Here I go again.
Wanting better and unwilling to settle for less. It's a curse. Why can't I just sit on the edge of my seat or stand up and cheer?
At the end of the screening of Skyfall for critics and reviewers, there was applause. But not by me.
There are two basic criteria I ask of a movie. 1.) Did it deliver on what it tried to do? 2.) Was it worth doing?
I think Skyfall was absolutely worth doing, but it failed to deliver on what it could have been and should have been.
I think what chafes me the most is that it could have been so much better than the Bondian schlock it is.
Skyfall is a mixed bag of 50 years of Bonds and product placement.
Where have you gone, 007? Skyfall has transformed you from the human, vulnerable, mysterious, skillful spy into a Superhero Bond.
In Skyfall, James Bond is part Aquaman and part Road Runner, with some familial angst pilfered from Bruce Wayne. He's become an action toy.
In Skyfall, James Bond and one old woman and one old man destroy two attacking armies. He's now a walking -leaping, flying. plunging - video game. Say it isn't so, James.
As 2012's James Bond has accelerated his motion, he has decelerated his libido. Where are the vivacious beauties of yesteryear? In Skyfall, he has sex perfunctorily with two forgettable partners.
One presumed sexual encounter, cuts to a sky full of fireworks. That's a blast from the past. Is a cliche still a cliche if it's retro? You bet your contrivance it is.
Yes, Bond does shower with a female, but it doesn't wash the dustiness off the scene.
He says, "I like you better without your Beretta." She responds, "I feel naked without it." And without good dialogue. Scintillating foreplay it's not.
Skyfall is the gamy story of Bond (Daniel Craig) being shot, an enemy stealing a hard drive with a list of NATO operatives on it, the enemy being a former MI-6 agent (Javier Bardem) seeking revenge on M (Judi Dench), and Bond trying to come to her rescue as the terrorist former agent wreaks his lethal havoc.
But have no fear, SuperBond is here. He supposedly is damaged, but we don't for a second believe he won't overcome whatever ails him.
I don't have anything against superheroes, but James Bond isn't one of them. The best film I've seen so far in 2012 is The Dark Knight Rises. But I don't want The Dark Pawn Skyfalls.
Skyfall's director Sam Mendes is no Chris Nolan.
The cast does its able best with the floppy plot. But the writing by Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, and John Logan doesn't give them a human core or any subtlety to work with.
I argued vehemently that Daniel Craig would make a terrific James Bond when he was making Casino Royale (2006). A lot of people were dismissing him. His human steely resolve was palpable. But much of it has been discarded in favor of mayhem and conflagration. And Craig's gift for subtlety is gone.
Judi Dench, as always, is a stalwart M. Circa 80 minutes into Skyfall the villain appears and struts his stuff. Finally an interesting character. Javier Bardem plays Raoul Silva, a tormented villain who is prone to laughing. He is blond and deadly, which harkens back to Robert Shaw in From Russia with Love (1963).
The casting director dips into the Bourne franchise to get Albert Finney, who plays an aging caretaker in Scotland.
Naomie Harris - Thandie Newton would have been ten times better - is Eve, an MI-6 operative, who is only a match for Bond in the writers' minds. One of the credits of Ms. Harris is as a voice on a video game. This seems appropriate.
Berenice Marlohe as Severine has all the impact of an extra.
Ralph Finnes is agreeable as an agency honcho.
Roger Deakins, who also photographed Bardem's villainy in No Country for Old Men (2007) is artful. But the musical score by Thomas Newman is as intrusive as a bad laugh track.
The late Ian Fleming who created the original James Bond almost certainly is not Skyfalling.
He's probably spinning.
But JB is still human and alive. Unfortunately it's not James Bond.
The living, breathing JB is Jason Bourne. May he never Skyfall.
For a change of pace, you might want to listen to interviews that I conducted in the 70s and 80s, some of which were published in my book Voices from the Set: The Film Heritage Interviews (2000).
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