Skyfallen

“The best Bond ever?! Who wrote that?”

“I don’t know.”

“Wasn’t French, was it?”

“I don’t know.”

“Some reviewer recently said or wrote that it’s ‘The best Bond ever.’ Is it hell as like!”

Whether or not it was The Observer‘s plot-spoiler-in-chief – although he does suggest such (don’t go here if you are intending, but haven’t yet seen Skyfall, though I guess a Bond film plot précis is hardly ‘spoiling’) – who had me scoffing so is irrelevant. It’s the sort of marketing by-line that accompanies the promotion of many a latest instalment of a continuing franchise. How many times have you heard the latest Bond bigged up as ‘the best ever’? And the pointlessly endless / endlessly pointless debate on who is the best Bond ever? (Which some would have ‘… is possibly the most important cultural conundrum of our time.’ I obviously take life too seriously.)

In case you mis-assume, I’ll make it clear that I am not a Bond film buff. Oh, I used to enjoy the usually-limited-to-Xmas TV showings when I was young; always appreciated that they were long films (because, err, I like long films). But I came to lose interest in them pretty early in my adult life. And I’ve long since been of the habit, when one crops up on TV (now with seeming semi-regularity), of turning off the hackneyed, self-derivative, script-weak tosh. But maybe the clue to my indifference is in this paragraph’s preceding lines – I’d only ever seen Bond films on TV; I’d never before experienced Bond in the cinema. Or at least if I had, it was so underwhelming that I’ve clean forgotten (and I tend to have a good memory for what/when I’ve seen in the cinema).

So, does that disqualify my opinion on matters Bond? Hardly. Rather, not being in love with him/it; not prone to deluding myself with the every-man’s-fantasy-lifestyle thing, I think I’m ideally suited to proffer up unbiased take. And what motivated me to actually venture to the cinema for this craply-titled ‘event’? (Certainly not the dreadful, Adele-warbled theme song.) Casino Royale, no less. And my ‘regret’ at not having experienced in a loud cinema what is – out and out – the best Bond movie.

Because Daniel Craig is the best Bond, isn’t he? A quality, ranging actor who, in CR, brought an invigorating intensity to a stale cliché of a character that had for too long trod, through Dr. Who-esque regenerations, the same creaking plot boards. One who – with the best Bond script ever (marred by Giancarlo Giannini needlessly informing how much was “in the pot”); with the most adrenally exciting action/fight scenes; with the most pulchritudinous (I hesitate to use the term) ‘Bond girl’, herself a fine actor as a for once believable romantic interest – brilliantly revealed the complex and vulnerable psyche of a thoroughly nasty piece of work, making for an effective contrast to the gormless porn-star-like infallibility of most of what preceded.

Skipping quickly past Quantum of Solace, which, for some reason, passed me by – until I only recently caught on TV, and quite enjoyed, noting how beautifully tailored he is – so can’t explain why I didn’t choose that as my Bond cinematic baptism. Maybe I was influenced by the reviews, which seemed disappointed by comparison with its updated benchmark predecessor; and perhaps I was taken in by the ‘the best ever’ hype surrounding the new one. Because it is hype. I read a year or two back that production was delayed because, with the sudden recession, one of the backers couldn’t stump up the cash. I don’t know whether or not that was a ploy to deliberately hold back until this year’s 50th anniversary and Olympian national treasure status, so as to produce a film that is so an up-its-own-ass-self-homage that it borders on spoof. I fail to see the giggling pleasure that some in the cinema get from their recognition of its self-referential gadgeting. Not ‘being in the spirit’ of things, I wondered at the ridiculousness of a quite useless heavy succumbing to a pissed-off, homesick Komodo dragon. Craig, as he moves from sulking self-doubt through mojo recovery, is still highly watchable, but the attempt this time at the root of the sociopathic vulnerability thing (not just his) had me rolling my eyes. And my initial pleasure at seeing Albert Finney’s name in the credits was quashed when, in trying to ‘authentically’ draw on Bond’s past, he was eventually introduced at a stage when things had become quite boring, in a stupid, pointless little cameo. Thoroughly disrespectful misuse of an actor of such stature is enough to make one remove one’s hat.

Bond needed to raise his game after the Mission Impossible and (I’m told, though can’t comment here) Bourne series. And with CR, did so, and then some. But, notwithstanding the reduced philandering, and the attempt to blend in Bond’s back story as some complex psychological plot device, Skyfall is ultimately a disappointing, self-parodying regression to type.

Still, will make for future Xmas fodder; and certainly not the worst cinematic experience I’ve had this year.

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