Dee Discusses: Skyfall

Posted: December 31, 2012 by Dee in Dee, General Media, Movies
Tags: , , , , , , ,

So I have a semi unpopular opinion about this movie, regarding some very specific issues I have with it, and I’ve decided to get to that later on in the review. Half of it will be talking about the movie itself and the things I did like about it, and then the bottom half will be about what bothered me a great deal. I think what bothers me a lot is the things I’ll be talking about in the bottom aren’t addressed by many reviewers and it alarms me. General warning here, if you don’t want to join in on the social justice soap box later, only read the first half. This is my blog so I can do what I want on it. My background with James Bond is I’ve always disliked it. I thought the earlier movies were boring and cheesy and I didn’t like him as a character. I know you have to suspend your disbelief since most of the time it’s just entertainment and not meant to be taken seriously, and it didn’t work for me. I tried a few and usually rolled my eyes and wanted to leave after the first half hour. I don’t find him attractive or appealing as a person. This is actually still true of Daniel Craig, I can’t say I like James Bond the character in any form. What I did like about Casino Royale was the directing, setting, story, and general set up. I found it grittier and a lot more interesting than any of the others. I will usually pick serious over silly, if I have a choice, and I thought it was a solid reboot. I didn’t hate the second one, but it wasn’t great or memorable. Still, I was starting to get more into the series if they kept in this intense direction. So I was intrigued by Skyfall, especially when I kept hearing such great things about it.

First off, I didn’t hate everything about the film. I liked a lot of it. The plot for example was interesting, so here we go on this. In the beginning, James Bond is tracking down a mercenary who stole a computer hard drive of undercover agents in terrorist organizations. While fighting with him on a train, his partner at the time accidentally shoots him instead of the mercenary since they’re right next to each other, and M tells her to take the shot. James Bond is presumed dead, and he takes advantage of it, going off on his own. Meanwhile M is told she has to retire and give the reins over to Gareth Mallory. On her way back, she has a mocking message e-mailed to her and the MI-6 headquarters is blown up. They go underground and Bond returns, being approved back for duty by M even though he fails. He teams up again with the woman who shot him, and I’m just going to go ahead and call her Eve Moneypenny because it’s easier. They go to Shanghai to track down that same mercenary, and Bond kills him, although when the mercenary kills a mark, he decides to track down a mysterious woman he sees there. She eventually leads him to her owner/boss, Raoul Silva, who is the one with the hit list and trying to take out M. Not just take her out, he wants her to suffer. He’s a former agent that she abandoned in the field and he wants revenge. From there he uses his tech abilities and long con brilliance to try and destroy the woman who betrayed him, and Bond does whatever he can to stay in the middle of them. Watch the movie for the rest.

I found the situation between M and Silva fascinating, and how that connects to Bond’s current issue with her too. Bond is furious she told Moneypenny to take the shot, leading to his near death, and Silva was similarly cut off because it was the smartest thing to do. M is the leader of the organization and that means making tough calls, including abandoning or killing her own people when necessary. You can connect to the fury of these two who clearly have a very close relationship with her, who love her really and see her as a maternal figure, and the pain that comes from being left behind. You can also understand that M’s duty is more important to her and she considers the big picture. That storyline is personal and well developed, especially since Silva’s mind has deteriorated a great deal because the suicide pill he took didn’t work and poisoned him instead. I liked the references to Bond’s past and how he got into being a spy. The acting was pretty great too, for an action flick, so that’s nice. I love that they acknowledged Bond’s age and that after drinking heavily and not working out for awhile, he’s out of shape and not really ready to go back into the field. The action sequences are fantastic. I especially love when he’s tracking the mercenary to his next kill and they have that gorgeous but strange colorful background while the fight itself is in shadows. The T train being thrown at Bond was also a highlight. The tone remained dark, gritty, realistic, and those are all things I genuinely enjoyed about it. I think that’s what people in general like about it, as they should, so thumbs up in that regard.

After the picture I’ll be talking about my personal issues with it.

