Hitchcock, Bond, Batman and the Ingredients of ‘Skyfall’

It would be difficult to call Skyfall out on anything paralleling The Dark Knight Rises, though, and yet there are the coincidental opportunities. We can compare the “fan service” at the very end of the Bond film to a similar character reveal at the end of the Batman sequel. We can link the aspect of the respective heroes battling their own age. The way they like to fake death and take a hiatus. The way Silva is also a bit like Bane. Understandably, there have been plenty of mash-up trailers combining audio and video from Skyfall and Rises. But is it all just for nitpickery or a laugh?

Here’s Christopher Rosen’s criticism of Bond’s superhero-ness in The Huffington Post:

Bond is an orphan, whose parents died in a car accident. Not only is that classic superhero motivation (Batman, Spider-Man), but, as presented in “Skyfall,” it’s also kind of inconsequential. “Skyfall” doesn’t really bother examining what being an orphan means to Bond, nor whether his parents’ deaths affect his relationship with M (Judi Dench). In Nolan’s Batman films, the specter of Bruce Wayne’s dead parents hangs over the proceedings like a funeral dirge; in “Skyfall,” it’s an easy plot point used as shorthand to give meaning to a character who doesn’t require any more meaning. Bond is Bond; he’s been the same misogynistic, psychotic, alcoholic secret agent we’ve come to love over the past 50 years. There’s no need to turn him into Bruce Wayne.

Well, to a degree, Bond has long had commonalities with comic book heroes. His gadgetry has always been relative to non-powered “super” heroes like Iron Man and Batman. Indeed, the Nolan Batman films’ employment of Lucius Fox has obviously been suggested as being Q-like. Throughout the series, Bond’s villains have been a combination of Lex Luthor types — no more so than Max Zorin of A View to a Kill, with his earthquake real estate scheme right out of Superman: The Movie. Meanwhile, some of the henchmen have seemed appropriate for the old Batman TV series. Baron Samedi from Live and Let Die comes to mind.

Let’s not forget, also, that the Bond of Skyfall is an evolution of the Bonds that have come before him. You can, as I have, think of each actor’s run as hosting a different individual who takes on the Bond moniker, none meant to be the same person. After The Bourne Legacy, however, it could be unwise for the Bond producers to even hint at such an idea. Still, the Ms and Qs are viewed as new people filling old shoes… As for Silva, his ex-MI6 status puts him very much into the Bond canon, calling to mind plenty of double-crossers and double-agents and dopplegangers, particularly GoldenEye‘s Alec Trevelyan.

Movies today are all in the soup, mixing with ingredients of the past, but the Bond movies are an extraordinary case. Skyfall is celebrated for being so conscious of the whole half century of these films while also moving forward. But it’s not necessarily forward or fresh or innovative in any way that we can expect future blockbusters or a whole subgenre to imitate it. That’s a rarity for mainstream cinema today, and we can accept that. But we also can’t fault it for being conscious of what is popular right now, especially when its influence is already sourced from the same past.

This week, Slashfilm’s Angie Han asked Bond producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson the big question, whether they’d be interested in Nolan directing an installment of the series. They didn’t have much to say on the possibility, but there is no more a reason for him to tackle Bond than there was for Hitchcock to when Fleming made that call. And not just because of the comparisons between Skyfall and his work. He’s already embedded in the process. And he’s already shown us his take on Bond by emulating the ski chase from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service in Inception. It’s a big swirl that comes back around, as Bond inspires Nolan inspires Bond, etc.

Do we even need to talk about how so many think Nolan is like a new Hitchcock? At this point, Hitch is just a grandfather to both Nolan and Bond through other Bonds. Nolan doesn’t seem to recognize the heritage (he tends to cite Welles and Kubrick instead), Mendes has acknowledged the North by Northwest connection to 007, but in time all the influences, direct and indirect, become hazy.

Now Nolan is off Batman, and who knows where that character is going? Back to the cheeseball days of television or Schumacher? And could Bond ever head back through its own corny legacy of cartoonish henchmen and jet packs and puns galore? It will really be interesting to see the ways in which the two properties continue to inform one another. And what else informs and becomes informed by them as well.

Rather than a reject, Christopher Campbell is a film school dropout. But he has since gotten a master’s degree in cinema studies and has been blogging about movies since 2005. Earlier, he reviewed films for a zine (a what?) that you could buy at Tower Records (a what?). He is married with two children.

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