Saturday 3 November 2012

Sorry, Skyfall, you can't top Moonraker

Skyfall is the best James Bond movie ever?

Don't believe the hype.

This is from someone who has every Bond movie on DVD (even Never Say Never Again, but not the 1967 Casino Royale) and whose favourite is still Moonraker.

I'm not saying Skyfall sucks even though I looked at my watch a few times during the movie out of boredom.

I can even understand why many would call it the best. The stakes in Skyfall feel more real than in any other Bond movie.

I enjoyed all the call-backs to previous movies, marking the franchise's 50th anniversary, although this has been done before, most recently in Die Another Day for the 40th anniversary.

(Spoiler alert: The death of a major character also lends the film a gravitas lacking in previous movies, although it can't match the kick in the gut that was the killing of Diana Rigg's character in On Her Majesty's Secret Service. Yes, the George Lazenby one.)

Unfortunately, parts of Skyfall also remind me of non-Bond movies - and the TV series 24.

It's cool that they finally re-introduce Q in the Bond movies, but Q's role is too similar to Chloe's in 24 - a computer hacker nerd who is feeding the field agent information as the agent runs around the city looking for terrorists.

The rural setting for the final showdown in Skyfall recalls the rural setting for the penultimate showdown in The Bourne Identity.

Then there's the whole the villain-planned-to-get-captured-all-along plot twist that we've just seen in The Avengers.

The chase along the rooftops in Instanbul in the beginning of Skyfall brings to mind the Instanbul rooftop chase in the very recent Taken 2, which was unexpectedly funny and disappointingly short.

I wish Skyfall was shorter. At one point, I thought the movie was going to end, but then it went on for like another 30 minutes! The same thing happened with the overrated 2006 Casino Royale.

Both movies were too long by a quarter. Yet, both were highly praised. Everyone hated Quantum Of Solace, which, by the way, was the shortest of the Daniel Craig movies. So it seems the critics like it long.

Speaking of Craig, in Skyfall, he's playing Bond as if he's already getting too old for the role, yet paradoxically, the end of the movie suggests a new beginning of sorts.

(Spoiler alert: The rather clumsy reveal of a female character's name at the end reminds me of the clumsy reveal of Robin's name at the end of The Dark Knight Rises.)

I suspect that if Craig does star in the next Bond movie, people will complain that he's too old for the role, even though he's now only 44.

Sean Connery played James Bond from age 32 to 53. Lazenby was 36. Roger Moore from 45 to 58. Timothy Dalton from 42 to 44. Pierce Brosnan from 43 to 51.

It was kind of shocking for me to learn that the average age of the actors playing James Bond is in the 40s. So I still have a chance.

The age of the character in the Ian Fleming books is around 37. But I'm not from the school of thought that the more closely the movies hew to the books, the better.

To me, the movies peaked in 1979 with Moonraker, which only had the title in common with the book.

Up until then, the Bond movies just kept getting bigger and bigger in terms of spectacle. Moonraker was - and still is - the biggest and the most entertaining.

But once you send Bond out to space, you have nowhere else to go. You can't get any bigger than space.

And the producers knew it and didn't even try. So the next movie was the decidedly down-to-earth For Your Eyes Only, lowering the bar for the sequels that follow. Great theme song though.

Yeah, one flaw of Moonraker is the theme song by Shirley Bassey which doesn't soar as it should.

But then the leaden Skyfall theme song by Adele is actually worse.

But what's most disheartening for me is the continuing Bourne-ification of Bond - the gritty action, the brooding soul-searching assassin, the obsession with the past ...

I think the reason critics have fallen head over heels over Skyfall is that it's as close as a James Bond movie can get to a Jason Bourne movie while still remaining a James Bond movie.

One consolation - or hope - I have is now that the producers have taken this Bourne thing as far as it can go, the next movie will go in a different direction.

But whatever they do, they will never top Moonraker. Unless Bond leaves the Earth's atmosphere again, which would be ridiculous (and repetitive).

Space was the final frontier.