More thoughts on James Bond 007 and Skyfall

As you may have read, I really liked Skyfall. While recognizing how many problems the film has, it really worked as an action movie, and furthered the franchise, I think, by offering a more human, more vulnerable Agent 007. A man with a past. And given the box office, it seems audiences agree.

But, wow, if you wanted to read or hear dissenting opinions since it opened, you needn’t go far.

Some say maybe Bond has become too serious.

In my own circle, most of my friends have seen it and the reaction has been very positive. But I know one person, a dyed-in-the-wool 007 fan, who thinks that since Brosnan was anointed, Bond has gone off the rails. Or maybe since Cubby Broccoli died. Too much divergence from the formula. Bond used to be a trend-setting franchise, now he’s trying to keep up with tentpole-action product, providing bigger explosions and not enough style. It was pointed out that one of the problems of the movies since Craig is they haven’t ended with him in the arms of a woman, one of the hallmarks of the franchise going back to Dr. No. It’s maybe a suggestion that love—not anger, not violence—is the thing that motivates him the most. It softens the films in a great way. I admit, I miss that, too.

I’ve also read reviews decrying the wink-wink-nudge-nudge self-consciousness of the endeavor, that the Craig Bond movies have too-slowly been trying to revamp the character, with too many knowing glances at Bond’s past to genuinely establish something new, the style of today’s James Bond. It’s an anti-post-modernist stance, but I can see that point, too.

I’ve read pieces upset in the depiction of Javier Bardem’s Silva as someone with mental illness. I’ve heard a complaint about Silva’s gayness. To wit, why does the villain have to be gay? Does it further his “otherness,” is it supposed to make him weirder, scarier? (I wondered about the gay assassins in Diamonds Are Forever, in that regard. But that was also 1971. My presumptions about the filmmakers’ intent in 2012 have certainly changed.)

So, with all this in my head, I went to see Skyfall again. And, while still recognizing the things about the film that are a bit problematic for me—how it borrows heavily in structure from The Dark Knight, how the flashlight thing towards the end is an annoying plot device, how the ending is generally a letdown, slathered in sentiment that feels a strange fit for Bond, overall—I actually enjoyed it even more the second time.

The pacing, the cinematography, the tone, the music, and the frequent, fun nods to the franchise’s history, I think it all really works. I don’t see Silva as representative of people with mental illness, or some kind of comment on that. And I think the character’s fey persona is calculated to make him more appealing to audiences, the one part of him that isn’t terrifying. Camp is pretty popular right now, so there’s an argument the character’s sexuality is actually trendy. (Whether that is good for advancing gay culture in the mainstream is another argument altogether.)

I can’t help feeling that this is a very satisfying entertainment. After 50 years, I think we should thank our lucky stars we still get to enjoy James Bond movies at all, that they’re still as much fun as this. I mean, 23 movies and still going? That’s amazing. Bond has survived six different guys wearing the tux, spoof franchises like Our Man Flint and Austin Powers (The Spy Who Shagged Me, what an awesome title), as well as massive cultural change and shifting trends. Despite Jason Bourne, Spy Kids, and John le Carré, people still want to see 007.

I’ve always admired the EON producers for their ability to take risks with the character and keep Bond relevant. I haven’t always agreed with their choices, but Bond is still here, still bringing a unique escapist treat. That’s nothing to sneeze at.

The cast and director of Skyfall

About the author


Carsten Knox is a massive, cheese-eating nerd. In the day he works as a journalist in Halifax, Nova Scotia. At night he stares out at the rain-slick streets, watches movies, and writes about what he's seeing.