In my long years as a book reviewer for the Detroit Free Press, the Washington Post and other newspapers and magazines, every now and then I felt I'd slipped into an alternate universe. The whole world seemed to praise a new novel in terms so rapturous you'd think nobody had ever accomplished anything worth praising in fiction until then. I'd read the book and go, "Huh?"
That's how I feel about Skyfall. Its almost unanimous raves had me set for a movie experience of a lifetime, or at least the best Bond movie in 50 years, but I was bored. How bored? More than once, I considered walking out, getting some coffee nearby and meeting my spouse afterwards.
The opening sequence was simply sub-par Bond, a routine chase with very little magic or excitement, and many other films have worked with trains to much better effect, even ones as silly as Broken Arrow or Under Siege 2. And while we're on trains, the Tube crash later in the film was unbelievably bland, as droopy as the movie itself. Die Hard With a Vengeance had a much scarier and more dramatically filmed crash.
But then all the way through Skyfall, I kept seeing other movies referenced: Mission Impossible, The International, Inception, The Lady from Shanghai, X-Men, The Woman in Black. For me, these visual quotes made Skyfall suffer, because those films all moved better, had smarter and more involving scripts.
Skyfall's story was full of holes -- like the pathetically weak security surrounding M -- and became duller and duller until the final shoot-out, which was something right out of a thousand Westerns. As for the much-praised Javier Bardem "gay" villain -- what did he do or say that was different from any other screwed-up gay psycho in the last few decade of movies?
Getting ready to see Skyfall, I watched and enjoyed Casino Royale and even the lesser Quantum of Solace for their color, action, and life. But the overwhelming stench of nostalgia, regret, decay and desuetude in Skyfall -- perfectly symbolized by that grim Scottish manse -- made me wonder if this was supposed to be a eulogy. I hadn't come to bury Bond, but to cheer him on.
The only bright notes? Craig's biceps and Ben Wishaw's hair.