Skyfall: where is it all heading?

Back in October I made 23 short videos about “Bond 23” as Skyfall was known back then. In the videos I discussed what I’d like to see in the new film and what I’d prefer for the filmmakers to avoid.

Now that the first teaser trailer has been released and filming is approaching a close, with more than six months worth of news, set photos and a few spoilers that have escaped via various channels I thought I’d revisit what I’d like to see in Skyfall and compare it with we’re likely to get.

I’m jumping the gun of course, and only time will tell whether the film is becomes another “modern classic” like Casino Royale, or ends up with Quantum of Solaceas being one of the least well-liked of the entire franchise, but here we go anyway.

Start out right

Neither Casino Royale nor Quantum of Solace started with the traditional gunbarrel sequence right at the start, but although it worked with Casino Royale, where it is situated in the pre-titles sequence, the Quantum of Solace gunbarrel was completely out of place at the end of the film.

As I’ve pointed out before, the gunbarrel serves to set us up for what follows, in the pre-titles sequence and after, by producing an adrenaline rush thanks to a Pavlovian response. Although the trailer gives no clue about the gunbarrel and, as far as I’m aware, neither Barbara Broccoli/Michael G Wilson nor director Sam Mendes has commented on it, I would say it is a fairly safe bet that a traditional style gunbarrel sequence is featured right at the beginning of the film. However, having said that, Wilson did say that the Casino Royale gunbarrel was a one off and the next film would see the traditional gunbarrel return.

Next is the pre-titles sequence, or PTS for short. They did a good job of it in Casino Royale, but messed it up in the followup; the editing was too fast and camerawork shaky meaning what could have been a really good car chase – and  really good PTS –  was ruined. I still can’t quite believe how many Aston Martins they wrecked in that sequence and the stunt work can hardly be seen. My model PTS is Goldfinger as it has just about everything right. It’s short and to the point, with the right balance of humour, action, Bond girl, explosions and Sean Connery coolness; it’s an entire Bond adventure in a few minutes, a world away from the 20 minute PTS of Die Another Day, for instance.

From the clapperboards released via the official 007 social media channels and other sources we know that the PTS is set in Turkey, and we’ve seen some of the stunt work that has been shot there leaked onto YouTube. I think we’re in for a relatively long PTS this time round, but I’m happy for 007 to return to Istanbul as he first travelled there in From Russia With Love, which for me is one of the best films.

And then to the theme song, which if you believe all the rumours, will go to Adele. I don’t really know her work very well, but she does seem to have a good voice in the Shirley Bassey mold, so if she is chosen then maybe we’ll have a classic Bond theme song.

Chris Cornell did a good job with Casino Royale, but once again I found Quantum of Solace to be lacking, so fingers crossed that they get it right this time; and of course, along with the theme song goes the opening titles, of which I think we can expect more of the same and personally I find the earlier Bond films better, but it is a tough job thinking of something that is both original and recognisably Bondian at the same time.

M, Q and Moneypenny

One thing that I liked about the earlier films was that Bond was given his mission by M and then off he went and we rarely saw M until the next film. However, the trend recently is to give more and more screen time to Bond’s boss, which I think is a mistake. Unfortunately it looks like Skyfall will give M the most screen time ever as the plot seems to centre around her.

Don’t get me wrong, I think Judi Dench is a great actress, but I prefer James Bond to be a lone wolf, out in the field on his own, or with the help of CIA buddy Lelix Leiter. Also, I’m a bit of a purist and preferred M to be a man, as that’s the way Ian Fleming wrote him.

In fact, as Kingsley Amis first pointed out, M was a kind of father figure to Bond, although this was acknowledged in Quantum of Solace when Bond, referring to M, told Camille that she would like to think of herself as his mother. To think that the head of the British Secret Service would go out into the field, as she did in Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace, is ludicrous. Even with assorted MI6 heavies at her disposal the security implications would be enormous, and why would she be fretting over such minor details anyway.

Also, while I loved Desmond Lewellen as Q, his charater was never really necessary and towards the end he became a rather ridiculous character. I’d prefer to continue without Q, but if we do see the return of Q – and it looks like we will – its a shame that he will metamorphosise into an unrecognizable character and I certainly hope he isn’t given a back story; the same goes for Miss Moneypenny.

There have been rumours since before filming started that Naomie Harris was playing the new Miss Moneypenny, although she said at the press conference that her character was called Eve. That rumour hasn’t gone away entirely and so there is still a possibility that we learn about Moneypenny’s life as a field agent; a big mistake in my opinion, as she was always a secondary character and should, if she does indeed return, stay that way.

Some James Bond essentials

For me, the James Bond films that are most closely based on an Ian Fleming story are by far the best; the first four Connery films are the classics and based closely on Fleming, Casino Royale is a modern classic, which updated and extended Fleming’s story, but all the same it is Fleming; For Your Eyes Only is often considered to be the best Roger Moore era film, and again, it is based on a couple of Fleming’s short stories; even The Living Daylights, which many rate highly, includes in its plot the Fleming short story of the same name.

None of the original plots has ever matched Fleming, which is one thing Skyfall has going against it. It may have had an additional year in which the script could be perfected, but will that really happen? That’s one thing we really do have to wait and see.

I’ve pointed out before that the more recent films jump around far too much from continent to continent, whereas the early films had fewer locations; the earlier films gave a sense of taking the viewer somewhere exotic, but more recently the travel is so frequent that there is little sense of being anywhere for long enough to take it all in appreciate the location fully.

This time round it appears that James Bond won’t be travelling so extensively, which is definitely a good thing. That said, I wonder if Skyfall will suffer the “Moonraker effect”, where readers were disappointed that the book was set entirely in England and wrote to Ian Fleming complaining about the lack of exotic locations; it looks like much of Skyfall will take place in the UK.

OK, that’s quite enough for one article, although I haven’t yet finished; I’ll bring you more in a second part to this article next week. Let me know what you think by leaving a message below.

David Leigh founded The James Bond Dossier in 2002. A fan of 007 since the age of 8, he is also author of The Complete Guide to the Drinks of James Bond. You can order a copy here if you don't own it already.

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