Sunday, November 11, 2012

Bad Storytelling, or Why I Think Skyfall is a Steaming Pile of Shit Despite Its Rave Reviews


           Maybe that's a bit harsh, but after all the hype, this movie was a huge flop for me. The reason is simple. In order to make a good Bond movie, you have to follow a formula. Bond stories aren't known for their innovation, originality, or groundbreaking style, they're flashy, over-the-top action movies with colorful and entertaining characters, complex plots, gorgeous scenery, and badder than bad villains. 
        I think the last point is the one I'm most aggravated about. You'd think Javier Bardem of No Country fame would play an excellent, creepy, and downright nasty Bond villain, but unfortunately the writers gave him absolutely nothing to work with. His character motivations throughout the entire film are completely inconsistent. If he wants to kill M in person so badly, why does he send a team of commandos to shoot up the house where she's hiding out first? Why bust into a court hearing, guns blazing, only to later try to commit suicide/homicide at the film's climax? His character isn't fleshed out enough for his motivations to make sense, and he's introduced HALF WAY through the movie, by which point we've gone through two other would-be villains and plot points that in the end, don't really add up to anything at all. 
        For me, a good villain must compliment the hero in some way. They must have enough similarities so that there is an immediate connection, but differ on certain points that make the confrontation inevitable. Look at any other decent Bond movie and you'll see this. Le Chiffre in Casino Royale has wealth, power, and style (all characteristics of Bond), and he's a crack poker player (also Bond's thing), but he's out to destroy civilization as we know it, whereas Bond is trying to hold it all together. There's immediate tension, particularly when the two sit down to play cards, and the conflict drives the entire film. Not to mention the fact that we meet Le Chiffre in the FIRST FIVE MINUTES, not an hour in. 
         The writers try to establish a connection in this film, with Bardem's character having been betrayed by MI6, just as Bond is in the beginning, but they go nowhere with this. Bond doesn't remotely identify with him, because he's basically crazy (and in an inconsistent way, not in a way that makes him interesting or even threatening). In many ways, Skyfall felt like three storylines the writers decided to cut and paste together at the last minute, so the movie has an uneven feel throghout. For the first third of the film, you'd think it was about Bond being betrayed by his own agency, but that quickly gets resolved and forgotten. Then it's about getting the bad guy who got away, who turns out to be unimportant when Bardem's character is introduced. Then for the last third of the film it vacillates between being a "protect M at all costs" mission and Bond revisiting his childhood (which isn't important to the plot or developed enough for me to care at all). 
          Don't get me wrong, there are some beautiful shots in this movie, particularly in the scene where Bond charges away from his burning home, silhouetted against the raging fires, but it adds nothing thematically because they haven't set anything up with the story. It's just pretty imagery and nothing else, which is totally annoying because it could have been SO MUCH MORE! I don't understand why this movie is being praised, except for the fact that it's far more coherent than Quantum of Solace, which in my opinion, isn't an excuse. Just because your plot makes sense, doesn't mean it's a good plot. On the whole, Skyfall had so much potential but just didn't carry through with anything it set up. Maybe one day, Hollywood will learn that flashy special effects and beautiful actors/actresses are no substitute for story. Do yourself a favor and watch one of the Connery-era bonds, or even the Brosnan-era for that matter (at least they had good stories!) or, better yet, read one of the original Fleming novels. Trust me, your time will be much better spent than seeing this travesty.

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