Skyfall is gearing up for its UK release next week, and the filmmakers are out stumping for their movie like it's their job. Sam Mendes is feeling especially chatty, telling Time Out that he's "knackered" by making Skyfall - I like to picture Daniel Craig sitting next to him during this comment, wondering how many goddamn trains and motorcycles and frozen lakes Mendes had to jump in, on or around - but if audiences like the film, he's down for another one. And they do seem to quite like the film, which is at 97% on Rotten Tomatoes, making it the best-reviewed blockbuster of the year - until someone other than the 36 folks who've reviewed it weigh in, at least. I'm avoiding reviews myself, but people whose opinions I value have been saying it erases memories of 2008's Quantum of Solace and delivers a satisfying, smart thriller that's up there with the best of the series. (Hopefully BAD will be getting back to you on that in the next week or so.)
Speaking of 2008, Mendes went on to tell Indiewire that Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight is directly responsible for creating the cinematic environment which allowed a film like Skyfall to be made.
"...what Nolan proved was that you can make a huge movie that is thrilling and entertaining and has a lot to say about the world we live in, even if, in the case with ‘The Dark Knight,’ it’s not even set in our world. If felt like a movie that was about our world post-9/11 and played on our fears and discussed our fears and why they existed and I thought that was incredibly brave and interesting. That did help give me the confidence to take this movie in directions that, without ‘The Dark Knight,’ might not have been possible. Because also, people go, ‘Wow, that’s pretty dark,’ but then you can point to ‘Dark Knight’ and go ‘Look at that – that’s a darker movie, and it took in a gazillion dollars!’ That’s very helpful. There’s also that thing – it’s clearly possible to make a dark movie that people want to see."
Now, parsing that kind of statement is a bit of a fool's errand this second, since we haven't seen the film, but my first thought was "hoo boy." Coming out of Fantastic Fest last month, my cumulative takeaway was that I didn't see one film that owed anything to Nolan. I saw brave, mind-blowing movies that gleefully threw realism right out the window and had more in common with Gene Kelly musicals than anything currently at the multiplex. I left thinking that maybe there was a place on the horizon (somewhere after CW's Arrow wraps up, I later reckoned) where we'd never again hear about the minute details of ordering Batman suits overseas. But now Mendes says this and...I'm okay with it?
The big difference is the property itself. For starters, Ian Fleming's 007 was never a carefree jokester who smirked his way through life-and-death adventure. He drank too much; he got his hands dirty; he dreamed of retiring and writing a field manual called Stay Alive! (punctuation Bond's). As a fan of the books, I'm still digging this version, and I like what I'm hearing about the apparent jump in time, aging up Craig's Bond and portraying him closer to the burnout case often depicted in the novels. Secondly, there are TWENTY THREE of these movies. With that kind of volume, there's gonna be a lot of repetition, and if you need the jokes and the drunk Italians doing double-takes, those movies are all on the shelf. The films that deviate from the formula are the ones I'm more drawn to now. Thirdly, Bond's not going anywhere; you are guaranteed another version sooner or later. That doesn't always seem to be the case with superhero stuff; it currently feels like we're in a glum spiral with those properties.
So back to Mendes' larger point: he seems to be saying he's made a Bond movie that's ABOUT something, and that The Dark Knight was able to smuggle in its post 9/11 concerns as effectively as it did gave Mendes hope that he could make a blockbuster that's not just fluff. But where Nolan was met more than halfway by an aging comic fanbase who were eager to have their superhero portrayed as deep and serious and grownup, Bond's audience seems more primed for escapism and a notoriously stubborn attachment to formula. And while it will make no real difference to the film's box-office or critical reception, when you have to convince fans that not having the signature gun barrel sequence at the beginning isn't a deal-breaker (and guess what I'm hearing about this one, superfans?), selling them a complex, layered film about their perfect boyhood hero might not go down exactly the same way as it did with the cape-n-cowl crowd.
We leave you with the latest trailer, in which I can't really see anything new!