And, while it was the highest grossing Bond film up to this point (“Skyfall” grossed $87.8 million, surpassing it), it was widely panned by critics and fans alike.
But with “Skyfall,” the 23rd James Bond film, it seems as though the director and actor are making up for it in spades.
This will be a spoiler-free review, so read on.
The film starts out in typical Bond fashion with Daniel Craig donning the black tuxedo once again.
007 chases a bad guy who’s gotten his hands on something that he shouldn’t have.
The chase leads through streets and on rooftops on motorcycles and then on top of a train.
But then something unexpected happens that sends Bond out of commission.
That’s when things get interesting.
The opening credits, a tradition in all Bond films, starts and, all of a sudden, we’re transported to vintage Bond territory.
The opening credit sequence, with pop star Adele providing the theme song, sounds and looks like an early ’60s entry.
The graphics are something straight out of “Octopussy” or “From Russia with Love.” It was quite a relief to see them leaning so heavily on past 007 films and was a welcomed nod to the franchise.
The entire movie is sprinkled with winks to the vintage Bond films, from the original theme popping up again to his Astin Martin, complete with ejector seat.
Bringing back some of the elder elements isn’t something done by chance, it becomes part of the story.
The entire movie is about mortality.
Bond is a beaten, broken, shot-up old man, and his agency isn’t sure he has what it takes to go on another mission.
And it’s not only him. M, played yet again by Dame Judi Dench, is also on the verge of being forced to retire and cast out into the cold by the agency which she essentially built as one of the best secret service outfits in the world.
Her actions, both past and present, come into question as an agent she left for dead years ago returns with a thirst for her blood.
Enter: Javier Bardem as Silva, a ruthless, cunning computer genius hellbent on bringing the agency to its knees and M to her grave.
Silva is one of the most vile Bond villains yet.
He ushers in a new era of evil that brings the movie in to the present, cyber terrorism.
Sure, as an ex-agent he can hold his own when going toe-to-toe with 007, but that’s not what he’s about.
He’s also not about taking over the world or destroying America.
His objective is simple.
And he does it through computers and viruses and, basically, has the world at his keyboard.
But, like the past great villains, he has his own island, which was once a populated city that he evacuated by causing a fake threat that sent the locals running, and, of course, an army of baddies.
And Bond travels to new and exciting locales with the cinematography in this film making everything looks lush and vibrant. So much so that you may want to book a flight overseas and follow in Bond’s exploits.
The images on screen are gorgeous and surreal when need be and damp and solemn when we get to places 007 has tried to forget.
But it’s the story that really snares you.
So little of 007’s past has been revealed over the years that, once subtle hints start to become clear, you realize why Bond is who he is and why he so good at what he does.
Craig delivers a deeper, sorrowful, Bond that none of the other films in the franchise have ever dared to define.
He’s human and vulnerable and, most of all, pissed off.
Bardem knocks it out of the park with his portrayal of the bad guy.
And he goes where no Bond villain has gone before. But you have to see it to believe it.
He’s ruthless, smart, cold and heartless and will destroy anything and anyone to get what he wants.
And he’s a tad bit insane, which is a bad thing for Bond.
Sam Mendes, the director of “American Beauty” and “The Road to Perdition,” wasn’t a likely choice to helm the latest film, but a very welcome one to say the least.
He’s a dramatic film director, not an action one, and it seems that’s what the film needed.
The story unfolds around the characters we thought we knew, and, slowly, the layers get peeled back until they’re unrecognizable to the audience, yet, grounded and relatable.
And he tosses humor in throughout the film, which has been absent from Craig’s run as the main character.
“Skyfall” is a fun, exciting espionage romp that isn’t like many of Bond’s latest films, but does wear its admiration of the classic films on its sleeve.
Bond becomes human, and with it comes a great deal of strife and failure for him personally.
We finally get to meet the man behind the tie, and, while that’s a joy for many fans, it’s not that great for the character we’ve grown to love over the 50 years he’s entertained us.
“Skyfall” is playing at Rio 6 Cinemas, 806 E. Houston St.