Regular readers of the Santa Fe Reporter have, no doubt, noticed the ratings system we’ve adopted over the past several months. “Yay,” “Meh” and “Barf” speak for themselves, but “OK” is a little harder to pin down.
See, “OK” may imply that a movie is just this shy of great (“Yay!”) or just this much better than so-so (“Meh”).
And that brings us to Bond. James Bond.
Each movie he globe-trots and kills through should have its own rating: GFWII. Those with a background in the retail biz may recognize that as initialism for “Good for what it is.”
That’s what Bond is, after all. Good for what he is: A guy who kills lots of people, saves countries (his own and a few others), beds women and drinks a lot of vodka martinis. No more, no less.
It doesn’t matter whether Sean Connery, Roger Moore, David Niven, George Lazenby, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan or Daniel Craig plays Bond. The stories are all roughly the same—Bond must save the world (or, in Quantum of Solace, avenge Eva Green)—and, depending on your penchant for nostalgia, the older films are better than the newer films.
Even bombs such as Moonraker and Never Say Never Again have their followers because they deliver the goods—stunts, beddin’ and killin’—and are therefore GFWII.
Changes to the formula have been attempted. The producers have chipped away at Bond’s sexism, starting around 1987 with The Living Daylights (Dalton’s first appearance as Bond, though Bond being less sexist means he sleeps with one woman instead of three). He’s abandoned smoking. He’s become more adept at physical stunts; it’s hard to imagine Moore doing anything more strenuous than ordering room service.
The slight change since Craig took over has been to portray Bond as leaner, tougher and blonder than Brosnan. And Craig, in his third go-around as 007, seems older, wiser and creakier—partly because he’s probably all those things himself, but also because the screenplay demands it.
Seriously, how many age references and jokes are there in this movie? Don’t the producers realize that this series depends on the agelessness of its hero?
Of course they do. They’re just being lazy (as I am by stating a question simply so that I can answer it). One day, a younger actor will replace Craig. Then, he’ll age, the screenwriters will craft lazy jokes about it and the producers will replace that actor. (Or, if they’re feeling really lazy, the producers could replace Craig with someone older—as they did by replacing Connery with Moore—and continue making all the dumb age gags they wish.)
Another thing: How is it that the technology here seems less advanced than in, say, Tony Scott’s Enemy of the State, which came out 14 years ago? Surely the target audience for Skyfall can’t be the same as Dr. No’s.
Digressions aside, a GFWII movie has its merits, and here they are: Craig is well suited as ever to play Bond.
He’s been hitting the weights, eating lean protein, and it shows in the many shots of him shirtless. Plus, he’s the closest thing this generation has to Steve McQueen, and he plays the three-piece-suit-wearing action hero exceedingly well.
First-time Bond helmsman Sam Mendes brings some restraint to the action scenes by shooting longer takes and letting the stunts do the work.
Perhaps the best part of Skyfall is watching Javier Bardem sink his teeth into everything around him.
It’s kind of lame to suggest he chews the scenery, but HOLY SHIT, DOES HE CHEW THE SCENERY. And with false teeth! (There are about 1 million references, some subtle, some thud-like, to the earlier films.) Bardem is a lot of fun.
Skyfall does have its humdrum moments. To paraphrase Bugs Bunny, the denouement—in which Bond, M and the gang face off with Bardem—runs slower than blackstrap molasses in January. But even the slow moments are part of Bond’s shtick—part of the thing that makes a Bond film GFWII.
Directed by Sam Mendes / With Daniel Craig, Javier Bardem and Judi Dench / Regal Santa Fe Stadium 14 / PG-13 / 143 min.