Skyfall (2012)

Wait! I already watched this movie!

It was the distant year 1982. The first movie of a successful franchise had been very disappointing. The producers could smell the money, but knew there was nothing to be won by continuing on the trodden path. So, the very keen decision: kill one of the main characters, add an amazing and disposable super-villain, and allow for a reboot with fresh blood.

The movie in 1982 was Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Ricardo Montalban was the titular character, Khan, an antagonist with an old grudge and a score to settle. The beloved character that had to go was Spock, the Vulcan science officer whose actor, Leonard Nimoy, was probably sick of the pointy ears and who had a lot more to offer than “Fascinating.”

In 2012, 30 years later, things didn’t change much. This time, the actor that needs to go is Dame Judy Dench – maybe she’s ready for retirement? She had been playing M in James Bond movies since 1992, and was by all accounts a giant asset to the franchise. But maybe she’s too old, or just bored.

 

The antagonist in the olden days was Ricardo Montalban. It was unclear why they chose the character of Khan for the movie – it had been a minor character from one of the episodes of Star Trek. But the choice was amazing. Khan had all the rage and resentment that made a personal vendetta believable.

Javier Bardem as Silva has a personal grudge against M. We are told about it, and it’s the same identical grudge that James Bond should (but doesn’t have): he’s been abandoned by his mother figure, M. Javier Bardem is amazing: full of passion, of resentment, of believability. You just buy that he felt betrayed by M, her cool British countenance offset by his Latin passion. My mother abandoned me! Of course James Bond, as the prototypical Brit, would cope with that. But Silva, no, unthinkable

Once you watched Star Trek II, you know what’s inevitable: M is going to die, and there are no Vulcan safeguards for soul transfer. Besides, she already has Ralph Fiennes as an M-in-waiting by her side. Everybody else (except for Bond and the love interest) are going to die. Oh, well.

I admit I watched Quantum of Solace and wondered why they had to kill a franchise like that. Casino Royale was a fantastic journey, while nothing about QoS worked: the plot was stupid (who cares about fresh water?), the locations dull (driving through the streets of a Bolivian city???), the stakes tiny (Bond was never threatened). It was play unimaginable that the same people that pulled off Casino Royale were also the ones doing Quantum of Solace. And then Skyfall.

Skyfall is a very intimate movie, as far as James Bond movies go. Much of the later part of the action takes place in Bond’s ancestral estate in Scotland, where shots are not sexy, but the intimacy of not having to steer around hundreds of extras just works. Because, in the end, it’s about Silva and Bond and of course M.

Skyfall just works. Because we love Daniel Craigh and Judy Dench, because the story is not about some cosmic plot, but about passion, about betrayal, about revenge.

Loved it. Let’s hope Ralph Fiennes fills the role in a way as powerful as Judy Dench.

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