When I was a little girl, I saw the Sean Connery Bond films -- at the local drive-in, from the back of my parents' station wagon, where Mom and Dad had made a nest of blankets and pillows for my sister and me. I remember the naked lady covered in gold, and a girl on a beach with a seashell, and of course, the decapitating menace of Oddjob.
Well, and Sean Connery, possibly my first crush.
I kept the crush for years, but dumped the memory of the movies themselves when I was about 14 and discovered the Ian Fleming novels. I remember being in awe of how embarrassingly horrible the movies were in comparison with the James Bond books. Still, I was glad to be able to imagine Sean Connery while I read, so the movies had value in that respect.
When Sean Connery was replaced as James Bond, I had no further interest in Bond films. Bernie and I saw a Bond film with some friends years back; Pierce Brosnan was the Bond, and I remember that there was a motorcycle stunt in it, and many explosions, but honestly cannot even remember the title of the movie.
So why did I go see Skyfall? Easy answer: Bernie wanted to see it, and I wanted popcorn, and Skyfall was rated PG-13 -- I wanted to see some non-R rated previews more than I wanted to see the movie itself. Also Dame Judi Dench, whom I admire greatly.
James Bond (Daniel Craig) is hot on the heels of a murderer-thief who has stolen the hard drive from MI6's computer which has a very sensitive list of undercover operatives around the globe. Wounded in their battle, he falls from a train bridge a bazillion feet into a rushing river, and disappears, presumed dead.
But wait! He's not dead, he's amazingly recovered and doing time as a beach bum, popping pills and swilling alcohol. And when an unknown enemy infiltrates MI6 and blows up the offices, targeting M (Dame Judi Dench) and evincing an unholy knowledge of all of MI6's inner workings, Bond sets off on the trail of the enemy with M's blessing, so to speak -- for she knows full well he is not fit for duty.
Probably this is the least silly of the Bond films I've seen, and the opening sequence was exciting, I admit. There was quite a bit of Dame Judi, which also was nice. The previews prior to the movie were very entertaining. I didn't regret going to see Skyfall.
Bond has a fierce fight scene. He boinks three women in fairly short order. He has some more shootouts and fight scenes in exotic locales. Things blowed up real good, as Second City used to say in "Farm Film Review." More about the story I shall not say, nor do I have to -- it's a James Bond movie.
About the experience, well, I did find myself wishing that my watch still worked (it died about three years ago) so that I knew how much longer I would have to "enjoy" the movie. But I didn't hate it, and would recommend anyone to see it if they like Bond movies, because it is, in my opinion, the best of them.
You know, I was intrigued by Daniel Craig's James Bond in Casino Royale. There was something brooding about his Bond, and there was a vulnerability about the character that made him less of a superhero and more the guy who risks everything to do the dirty work that the rest of us choose not to see. I appreciated that Craig was not trying to be Sean Connery. When Quantum of Solace came out a couple of years later, I watched it to see what they would do with the character development that they had begun in Casino Royale. I was stunned at how bad Quantum was. It was a poor imitation of the old Bond films, and there was nothing good about it except Gemma Arterton. Her role as Agent Strawberry Fields was gratuitous and she did a forgettable job of acting, but she was nice eye candy.
Now along comes Skyfall. Now I wanted to see if they could possibly pull this storied franchise up out of the pit into which they had thrown it in the last outing. Sand went with me because it was cold outside and the alternative for her was to stay home and clean mold off of potatoes that had inadvertently been left in a bag in the garage.
We went to the morning showing on Friday, a time that's not normally busy. The theater was packed, however (with mostly old people), and the only two seats we could get together left me sitting next to this old fat guy, the kind of fat guy that takes up half of the seat on either side of the one he's sitting in, and he's wearing a red plaid hunting jacket and a trooper hat, the one with the furry upturned bill and the ear flaps. I figured he was a fellow movie critic, so the three of us settled in to eat popcorn and watch a movie. This Bond was an anniversary issue of sorts. It was 50 years ago that Dr. No, the film that started the movie franchise, brought the Bond character to life on the big screen, and in Skyfall, the Bond issuers present a story pregnant with themes of transitions, of letting go of the past and of embracing the future. It was during a scene where Bond meets the new Q, who is a pup that Bond suggests isn't even old enough to have a clear complexion, that I began to have sense that I was seeing something very familiar. Not deja vu as such, but rather pattern recognition. Of course I have been here before -- with a different Bond, and a different Q, but Bond and Q nonetheless.
Then it hit me ... Dr. Who.
Dr. Who is an iconic British sci-fi television program that follows the adventures of a time-traveling alien known only as The Doctor. The show has been on the telly (on again, off again, and currently on again) for ... and this is where the chills ran up my spine ... for 50 years. The clever device that the show employs that allows for the longevity is that The Doctor undergoes periodic "regenerations" wherein his corporal form dies off and is morphed into a new, younger form. It's just what his species does, but it is just so darn convenient for the Who-givers, since when the star gets old, bored, too expensive, or drops in the ratings, the character just regenerates and the show has a new lease on life.
Sound familiar? Same character, different actor? Of course some actors have been more popular than others. For most of us, Sean Connery is James Bond. And there can be no doubt in my mind that Tom Baker is The Doctor. Sure there have been a few others, but even then, they are only as good as the job they can do channeling Tom Baker. In some other uncanny coincidences, Dr. No hit the movie houses in this country in 1963, the very same year that Dr. Who first appeared on the telly in Britain. There have been eleven different actors to date that have played The Doctor, not counting some extraneous bits here and there or the one guy who played the First Doctor because the original First Doctor actor had died, and there have been eleven actors who have played James Bond, discounting Christopher Cazenove who enacted several Bond scenes in a documentary on British literary heroes, but counting Barry Nelson's 1954 portrayal of Bond in a one hour CBS television special in 1954, and also counting Bob Holness who was Bond in a 1956 South African adaptation of Moonraker. Eerily uncanny, isn't it?
In point of fact, one of the reasons I was in the theater to begin with is that, like The Doctor, Bond is a character that is bigger than any one actor. That's neither good nor bad, it is just a fact that has allowed Bond movies to be made for 50 years now, and as the closing credits of this movie point out, James Bond will be back, at least one more time.
How was this movie? I am pleased to report that Skyfall successfully pulled Bond up out of the mire of Quantum of Solace. It opens with a classic chase-the-bad-guy sequence, it has a plot that may not be novel, but it is at least plausible (in the Bond universe), the bad guy is evil and clever, things blow up, the women are good-looking, the locations are exotic, and all the while, Craig was allowed to be broodish and vulnerable with all the acting he can muster, which is not a lot, but it is sufficient.
Bond films even at their best are nothing more than fluff. They don't, and are not intended to, reach the level of storytelling of something like Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. But they can be entertaining, and the entertainment can be worth your money. Skyfall is one of the better Bond movies; an argument might even be made that it is the best Bond movie. I am one that does not believe that the label "best Bond movie" can be attached to any product that does include Sean Connery, but hey, neither is there any other Doctor than Tom Baker.