Tuesday, November 20, 2012

On Skyfall and the Dark Knight's influence

The lady and I saw Skyfall over the weekend and despite the rain outside, we stayed warm and on edge watching a great film. Not a great Bond film, a great film period. I admit that I haven't seen my share of Bond movies (Die Another Day, Casino Royale, 1/2 of Quantum of Solace before I passed out) so I can't compare it to any other in the genre.

It made me more eager to see future Bond movies. And that's the mark of a great movie. A long-standing brand shouldn't just give you what you expect but make you think you're watching it grow. And Skyfall did that in a few ways. From seeing more of the great Dame Judi Dench as M to the beautiful, witty Money Penny played by Naomie Harris, the acting surrounded Bond was top notch.

Oh and Adele's theme. Beautiful. Majestic. Perfect for the intro. See you at the Oscars for your comeback.

I enjoy Daniel Craig as Bond because while he's tough, he's also human. He's still Bond but we've seen more layers to him. Casino Royale showed his soul, Skyfall showed his past connecting to his future. And what more can I say about Javier Bardem? The man who brought us Anton Chigurh created another classic villain that was mesmerizing, charming and cold.

There are twists all around that'll keep you intrigued from start to finish. I'll try not to spoil it but the ending had me smiling because the next era of Bond is in capable hands. If it does indeed get some Oscar love, it's well deserved. Sam Mendes (the director of American Beauty, Revolutionary Road) added a great touch behind the lens as well.

More than anything, it reminded me of the impact The Dark Knight (and to a lesser extent, Iron Man**) had on superhero/action movies. Next year will be the 5th anniversary of both movies and they proved that action movies weren't just about special effects and big stars, but genuine emotion, storytelling and great acting that defines any great movie.

Dark Knight showed that you could make a superhero movie in this era that appeals to everybody -  comic book fans, action fans, critics and casual fans. It injected a new life because of its realism and complex writing. It gave us a performance that we'll never forget in Heath Ledger's Joker but Christian Bale gave us a Bruce Wayne/Batman that was brooding and conflicted.

It changed superhero movies because no longer could you only rely on gimmicks to sell and be great. Think about films since? Avengers was great and attracted the talented Joss Whedon to make it. Dark Knight Rises has great acting. Spider-Man was rebooted this year with a much darker storyline than last decade's trilogy. Skyfall got an Academy-Award winning director to build up the Bond franchise after the snoozer that was Quantum of Solace

As I watched Raoul Silva in Skyfall, it reminded me of Heath Ledger's Joker. Joker was far more dark and nihilistic while Silva was charming in his maniacal genius. Both were over-the-top in their ambition and showed no mercy. Silva had a reason for his anger while Joker just lived "to watch the world burn." Both were creative, captivating performances and if Bardem credited Ledger for inspiration, I could see that.

This doesn't take away from the fact that Skyfall is great on its own merit. But sometimes greatness reminds you of other greatness to let you know that iron does indeed sharpen iron. And Skyfall's success is a tribute how well it may have borrowed some tips from the Dark Knight's playbook as well as make James Bond relevant in a new decade.

**(If I'm honest, I think Spider-Man 2 really set it off in the last 10 years with making superhero movies more than just great action, bright colors and popcorn fare. I know older folks might say that the original Batman did too.)

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