Unlike everyone who contributed to Skyfall rise to the top of the weekends box office charts, I don’t remember much of what happened. It was a late show, with the day’s activity being lodged into distant memory. Shamefully, most of the movie was committed to memory as a collection of slides and anecdotes, for this blogger nodded off repeatedly during the weekends biggest box office smash.
Initially, I felt underwhelmed. Bond has always been billed as a big action movie with incredulous scenes dedicated to the foremost international man of mystery. It felt slow and was void of big action sequences that would thrust the audience to the edge of their seat (the intro did manage this to such an extraordinary affect, as the audience would then be quelled by Adele’s ‘Skyfall’). Feeling the movie was unfit to receive such dissidence (especially since I nodded off towards the climax), I turned to people smarter and more informed than I to offer an understanding Skyfall, which lead me to Zach Baron’s take on Bond: http://www.grantland.com/story/_/id/8607205/skyfall-humanizing-james-bond.
My initial problem with Skyfall (as with Casino Royale) is that I expected a Bond film like all other Bond films, but, as Zach points out, we no longer live in an age where previous Bond films accurately reflect our contemporary existence. Daniel Craig is a very stripped down, ‘humanized’ version of Bond. He’s not flashy, lacks ‘exploding pens’ and the arm candy that hyper-sexualized old Bond. He is a wreck of a human being, trying to find himself and put meaning to things. He engages in near death-defying stunts and random encounters to fill a void left by the absence of his job.The film portrays Bond, who outside of being the world’s foremost spy, struggles with self-actualization like most people (Bond is a tool, a very dangerous tool at that).
In three films Craig has embodied this new Bond, a magnificent human specimen with life coping issues. Bardem’s villain however embodies old Bond. Treated as Mommy’s prized possession. He was the world’s greatest spy, an international man of mystery rivalled by no other; he was the Dos Equis man. He symbolizes everything we want from Bond and puts himself in direct contradiction to new Bond. How these opposing characters deal with the movies’ main overarching theme, betrayal, demonstrates how far new Bond has strayed from his flamboyant beginnings. Over-sensationlized, Bardem’s villain is unable to cope with Mommy’s betrayal. His reality did not fit this possibility, forcing him to behave irradically and bring himself to the brink of madness, the only way he can console himself. He is a man with no sense of self, his foundation is flawed, a man with nothing left but the shattered remains of an unsustainable reality.
New Bond is the new “Superman”, he is self-aware and better able to cope with the reality of his betrayal. His return demonstrates his understanding of the rules of engagement, he is a spy and he should expect no less. His self-awareness allows him to survive the betrayal and ultimately return. This sets him in stark contradiction of Bardem’s villain, and the old “Superman”
Gone are the sensational days characterised by the industrial and social boom 50’s and 60’s, here are the times where being Bond is not filled with glamour and women. Connery’s Bond (and Bardem’s villain) lived in a world where being “Superman” meant the need to purport a lifestyle similar to that of the social climate; he is unrelateable to our current societal context. New Bond, today’s ‘Superman’, is a man who understands struggle and pain, a man who understands and has felt betrayal. His existence and perseverance is a by-product of society around him. New Bond lives in a world of post-Cold War uncertainty, weakened economies, perpetual war, terrorism, religious fanaticism and identity in a hyper globalization war (it is not to say these conditions did not previously exist, however access to information has made these issues more salient in our day to day lives). Bond is a combatant who seeks to demonstrate that he is ‘Superman’, that he is the Bond that this world needs.
Unfortunately, this transformation of Bond was not made aware during the movie due to constant head nodding. Furthermore, I betrayed this Bond. I remember the Bond of your, non-stop incredulous action and romantic flings; he made the impossible seem possible (like the island of Manhattan being a prison by 1988). New Bond is pragmatic and better understands his role as the world’s foremost spy.He is not a reflection of what we want of society, but rather where we are as one.