Wednesday, November 21, 2012

RJG Reviews Skyfall

With Baseball news fairly limited at the moment, RJG has continued to visit local theatres in order to preserve our connection to broader cultural trends. Recently I saw Skyfall, the 103rd Bond film, and the third starring Daniel Craig in the title role (the two films in which he played the minor role of Ms. Moneypenny are less fondly remembered).

2006's Casino Royale introduced us to a different Bond, one not reliant on (encumbered by?) fancy gadgets and inexplicable acrobatic equilibrium. When a bad guy jumps through a small window in a building currently under construction, this new Bond simply crashes through the drywall paneling. No more grace. A blunt instrument.

Fast-forward to 2012 and Skyfall begins with an opening sequence that harkens back to the pre-Craig Bond films. Bond can do everything the bad guys can do in this film, only with more grace and skill. He can ride motorcycles on Turkish roof tops (oddly, the same roof tops that Taken's daughter ran along throwing grenades and evading bad guys just a couple months earlier). He can slide down the metal sided islands separating escalators, propel off the end, and land in a running sprint (not simply on his feet mind you). He can tear the back off a train with a bulldozer, jump onto the train from the bulldozer's arm, land on his feet, quickly adjust one of the cufflinks that helps complete a suit that cannot be stained by blood or dirt, and keep chasing a bad guy. Admittedly, that was awesome and beyond criticism.

This new, more familiar version of Bond, however, is a development of dubious welcome. By the end of the film, you have an M, a Ms. Moneypenny, and an M's office that all harken back to Dr. No. Hardly the new Bond audiences fell in love with in Casino Royale.

This return to the Bond of yore is in line with the film's central critique of a contemporaneity blinded by the promise of the democratizing force of new technology and its supposed promise to create entirely new economic arrangements that transcend prior economic relationships. Not so fast, cries Skyfall, even an online and service based economy will still rely on the 'antiquated' modes of production necessary for making actual things. You can't eat an app, or sleep in one, after all.

The central message of this Bond film is simple: old $#!% is great! Hence it ends the way we remember old Bond films beginning. But in its critique of technological idealism it seems to forget that while we may never be able to fully part with the old, we cannot remain in some sort of nostalgia-defined reality. Bond's not trying to hear that though. The most it will do to acknowledge changed times is engage the platitude that some of our best secretaries are black! (Ms. Moneypenny is now black, so racism is over). Everything else stays the same.

But this isn't the biggest problem with the film. The biggest problem is that Daniel Craig spends the better part of this film pulling a previously unnoticeable gun out of a very form fitting suit. Where the hell was he keeping that thing?

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