Skyfall: where is it all heading? Part 2

A couple of weeks ago I published an article on how I saw Skyfall shaping up following the release of the teaser trailer. However, since it didn’t cover all the ground  I planned, I decided to write a follow up. Whatever my personal preferences, it’s highly unlikely that anyone involved at a senior level on Skyfall reads this site, and, if they’ve made any wrong decisions it’s (mostly) too late anyway. But here it is; part 2 of “Skyfall: where is it all heading?”

The secret agent

When Pierce Brosnan took over the role of James Bond there was a fundamental change in the 007 movies. While there had always been a certain amount of action from the word go, Goldeneye herelded age of “Commando Bond”, less of Ian Fleming’s secret agent and more out and out action hero, with some good ol’ Roger Moore style humour thrown in for good measure. It doesn’t look like the film makers are turning the clocks back on that though, as there looks like there will be plenty of big action in Skyfall.

Something else that has been way overplayed is Bond as a rogue agent. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service was the first time, after Miss Moneypenny changed 007’s resignation to a request for leave; then again in Moonraker, although he was operating with M’s knowledge after the incident at the Venice glassworks. Then Licence To KillDie Another DayQuantum of Solace… isn’t this plot device a little overused?

On one hand I think that Skyfall can’t feature Bond operating outsite the remit of MI6 yet again. However, despite his emphatic “I never left” at the end of Quantum of Solace and the oft repeated remark that this marked the point that 007 had become, well, 007, there have been some fairly strong suggestions that in Skyfall we may find 007 operating outside MI6 again.

Bond girls and Baddies

While Casino Royale had the best Bond girl in years in the shape of Eva Green as Vesper Lynd, an element that was really missing from Quantum of Solace was a good Bond girl. Certainly Bérénice Marlohe and Naomie Harris have the potential for being good Bond girls, but then so did Olga Kurylenko and Gemma Arterton.

Both actresses were wasted as neither character was particularly appealing, no doubt casualties of the writers strike. And just why did MI6 send an office clerk into the field to control 007? That makes no sense at all, but then neither does sending M into the field, as I pointed out in the first part of this article; let’s hope that the script does a better job and makes them unforgettable.

Also, the villain in Quantum of Solace was rather lackluster and his psychotic tendencies when dealing with Camille in Haiti were laughable; Casino Royale did a bit better with Le Chiffre, although nobody would have missed his bleeding tear duct. However, all the best villains have been older than James Bond, and far too often in the series the villain has been Bond’s own age.

It has been pointed out by other authors that just as M tended to be a father figure to Bond, Ian Fleming’s villains tended to be M’s evil doppleganger. Has Javiar Bardem got what it takes?

As the polar opposite to Judi Dench’s M, certainly not. However, he certainly has screen presence, although I thought his portrayal of the hitman in No Country For Old Men was overrated; perhaps the role of henchman would suit him better, more like Robert Shaw’s portrayal of Donald Grant in From Russia With Love.

Humour

When it comes to humour, I wouldn’t mind seeing some Sean Connery style quips in Skyfall. However, if they can’t get it right or Daniel Craig can’t deliver the lines well enough (one of Pierce Brosnan’s weaknesses as 007) then the best solution is to leave them out. Humour in the Bond movies has always been best when fairly light and to relieve a moment of tension; Roger Moore style gag fests are out.

In fact, I can tell you the exact moment the filmmakers lost me the first time I saw Goldeneye; James Bond races Xenia Onatopp in the hills around Monte Carlo; as they pass a large group of cyclists resting by the side of the road one is unbalanced and they all fall over like dominoes; I don’t think we’ll see a return to that kind of idiocy in Skyfall, but I’ll find it hard to suppress a scream if they do.

Don’t overdo it

One of the problems for the Bond film makers these days is that they must give the audience some good Bond moments without slipping into parody, something they haven’t always been successful at. Many fans were upset about the lack of lines such as “Bond… James Bond” and “shaken, not stirred” in Quantum of Solace, and even in Casino Royale there were some people complaining that he ordered a Vesper rather than a vodka martini!

