Monday, November 12, 2012

Skyfall- Cheering a Failure

Went to see the latest James Bond film.

Great actions scenes, wonderful music, exotic locations, over the top villains. All the cool elements of a Bond film with an excellent leading actor able to put off the image with more depth than any of the previous incarnations (although Brosnan had some weight on that scale). The newer darker and grittier tone has improved things greatly over the older films which with few exceptions come across as nearly camp in comparison. Plus there was some really cute nods to previous movies throughout the movie.

It was actually rather enjoyable.

But after a bit thought after walking out of the theater, I ended up not liking the film which is basically my reaction to all the Bond moves (with the 2006 Casino Royale being the exception).

I don't see misogyny in everything. But Bond movies are perhaps the most misogynistic film series of all time, While things have improved over the years, it’s still nothing to brag about. Of the three significant female characters in the new movie, two are killed and one proves (and accepts) herself unsuited for field work. The role of the Bond girl is a rather demeaning one consisting of a one-night stand followed mostly by death or (if they’re lucky)  irrelevance.

Meanwhile Bond himself is something of a failed hero in many of the movies, an almost Adam West Batman approach to spy craft. Not able to really investigate anything; his SOP is to get captured by the bad guy, have the bad buy spell his guts to him revealing everything, and then turn the table through an amazing action scene. It’s the power-gamer/ munchkin version of a successful Spy, buy up your combat and vehicle skills and push the win button when you get to the combat map.

Except Bond rarely wins, at least in the terms I would set for a hero. He consistently fails to save the damsel in distress (deciding instead to take advantage of her), and often ends up causing their death or the death of his fellow agents/allies. In Skyfall (spoiler warning for the following) he’s set five major tasks that I picked up on watching the movie for the first time:
  • Stop the theft of a list of fellow spies (and thus prevent any of them from dying). Result: Failure. List is stolen, at least one fellow agent is killed as a result.
  • Find the data thief, find out who he’s working for, and then kill him. Result: Mostly Failure. Kills him first gaining no information and thus no cookie. This is recovered solely because the bad guy put his payment chip in his assassin gear kit (you know, the heavy case that you might have to abandon if things go south) and not in his pocket or perhaps a safety deposit box somewhere. BTW, he allows the thief to kill some guy (heaven only knows who he was) before moving against him although he was nearly within arm's reach when the trigger was pulled. Makes me wonder of Bond just likes watching bystanders die or something.
  • Help the wounded dove (the plaything of the villain) and use her to learn about the villain. Results: Failure. The wounded dove is killed instead of helped, and tells him basically nothing along the way. This is recovered only because the villain captures him and tells him nearly everything personally- because that's the villain's plan in the first place.
  • Capture the major villain. Result: Failure, he succeeds only because the villain wanted to be captured.
  • Protect M and defeat villain. Result: Abject Failure. Bond kills a villain who wanted to die anyway, and M is still killed (although she dies after the villain does and Bond does manage to spite the villain a little as a result). Along the way he also loses his original car (the Aston Martin I believe) and his family home is burned to the ground (although he claims he hated the place anyway).
If this had been a game, and I was running Bond- I would have considered the adventure to be a bust, mostly as a result of my own stupidity (although Q shares some blame, really who in their right mind would hook up a villains computer to your entire secured network controlling everything instead of using an isolated computer forensics and hacking setup).

And yet, the Bond series is the most successful of all time and this movie is getting excellent reviews. Perhaps it appeals to the inner Munchkin of the typical fan. Or perhaps I really shouldn't expect more than great action scenes.

Whatever the case, I'm clearly out of step with the moving going public.

1 comment:

Lowell Francis said...

I agree. Like the recent Star Trek and Dark Knight Rises films I enjoyed the spectacle while watching them...enjoyed it thoroughly. But the moment I got out and started thinking about the plot, the whole artifice crumbled. There's an old Monty Python sketch where a building's held up by hypnotism, but starts to fall over when someone questions it. It feels like that- they're spectacle that doesn't bear reflection. I even watched the ST movie again and was immediately swept up despite having complained about it. Then immediately after I made the error of thinking about the plot...

The new Bond's like that as well.

I really want a film that grabs me while I'm watching and doesn't make me go wtf afterwards.