Bond spoiler alert: franchises are forever
Italics alert! Bond, who has failed his secret-agent test, takes M to an isolated and unprotected house to use her as bait for Javier Bardem’s bad guy. He entrusts her with a man who escapes with her across open ground, at night, while carrying a really bright torch. This otherwise foolproof strategy gets M killed. The movie ends with Bond getting his job back rather than a lengthy public inquiry.
But what was his family’s groundskeeper doing in the house after it had been sold anyway? And how could Javier Bardem’s whateverhisnameis predict the incredibly complex sequence of events that would take him from China to London and blowing up the Underground at a pivotal moment? Did it involve memorising the Tube timetable months before?
All of which shouldn’t matter in a Bond movie. Skyfall is a series of set pieces joined only by a loose narrative thread. But to describe it as the best Bond yet, as some critics have, requires you to overlook the substantial moments when the Bond corporate franchise invades the screen, so that the moviegoer is suddenly aware that the only suits on screen are not just those worn by Bond.
The Aston Martin is one such moment. The Bond universe becomes a Bond parallel universe, in which bits of other films can come dropping in. It has no more value than the TV ads in which the Bonds were spliced together into a single car chase. Daniel Craig might as well have been handed the keys by Sean Connery.
But it is in its product placement that Skyfall most obviously fails. It so repeatedly smashes down the fourth wall that the only surprise is that it doesn’t ultimately reveal the logo for a leading brand of bricks. The opening scenes are hilariously egregious in this regard, but its funniest moment is when Bond takes out a Sony phone so unimpressive it would hardly have been more jarring if Bond whipped out a tin can attached to a piece of string.
Moonraker is generally considered the nadir of the Bond series, a laser-battles-in-space farrago whose chief quality was the producer’s embarrassing reaction to the Star Wars phenomenon. Skyfall features excellent set pieces, but in some ways it gives Moonraker a rival. You watch, and you don’t see Bond. You see the producers. You see the franchise. And you see an Aston Martin that might as well be shooting lasers in space.