that is sure to entertain 007 fans as well as causal movie-goers alike.