Bond purists have 50 years of material to either embrace or rage against. They want their Bond films to follow the formula, never deviating from the point. If at all possible, they want the films to circle back to Ian Fleming’s canonical center.
I am a Bond purist in flux because I also have a theatre background. That background takes into account the source material and looks for ways to interpret it in a manner that suits a time and place more closely associated with what’s going on in the world. I look at Shakespeare and see the ways it can be done in an Elizabethan setting as well as a strip mall outside of Red Bank, New Jersey.
The Craig era of Bond films have deviated from the original formula much like the 1985 timeline in Back to the Future Part II, where Biff is corrupt, powerful, and married to Marty’s mother. But this deviation isn’t a bad thing. It’s similar to what J.J. Abrams did with Star Trek and I’m sure Star Trek purists rage quit the Internet after that movie came out. But Bond’s deviation with Daniel Craig in the role has made Bond less gimmicky and silly. There are no slide whistles going off when Bond performs a slow motion jump over something like in The Man With the Golden Gun.
But, as Skyfall course corrects into future Bond films, the danger is that the films will stagger down the same path as its predecessors. The hokey gags, chases, and fourth wall obliteration need to be stricken from the writers’ minds and focus on the material and how they can interpret it in our current world. Bond has a tendency to become content in his skin and the movies serve to be an indication as to when the series needs a fresh start. At the time, watching A View To a Kill was nothing short of childlike giddiness, but as an adult, watching it on my Blu-Ray collection, it became painful. At 57, Roger Moore’s age makes it harder to suspend disbelief that he could fashion a snowboard from the runner of a snow mobile, cruising down the slopes with the Beach Boys playing in the background.
Craig has one thing going for him with Bond that the other actors didn’t. His Bond seemed older from the start. Even though the series was given a pseudo reboot with him earning his double O status in Casino Royale, Craig was cranky as Bond in the first scene. Now, Connery had gruff early on as did Moore, but there were plenty of lighter moments peppered throughout the films. And that’s not to say that Craig hasn’t had fun moments in the three films. He has. The continual breaking into M’s home shows he’s still impish, but his initial exchange with Q shows his disdain for those “Damn kids and their video games”.
This being Judi Dench’s final go at M gives her all the time in the world to chew up scenery and leave her mark on the role and she delivers in spades. The film is more of a character study at the fallibility of people and their attempts to put things right. Redemption for betrayal as it were. The redemption of a son who couldn't save his parents from their death by saving a surrogate from a madman. The redemption of a "mother" who put her "sons" in harm's way. The redemption of a woman who had some trouble in the field and is now the closest thing Bond has to a real relationship with a woman.
I give Skyfall 3 out of 4 stars.