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Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Blinging Bond: Part Four of the Skyfall Review

Now, pay attention everyone.

We’ve got Bonds, Baddies, and Babes covered….  It’s time to take a look at the Bling of Bond in our Skyfall review.

From word No, Bond has been outfitted with some of the coolest cars and gadgets this side of a Brookstone store.  There were exploding pens, jet packs, and a Lotus that drove underwater, to name a few.   Bond has also sported the latest in Rolex Submariner’s though I doubt any of them actually told the time.  

Sometimes, they became a trope when it was pretty apparent that the ridiculous specificity of the object directly related to a life or death situation Bond was put in later on in the film.  Q must have had a machine that could see the future, much like another film that used random objects for specific tasks, Paycheck.

And how about Q?  Over the years, the Quartermaster has been played by roughly six actors, both EON and non-EON films, however, none was more well known that Desmond Llewelyn who played Q from 1963 until his death in 1999. 

While other actors may have portrayed the armourer with a more straight forward approach, Llewelyn played it with a certain amount of annoyance at Bond’s attention deficit disorder and lack of care in returning Q’s toys.   Just like, “Bond, James Bond” is a staple quote from 007 in nearly every film, Q is often quoted with “Now, pay attention 007” and “Do be careful with these”  though, he never does.

With The World is Not Enough, Q’s eventual successor, R, is introduced in John Cleese.  He then took over the role after Llewelyn’s death in 1999.  

Somewhat of a foreboding feeling seeing Q lowering himself into the ground soon after introducing his successor.

There was no new ground tread in the portrayal of Q by Cleese.  He returned to the format Llewelyn followed closely for over three decades.   Perhaps it was meant more as a tribute, rather than making the character his own.  You can see it in his delivery of the line, “As I learned from my predecessor, Bond, I never joke about my work.”  Though, you can see he was heading in a comedic direction in The World Is Not Enough.  Or, perhaps it was a directorial decision as the scene showcases a few Easter Eggs for the 40th anniversary of Bond.  You can see the show knife and jet pack prominently in the scene, above.

This was the last we would see of Q for 10 years.  It’s a shame that Cleese did not follow Bond into the Craig years.  However, in a way, it was probably for the best.  Apart from keeping M for continuity, having someone else from the old regime could have dragged the rebirth of Bond down into the mess that was Die Another Day

With Skyfall, we have the return of Q Branch.  Ben Wishaw, who looked more like Cillian Murphy in this film, plays Q more as a computer geek than gadget master.    He calls out Bond for being more of a blunt instrument than an efficient and highly specialized tool.   Making Q younger than Bond shows more about Craig’s seasoned and weary status as Bond than it does about Wishaw’s rookie turn as the armourer, but there is a recollection to the earlier years with Bond’s “You must be joking” line.  Though, the filmmakers don’t fall into the trap of retreading the line “I never joke about my work.”  You can see, though, that Q and Bond will be off on a good foot in this scene, no hidden knife required.

I do like a younger Q, though I’m not sure we really need a hipster Quartermaster.    The gadgets are simple and well placed with a radio tracker and Bond’s palm-print reader enabled Walther PPK.  However, the filmmakers make the same stupid mistake as nearly every other film in the history of films involving computer interfaces.  I call it the Weird Science effect.   

If you were born in the mid to late 90s and don't know this film, shame on you, for starters. Weird Science was a John Hughes film from 1985, where two geeks build a woman with their computer.   What follows is a highly stylized yet totally unrealistic portrayal of what a hacker would see in their attempts to break into various systems.  The same ridiculous type of computer hacking scenes also take place in Jurassic Park, Hackers, Sneakers, The Net, Independence Day, Disclosure, Swordfish, Wargames 2, Live Free or Die Hard, and now Skyfall

My biggest problem with the entire movie is that they go to great pains to show Q as a computer security geek, able to decipher anything, and not only do they show a totally stupid computer setup during Silva’s escape, they actually make Q a victim of his own hubris.  Why can’t Hollywood get computer hacking right? 

Qualms aside, it's nice to have Q back in the business of outfitting Bond with the latest in high tech office supplies.  Let's just hope there are no invisible cars in Craig's future.  I'd like him to be around for awhile.

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