Sunday, November 18, 2012

A Radio and a Gun: Why "Skyfall" Rocks!

Bond: A radio and a gun? Not exactly Christmas is it?
Q: What were you expecting? An exploding pen? We don't do that sort of thing anymore
Bond: Brave new world...

I went with Malamute to see Quantum of Solace on opening day. That was a disappointment. I'm not really a Bond fan (Malamute is), so I wasn't expecting much.

And even then I was disappointed.

The movie industry has often fallen prey to deluding themselves into thinking that if they can just spend enough money and pull off enough explosions, they'll have a blockbuster. Quantum of Solace was an example of this. The plot was so overly complex I couldn't keep track of what was going on or why the "Bond girl" was even there or what purpose she even served. Malamute was really disappointed. So we didn't have very high hopes for Skyfall until we started hearing about how they had done a lot of revamping. After seeing some of the behind the scenes footage and interviews, we were actually pretty excited about seeing the latest Bond flick. We were expecting it to be pretty good.

Skyfall actually exceeded our expectations!

One of the interesting things is that Skyfall actually cost $50 million less than Quantum of Solace. I'd say it's one of the best scripts for a Bond film that I've seen (and I've seen quite a few.) Malamute also commented on how he felt the cinematography was some of the best he'd seen for a Bond film. They started with a great story and character development for this film and that has made all the difference. Story and character development really don't cost anything extra except time and creativity, but they really are the most crucial elements in a successful film.

The focus on what the human brain brings to the table is just the sort of thing that is beginning to permeate our action flicks of late. Critics have commented on how gadget-free Skyfall is. Even Q is defined more by his intellect than the gadgets he has at his disposal. This latest version Bond focuses on Bond's ability to navigate tough situations using mostly his brains and strength.

But take a look at other action heroes over the last ten years or so. We're no longer as entranced by technology as audiences were 20, 30, and 40 years ago. We live with it every day and see its flaws and threats. We like heroes who are mostly defined by their character and intelligence. We like Maximus in Gladiator who manages to take down Commodus through sheer strength of will- even while mortally wounded. We like Peter Parker losing his powers in the second Spiderman movie and realizing that what makes him a hero is the courage to stand up and face danger to help others. We love Katniss Everdeen, Peeta Mellark and Rue who are plunked down in an arena with people twice as strong, fast and well-funded and face it all with nothing more than some night-vision sunglasses, an empty water bottle, and their wits to see them through. Even when our heroes have cool gadgets like Batman in Dark Knight, what we really love is seeing him sweat over making moral decisions. When is it appropriate to take a life? How far do we go to protect the common good? Does the end justify the means? Is there redemption? (Feel free to listen to "Go the Distance" from the Disney Hercules while you're reading this paragraph.)

I think we like these kinds of heroes because they remind us that we can all be heroes, even without super powers or a Batmobile. But don't get me wrong, a Batmobile would be cool. So here's to the hero who faces the forces of darkness with nothing more than his or her wits and maybe a radio and a gun.

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