If you look back at the history of the Bond films it is only since perhaps the Timothy Dalton era, or certainly Pierce Brosnan’s movies, that every film included all these elements; pulling back on the clichés is a good thing and if you think that the main problem with Quantum of Solace is that then you’re beyond help. So, what can we expect from Skyfall?

Despite the scaremongering about Heineken replacing the martinis a couple of months back there is some evidence from the clapperboard photos shared by social media that Bond will at some stage of the film be in a bar (scene 53G). And I’d bet that he asks for a vodka martini to be shaken, not stirred.

Just for good measure you can bet that “Bond… James Bond” will be back too. None of those is going to make or break the film but if they’re done poorly they’d be better of left out; full marks to Marc Forster for letting go of that in the previous film, although he needs all the marks he can get considering.

Incidental music

I’ve already covered the theme song, and ideally they should be related. Once of the strengths of Casino Royale‘s music was how the theme song and incidental music were linked, and David Arnold did a really good job in Quantum of Solace; one of that particular film’s only strengths.

Because of that it is a shame that he has been jettisoned in favour of Thomas Newman, Sam Mendes’ preferred composer. The sound of the 007 films is really important as demonstrated by the calls for John Barry to return to composing duties right up until the time of his death; Arnold really is Barry’s heir apparent as the Bond composer. Given that Arnold will be sitting Skyfall out, we can hope not only that he does return in Bond 24, but that Newman is up to the task and is involved with the theme song.

And it would be nice to hear more of the James Bond Theme during Skyfall to remind us that, above all, we are watching a James Bond movie and not a Sam Mendes/Javier Bardem/Ralph Fiennes/Albert Finney film.

Hardware

By now it is widely known that 007 will drive an Aston Martin DB5 in Skyfall, which seems a little too neat after winning one in Casino Royale, but perhaps there is some explanation; given that there is much evidence that we learn more of Bond’s background and parents, it seems likely that it was handed down to him by his parents (you read it here first, unless that prediction proves to be completely wrong!). Jaguar Land Rover provided cars for filming and there have been plenty of photos shared online that feature M in a Jaguar, several models of Range Rover and at least one Land Rover.

When it comes to gadgets make them realistic (i.e. no gondola’s turning into hovercraft) and don’t make it easy for 007 to get out of trouble by using whatever he just so happens to have up his sleeve. Casino Royale played a few neat tricks with audience expectations (“does it look as if I give a damn?”) while being light on gadgets. The implant in his arm was unnecessary, when he could have had it in the heel of his shoe as a nod to Goldfinger, but the failure of Bond’s medical kit just when he needed it worked well.

However, these days many of us are used to carrying a (i)Gadget with us at all times that has features the Bond of old could only obtain from Q-branch, and Daniel Craig pointed out the difficulty of featuring gadgets in a world that we all have access to gadgets; and the filmmakers need to be wary of following Jeffery Deaver’s example of equipping his 007 with an “iQPhone” that is a bit too neat at times. Thinking of phones, I wonder how effective Sony’s product placement will be for 007’s phone, which is sure to appear; I’d never consider trading in my iPhone for another brand, 007 or not, and many others feel similarly and I’m sure that many Android owners feel the same.

But when it comes to weapons, it seems that 007 has returned to his trusty Walther PPK according to some of the stills released so far; perhaps that wouldn’t be his weapon of choice these days,  given it is based on an 80 year old design, but that is James Bond’s weapon, at least when it comes to the film series (although it would be pushing it to say it was James Bond’s choice of weapon given that it was foisted on him by Major Boothroyd in Dr No).

And while not at all related to hardware, I’d like to see a less casual James Bond in Skyfall. The photos released to date show that during much of the film he’ll be wearing a suit, but as far as his beard is concerned Ian Fleming certainly wouldn’t have approved.

 

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