Saw it yesterday and it was terrific. Your focus on the movie’s ambivalent-to-hostile attitude toward the franchise’s toys (and maybe technology) is right.
John, I’m going to postpone reading your analysis until I see the movie (probably tonight). Then I’ll read what you have to say and see what I missed!
Also saw the movie last night but disagree with Mr. Presnal’s interpretation thus far.
It seems to me the subtext of the film was about post-colonial ambivalence toward England’s historic role as global empire and, perhaps in its 20th century phase, as cold war ally -the substance of the ambivalence consisting of the necessarily amoral requirements of maintaining power in a world that is constantly being challenged by those who would topple the Western Way of civilization. This is particularly instanciated M’s attitude toward Silva, and Bond as essentially diposable assets to be used for the greater geo-political good. The sins to be thought about are the costs, morally and spiritually, of maintaining the democratic order.
I took the passage from Ulysses as a further emphasis of the challenges for the virtuous hero in a world where, due to the lack of a geo-political hegemon, civilization’s hold is ever more tenuous.
I will add that I am becoming increasingly annoyed by film makers who feel the need to de-mystify our pantheon of cinematic hero’s by giving a pseudo-pychoanalytic gloss on why they are the way they are. This was done better in the recent Batmans, very poorly in the same treatment of Spock in the recent Star Trek, and tediously badly with Bond. Sometimes virtue is virtue and not the product of unresolved childhood issues.
Having said all this, the movie is certainly deserving of deeper cultural analysis, because there are a lot of TOYS for a deconstructionist’s idle amusement.
Pseudoplotinus, your interpretation is more complementary than contradictory. The suspicion of technology dependence (whether systems run on computers or Bond’s disappointment at his “toys”) is one of the themes. A lot of the film’s elements are borrowed from Goldeneye including the “deconstructing” of the bond universe. they include:
1. The main villain as a rogue MI6 agent.
2. Having as a theme the potential obsolescence of Bond.
3. A prominent reference to Bond being an orphan
Pete, sure, but my point was that underlying all of this was a subtext about the apparent obsolescence of England (and perhaps the west in general) as a moral geo-political force in the world.
I have no recollection of Sean Bean’s rogue agent’s motives. Been awhile since I saw Goldeneye. Silva’s seemed to be motivated by a sense that the MI6 is simply another instance of the will to power masquerading behind loyalty to God and Country.
There’s a whole discussion here about the relevance of the nation state in a globally networked society, etc. And the toys vs new tech, Bond as washed up agent, etc. appear to me as different ways of touching on this underlying theme.
If I have a fundamental disagreement with Mr. Presnall, it’s that when it comes to the phrase “Think on your sins”, the cigar, in this case, is just a cigar. Silva is trying to point out what he sees as the moral hypocricy behind MI6, M and the whole idea of a nation state attempting to maintain civil order in the world while simultaneously clinging to its moral authority.
I do agree with John that Silva seems to be inspired by Julian Assange. Perhaps with a little of Heath Ledger’s joker mixed in.
But I stand my statement about writers feeling the need to psychoanalyze heroism as though it must somehow be a neurotic condition.
One wonders what they would have done to Achilles…
By the way. I don’t want you guys to get the wrong idea. This is certainly a worthwhile topic, because I think Skyfall has a lot of interesting threads that seem to be bound to todays state of affairs.
So thanks to Mr. Presnall and I look forward to his additional installments on this film.
“There’s a whole discussion here about the relevance of the nation state in a globally networked society, etc. And the toys vs new tech, Bond as washed up agent, etc. appear to me as different ways of touching on this underlying theme.” That’s all true.
“I have no recollection of Sean Bean’s rogue agent’s motives. Been awhile since I saw Goldeneye. Silva’s seemed to be motivated by a sense that the MI6 is simply another instance of the will to power masquerading behind loyalty to God and Country.” 006 was really a crook and carried an historical grudge against England. What he and Silva share is a resentment against being “city fodder.” Silva has it especially hard as he associated his relationship with M in terms of personal love. “Think on your sins” as personal betrayal.
Some scenes were clrealy homages to The Dark Knight.
T.O.Y.S. Didn’t catch that John! Saw it tonight and enjoyed…liked the “old school” theme running through, and yet not hammered too hard (some “old” things get left behind, or destroyed).
I left leaving something like this, “Well, I enjoyed this more than most Bond films, because certain overdone things (super-fast action, impossible to follow plots, Wilt Chamberlin like love life) that are usually present weren’t. There were also some tough scenes, you might say consequences, in the film, perhaps to compensate for the fact that we TWICE see Bond escape impossible odds in nearly come-back-from-the-dead ways. Beautifully filmed, also, especially the Scotland and China-high-rise scenes. And I liked the the old-school v. new theme, adds a kind of decorative appearance of seriousness.”
But now, John confronts me with “toys.” And John and Pete with allusions to other films. And I now see that upon thinking, Bond at one point puzzlingly saying he’s seeking “resurrection,” is connected to those two (both underwater) impossible-odds scenes, and it seems, an effort to restart the Bond franchise on new ground (it would take spoilers to explain that). And, the British patriotism thing is…very seriously proposed, although…unfortunately without a clear-eyed view of what enemies Britain is supposed to fight. But not an entirely muddled view either…bad Islamists do make one appearance.
So maybe there’s more here? A serious, or half-so, Bond film? Seriousness that is more than merely decorative?
BTW, sometimes it seems the film is heading into the psychoanalyze-heroism territory Pseudo accuses it of, and you think “oh no, it’s turning into one of those uber-depressing late 90s BBC Mystery episodes,” but it quickly tacks back from that.
P.S. ARGO is a better film.
A few thoughts (just to chime in): “M” as surrogate mother was a strong theme; both protagonists had heartfelt attachments to her (it was quite striking how often Bond called her “mum”); both, too, had been “severed” by her, as she subordinated her personal affection and admiration for them to the exigencies of her office. Bond chose to stay attached, Silva didn’t. A study in contrasts worth pursuing.
“M” no doubt also represented an older England, “Mother England,” or an older form of patriotism. This England wasn’t exactly no-more, as one of the most visually striking scenes — the draped coffins of the MI6 personnel killed by Silva at headquarters — displayed; but she is in a new world, a world in which her enemies are “mapless,” living in “the shadows”. How to manage the transition is a major theme. But that one can’t simply jettison the older England was quite clear: the one clear idiot in the movie was the bloviating female MP at the inquest. (Loved Mallory’s (sp?) intervention: “For variety’s sake, perhaps we could listen to the witness.”)
One major sign of hope for the transition: “M” was around and allowed “to finish the job”. And Mallory turned out to be a good guy, a worthy successor. He and Bond will be able to work together quite well, with “M” as a common memory and source of inspiration (they bonded during the inquest scene defending “M”).
The theme of old and new was also nicely done with the relationship with “Q,” the gadget geek. Very good scene of their first encounter and attack-the-other, defend-oneself back-and-forth: the truth is found in their proper combination, which is worked out as the movie progresses. Q’s able to help Bond with his maps and tracking, in fact he saves Bond’s life by alerting him to an escape door in a tube tunnel, as well as by a gun that only he can fire; but Q also learns that the field op. has to improvise and exercise independent judgment, sometimes going against orders and protocol. That’s a big lesson for a techno-geek to learn. Mallory learns it as well (if he didn’t already know it).
I thought the sex scenes were boring. There’s a happier mean between perfunctory and Chamberlain-esque.
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