In an era where our screens are flooded with spectacular action films with thin plotlines, Skyfall stands out as being above par. Academy Award winning director Sam Mendes chose to rely on live action stunts rather than CGI, which makes the whole fare more spectacular. Daniel Craig as James Bond deserves praise for he is an athlete whose prowesses on the big screen are efficiently supported by his strong acting chops. But within the context of 50 years of Bond tradition, the MGM-Columbia co-production remains a disappointment. The film doesn’t even open with the classic gun barrel sequence that imprints all Bond movies, that says it all.
What is the formula that makes a James Bond film different from any other action movie? The humor, gadgets, larger-than-life villains, amazing set design, stereotypical bomb shells… and finally, the James Bond theme composed by Monty Norman and John Barry (although both have long argued sole responsibility for it). A James Bond movie is not pure action but instead a combination of all these elements. This is what has defined the franchise and made it the longest one in film history.
While watching Skyfall, one can’t help thinking that it bears close similarities to any of the Bourne Identity movies. In other words, James Bond has lost some of his charm. What happened to the Lotus Esprit that turns into a submarine (The Spy Who Loved Me), the gondola that turns into a speed boat in Venice canals (Moonraker) or the face of a Rolex watch that becomes a saw when needed (Live And Let Die)? Where are the ‘Jaws’, who kills his victims by biting them with his steel teeth, and Odd Job, who breaks their neck by throwing his hat like a frisbee. Skyfall lacks all of it. There are no surprises. One example is the opening fight on top of a train, which, although spectacular, has been done many times, including another Bond film, Octopussy, starring Roger Moore. What happened to the absurd sense of humor inherent in the earlier Bond films? We will always remember Sean Connery coming out of the water and taking off his wet suit to reveal an impeccable tuxedo (Goldfinger). This is what defines James Bond; suave, charming, debonair.
If the decision by producers Barbara Broccoli and step brother Michael G. Wilson was to take the franchise in a completely different direction, it has obviously paid off financially. They unfortunately sacrificed the very essence of the Bond films in the process… it’s too bad. Since Daniel Craig took over the iconic role of the British spy, he is more violent and less glamorous. He remains a great 007 but the films have become too banal.