Monday, November 12, 2012

"Skyfall" and Bond Rankings

The Trek Lit Report is taking a few moments away from Star Trek to give some thought to the latest entry in another iconic entertainment franchise, James Bond. A spoiler-free review of "Skyfall", some commentary on Bond and the new incarnation of Star Trek, and my personal Bond rankings follows the cut.


Going into my local multiplex on Saturday afternoon, I had some serious concerns about what was to follow. I tend to have very different views about things I like (call me anti-establishment), and so the fact that nearly every critic was giving high marks to the twenty-third installment in the Bond franchise was enough to give me the willies. I was pretty convinced I was going to be disappointed - only the degree of disappointment waited to be seen.

Best Bond intro... ever.
So imagine how pleasantly surprised I was when the opening sequence leading into Adele's titular theme lived up to its billing as the best Bond intro ever. My surprises did not stop there, however... far from it. Daniel Craig finally owning Bond? Check. Judi Dench making a stellar performance as M? Check. Creepy villain, exotic locales, and a renewed sense of Bondian humor? Check, check, and check.

As the events of "Skyfall" roll on, one almost gets the sense that this film is a reboot of the reboot which began in "Casino Royale". Daniel Craig has obviously figured out how to make his take on Bond work very well, reversing the setback known as "Quantum of Solace". His Bond is still far grittier than any of his predecessors (only Timothy Dalton's take comes close), but Craig manages to blend in a dry wit and enough self-effacement that the end result is clearly James Bond.

Judi Dench's take on an aging and 'obselectent' M is fantastic, and is juxtaposed with something of a commentary on contemporary intelligence services and their role in the world. Her arc throughout "Skyfall" illustrates the nobility and effectiveness of old ways when new-fangled efforts of coping with international crises fail.

Javier Bardem's take on the film's villan, Raoul Silva, was interesting, and definately resurrected the classic Bond formula of an over-the-top villan creating an unnecessarily complicated plan to entrap his prey. In some ways, this return to the early villanry of movies like "Goldfinger" and "Diamonds Are Forever" was quite engaging, but it was generally unsuited to the very contemporary feel of the new film continuity. To be honest, his plan was the low-point of the film, but even that weak link was handled in both a visually and emotionally stunning way.

Craig's Bond is shaken, not stirred, just enough.
Ultimately, "Skyfall" leaves the moviegoer with an amazing experience, and the Bond fan with a renewed sense of both hope and history as the franchise moves ahead with Bonds 24 and 25 in the coming years.

Speaking as both a Bond and a Trek fan, I haven't had as much fun at a theater since the premier of "Star Trek VI", twenty-one years ago.

In the wake of "Skyfall", I have been forced to revise my personal assessment of the twenty-three EON (i.e., 'official') Bond films, as well as the six Bonds.
Where Bond Went Right and Trek Went Wrong

Star Trek (2009) felt like a video game.
"Skyfall" in specific, and the Craig Bond films in general (yes, inclusive of the mess that was "Quantum of Solace"), have accomplished what, in my opinion, the rebooted Star Trek film failed to accomplish: making a series with 50 years of history feel both fun and relavant again. To be sure, "Star Trek" was fun, but it felt like the series we had known and loved had been transformed into little more than a video game. The realism and immersability that Star Trek had always enjoyed is absent from the new continuity. Instead, the new Star Trek universe feels like one populated with comic book superheroes. Yes, that's the formula for a blockbuster here in the United States these days, but the impressive box office take of "Skyfall" proves that it is not the only way for a blockbuster. 

Of course, at this point, the framework for and the pathway of the rebooted Star Trek universe is set, and there is no reason that we should expect a significant change to the new direction when "Star Trek Into Darkness" premiers in May. If anything, Craig's Bond films show a path that could have been taken, one that updates where genuinely necessary, while conservatively handling the legacy and image of an iconic franchise.


As we close out this particular digression from our normal topic, I wanted to share my personal rankings on the Bond franchise with readers. I do this, mainly, in order to exhibit my personal biases about the franchise, which - in turn - may shine light for you, the reader, on my mindset in viewing and reviewing "Skyfall" and Bond in general.

1)         The Spy Who Loved Me (5)
2)         Skyfall  (5)
3)         You Only Live Twice    (5)
4)         From Russia With Love (5)
5)         The Living Daylights (4)
6)         On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (4)
7)         Dr. No (4)
8)         Diamonds Are Forever (3)
9)         GoldenEye (3)
10)       Goldfinger (3)
11)       Moonraker (3)
12)       Licence to Kill (3)
13)       Tomorrow Never Dies (2)
14)       Casino Royale  (2)
15)       The Man with the Golden Gun (2)
16)       Die Another Day (2)
17)       The World Is Not Enough (2)
18)       Thunderball (1)
19)       Live and Let Die (1)
20)       Quantum of Solace (1)
21)       For Your Eyes Only (1)
22)       Octopussy (0)
23)       A View to a Kill (0)

1)         Moore
2)         Dalton
3)         Connery
4)         Lazenby
5)         Craig
6)         Brosnan

1)         Lazenby           (4.0 star average)        
3)         Connery           (3.5 star average)
3)         Dalton              (3.5 star average)
4)         Craig                (2.7 star average)
5)         Brosnan            (2.3 star average)
6)         Moore              (1.7 star average)

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