Pop culture essays, criticism, fistfights

Let’s Review Skyfall!

As the Culture Blues Intern, it is my duty to record the post-screening discussions of my editors, so that they're not required to "sell out" and write actual cogent criticism.

Oy, what's all this then?

Jeff and Jeremiah are using their lunch break to play a three hour session of GoldenEye on Nintendo 64.

Jeff Hart:  See, GoldenEye makes sense to me.

Jeremiah White:  It does? You’ve been hiding in the same corner for the last 10 minutes. You know I can see your half of the screen, right?

Jeff Hart:  That’s cheating. And yes, I know what I’m doing. It’s called realism. This is exactly what I would do if someone was chasing me around an Egyptian pyramid. Whereas, in the latest big screen Bond outing Skyfall, characters persistently act in ways that defy even action movie logic.

Jeremiah White:  Before you get around to complaining about Skyfall – which I agree is totally illogical, bordering on stupid – I think it’s important to note, for the sake of full disclosure, that neither one of us are very big Bond fans.

Jeff Hart:  Yeah, sure. I don’t have a favorite Bond movie. People that do always impress me because HOW CAN YOU TELL THEM APART? I can understand the camp appeal of some of the older ones, but the new-ish “darker” James Bond played by Daniel Craig doesn’t do anything for me, especially not when director Sam Mendes seems convinced that the key to a successful Bond flick is aping as much of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy as possible.

Jeremiah White:  Skyfall exhibits a debilitating identity crisis. One minute it’s dark and brooding, the next it’s delivering a self-aware wink to Bond’s 50-year history. Despite that lighthearted ribbing, there’s also earnest celebration of doing things the old-fashioned way (some of the dialogue may have actually been plagiarized from Demolition Man) all while Mendes tries to take the series in an entirely new direction: there’s no significant Bond girl unless you count Judi Dench, I’m not aware of another Bond movie that spends so much time in London, the climax is more about the good guys making a desperate last stand than Bond stopping some mastermind’s plot for world domination or control of the weather or whatever, etc. These elements might all work in another film, but they constantly pull Skyfall in a bunch of different directions.

Jeff Hart:  Really though, all Skyfall had to do to win me over was make some kickass explosions and fight scenes.

Jeremiah White:  The opening sequence is at least promising. I liked Bond running across the train and using the backhoe as a weapon.

Jeff Hart:  Sure, but even that hints at the derivative set pieces to come, not to mention Mendes' apathy toward coherent action choreography.

Jeremiah White:  Those stunt guys really worked hard! Too bad no one got it on camera.

Jeff Hart:  Going back to my opening point, even if the action was better, Skyfall would still suffer from a lack of good sense. Nothing any of these characters do makes a lick of sense unless their motivation is just to get to the next action sequence. Bond frequently forgets that he has a license to kill, characters are allowed to escape when they’re on the ropes – it’s the kind of flimsy plotting that would be more at home in a late 80s Van Damme flick.

Jeremiah White:  What you’re describing are pretty well trod action loopholes.

Jeff Hart:  I guess, but aren’t we supposed to have a higher standard for Bond? Especially since the introduction of gritty realism to the series.

Jeremiah White:  I don't know about realism, but Skyfall desperately wants you to know that it was made in 2012, as evidenced by its oh-so-topical signposts like cyber-crime (somebody at MGM finally got around to watching The Net) and Javier Bardem’s villain, an obvious Julian Assange stand-in. Of course, these sad grasps for modernity eventually fall by the wayside as Bardem is revealed to be little more than a henchmen-deploying maniac with a thing for revenge and some serious mommy issues. Underneath the mind games and sexual ambiguity, he's your standard issue action bad guy. Bardem deserves credit for at least making the character interesting to watch despite how shallow his motives and methods are. There’s about 15 Bardem-centric minutes in the middle when I thought Skyfall might really take off.

Jeff Hart:  In the same vein, I really enjoyed (sarcasm) Judi Dench’s speech to Parliament about how we should all be afraid because people are going to try to blow us up. Has the Bond series always been this hawkish or did I miss something?

Jeremiah White:  No, I think Bond is usually more about avoiding war than making it. He's always working in the shadows to prevent potential global catastrophes that the public will never even know about. But Dench claims that their enemies are in the shadows and need to be brought to light (or something). Suddenly, Bond is more stormtrooper than superspy.

Jeff Hart:  Also, since we’re discussing gross things, I also think Craig’s version of Bond is more rape-y than he is charming.

Jeremiah White:  You’re referring to the sex worker that he climbs into the shower with and who then meets a grisly fate that Bond is entirely nonplussed by?

Jeff Hart:  Yep. He doesn’t even really seduce this woman, he just gets naked and grinds on her.

Jeremiah White:  It's uncomfortable. I think Mendes meant to move the series forward by minimizing the objectification of the female body throughout, but somehow he cocks it all up. And that's Skyfall in a nutshell.

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