I know that sexism and misogyny are a staple of the James Bond series, so I can’t say that I’m surprised when a few things popped up in this movie that annoyed me in that regard, but a huge problem I have is that it’s 2012. For crying out loud, can’t they do a little better than this? Haven’t we hit the point where Moneypenny can be treated as an equal and stay a field agent who can be a partner to Bond? I liked her presentation in the beginning of the film and most of the scenes with her later. So this is a small complaint, but yes, I was annoyed she settled down as the secretary to the new M. It might be a tradition of the series, but time has changed. It’s decades later. Moneypenny as a secretary made sense then because it was an era where that was the sort of job women could get. Why would they start her out as someone well trained and strong, only to stick her behind a desk at the end? Not to mention Bond’s teasing of her as “some people aren’t fit to be field agents” is pretty damn condescending. This would’ve been a great chance to update the old tradition and make her as more of a partner and/or co-worker for Bond than relegating her back to secretary.

I’m getting the smaller complaints out of the way now, these are all personal preferences. I would prefer that M had been the one to take out Silva. Their fight was a personal one, and I originally thought that she’d probably die going out like a hero, killing Silva and herself in the process. Honestly, if she was a male, that’s probably how it would go. The old grizzled leader of the agency going out in a flame of glory. Instead she needs to get rescued again and again and fades away. Bond can still be the hero and have M save the day in the end, that would be a great send off to her character and still give him the emotional hit he needed at the end. Plus Silva was her Frankenstein’s monster, and it would’ve been a good full circle if she handled it herself. Note that I still love Judi Dench and the character of M. Next, why does there have to be an implication that Silva is gay and he creepily hits on Bond when he’s tied up? Because they want that punch line of Bond seeming humorous and edgy and that maybe he’s seduced men too for work? Or is that a no homo bro moment? This is hardly the first or last time a villain is made gay, suggestively gay, or effeminate as if that makes them more of a villain. Was that to make the men in the audience uncomfortable? I really have no idea, but I don’t think it was necessary.

Now we get to something I really believe is a problem in this movie and not just something that annoyed me from a viewer point of view. That’s the handling of Sévérine. They make it a point in Shanghai for Bond to point out that she was sold into the sex slave business, probably as a child, and that Silva more or less owns her. There’s a loooooooot of background regarding the sex slave business and how horrific it is, so that’s a pretty heavy character point to bring up … if they treated it as anything more than a passing remark. Which then leads to him defeating her guards, and he sneaks onto her boat and joins her in the shower. They have sex. Okay, from my stand point, it is completely unacceptable for a strange man to walk into a shower naked where a woman is presumably alone, naked, and vulnerable, and make sexual advances on her. Does she respond? Yes, after like two minutes of flirting before he takes out her guards, apparently she is good to go for him. Except this is a woman who was trained from a long time ago to give in to a man’s needs and whims despite anything she wanted herself, and he knows that about her, so it made me very uncomfortable that he just appears in her shower as if he deserves this. As if he’s entitled to it. Guys, as a general rule, if you flirt a little with a strange woman and then show up naked in her shower, she’s probably not going to react that way. So let’s see, you’ve got the sex slave aspect, the borderline sexual assault aspect, and then … she’s murdered in a game between him and Silva. He had sex with her about an hour ago, and he barely blinks an eye when she’s shot before him. He doesn’t give a crap about her, Silva doesn’t give a crap about her, and apparently his spy agency is nearby and it’s not like they intervene either. This woman is so worthless in the eyes of everyone in this movie that she can be discarded swiftly, insultingly, never brought up again, and never referenced in reviews either as if that’s a huge blind spot by all the reviewers. WTF?

And before you go into oh it’s a James Bond movie, you can’t expect James Bond movies to be realistic, of course we wouldn’t walk into a strange woman’s shower and do that (except they do and sexual assault and rape are huge problems in the world). Why would a movie get a write off for treating anyone that horribly? Not to mention someone who was a sex slave and an abuse victim her entire life, boiled down to that chick who Bond had sex with just because it’s Bond and he has to have sex with people. How is that acceptable to brush off as unimportant? It’s 2012. Why can’t I expect better of a movie made in this time? Why can’t I as a woman (not speaking for all women, but just for me in this instance)  be uncomfortable with how this character was treated? Why am I one of the few people who seems to question this at all? There are three women in this movie. One ends up a secretary, one dies as a device to give the main character more manpain, and one dies as a footnote after being treated as nothing more than a sex object. I can’t believe we’re still at a place where this isn’t even brought up as problematic. Do I think people who didn’t notice this and just enjoyed the movie are bad sexists? No, of course not, everyone enjoys things that have problematic material, myself included. But I do think that this is something people should acknowledge as problematic and maybe join me in hoping for better. There are still parts of this movie I didn’t mind, all mentioned above, but did this part of it tarnish the film for me? Absolutely. I won’t be buying this or probably watching it again.

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