Next week marks the opening of Spectre, a film that will probably break some kind of record at the UK Box Office; but if Skyfall was anything to go by, count me out.
When I was young I liked Bond: over the years I’ve seen every film, and though quite a few of them are completely naff, they had their own charm. They were Bond films. He had a license to kill, an amphibious Esprit, and could miraculously drive a DB5 faster than a Ferrari 355. He had enough firepower in his wallet to bring down a small country; and he slept with women named Pussy Galore. He was a suave jet-setter: kids wanted his gadgets, adults wanted his lifestyle. All of this, backed up with one of the most iconic soundtracks in history, meant Bond films were essentially great TV movies.
But then along came Bourne, and Bond was blown out of the water. The Bourne films were superior in just about everyway, and 007’s reputation was plummeting thanks to the release of woeful offerings like Die Another Day. This resulted in Daniel Craig’s Bond shifting a step closer to the grittier Jason Bourne, and at first this seemed to work: Casino Royale is a very good film and is probably my favourite Bond film; but it set the character off on a dangerous path.
Bond had abandoned his roots and the writers could no longer rely on the classic formula: no one was going to blow up the earth; and 007 couldn’t save the day equipped only with a bag of tricks from Q, some Durex, and his trusty PPK. Bond was no longer fun.
The problem for the franchise though is Casino Royale convinced everyone this new formula works, when in reality 007 has been on life support ever since. Most people would agree that Quantum of Solace was awful; but Skyfall is a different kettle of fish, because the majority of people loved it: in reality though it was so full of problems that the only way to get around them was with lots of big explosions, nods to nostalgia, and a touchy-feely bad guy.
The first and most glaring issue with Skyfall is the plot. A rogue former agent threatens MI6 and begins to release the identities of undercover agents, a good start: but then these poor buggers are almost instantly forgotten in favour of a painstakingly dull game of cat and mouse between Bond and Silva (Javier Bardem).
This could have worked, if Silva hadn’t been so laboriously predictable: he gets caught on purpose at the start; breaks out for some revenge; and ends the proceedings with a predictable showdown with some clichéd dialogue: the only things missing are some cowboy boots, a steam train, and Clint Eastwood.
It’s no wonder Judi Dench seemed so disinterested: made to look weak and recite poetry in her final outing, playing the role of the retiring damsel-in-distress. I liked her time as M, but this was a tedious and feeble ending for her character.
As for Silva he is neither entertaining nor threatening, and came across as a lame and camp version of The Joker. But while The Joker had the good grace to keep us guessing and pushing Batman to the very limit of his principles, all Silva could manage was to give Bond a cheeky rub on the thigh.
Unfortunately the Batman similarities don’t stop with Silva though: because who in their right mind wants to see The Dark Bond Rises? I don’t want to see 007 with an achy shoulder and failing physicals only to prove that “he’s still got it!!!” At least if Skyfall had been Daniel Craig’s last film this angle would have had slight credence, instead of a poor excuse for building tension toward the end. (A tension which is completely negated by it being so blindingly obvious that M will die, that you wish Silva would just shoot her an hour earlier and get it over with.)
But Skyfall wasn’t Craig’s last film: so presumably he’s going to be even further along the road to retirement in Spectre, making groaning noises every time he sits down due to his piles like General Meltchett in Blackadder.
Then again if Sam Smith’s insufferable “Writing’s on the Wall” is anything to go by, maybe 007 will just spend the whole film listening to Alanis Morissette, inconsolably weeping like a nauseating adolescent whose just been dumped after a week-long relationship. Or maybe they’ll just skip over this and hope nobody notices: which would be the likeliest of the three, if it weren’t for option number four…
Judging by the sheer product placement in Skyfall, as Bond sips on his Heineken for no apparent reason other than to prostitute himself for the sponsors, Daniel Craig won’t be down in the dumps in Spectre: he’ll be too busy spending most of his time wearing a banana-hammock, bent over the new Dacia Sandero, and squeezing designer soap down his chest.
Small wonder then that Craig recently said he “doesn’t give a fuck” who plays the next Bond. And you know what, neither do I: we never saw it in any of the films, but Bond died a while ago. Maybe we should let him rest.