Some people are claiming that “Skyfall” is the best James Bond movie yet, which is, of course ridiculous.
Best James Bond movie: “Goldfinger,” which set the template and remains the Bond gold standard.
Worst James Bond movie: “The World Is Not Enough,” the nadir of the Pierce Brosnan years.
Still, it’s unique in one critical respect, and not just because it has one of the better James Bond theme songs.
Best James Bond theme song: Paul McCartney’s “Live and Let Die,” even though it includes the prepositionally redundant phrase, “this ever-changing world in which we live in.”
Worst James Bond theme song: A-Ha’s “The Living Daylights,” which sounds like it was an outtake from a Chipmunks recording session.
What sets "Skyfall" apart from other Bonds is not Javier Bardem’s intriguing bad guy.
Best Bond villain: Donald Pleasance’s scarred Blofeld from “You Only Live Twice.”
Worst Bond villain: Christopher Walken’s bored megalomaniac Zoran from “A View to a Kill.”
It’s not the return of the cool gadgets.
Best Bond gadget: Sean Connery’s groovy jetpack from “Thunderball,” a replica of the one used for a dramatic Connery entrance on "The Late Show with David Letterman" many years later.
Worst Bond gadget: the ridiculous invisible car from 2002’s “Die Another Day.”
And it’s not that it has the most impressive Bond girl in history.
Best Bond girl: Diana Rigg as Bond’s one true love/doomed wife from “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.”
Worst Bond girl: Teri Hatcher as misplaced desperate housewife Paris Carver in “Tomorrow Never Dies.”
No, “Skyfall’s” greatest achievement is that it finally gives James Bond a history. It’s amazing how little we know about Bond’s back-story even after 23 official films and two unofficial ones.
Best unofficial Bond movie: “Never Say Never Again,” despite Sean Connery’s atrocious toupee.
Worst unofficial Bond Movie: The original, Daniel Craig-less 1967 Bond parody “Casino Royale,” with David Niven stuttering through the title role.
In 1995’s “GoldenEye,” Sean Bean mentioned that Bond was an orphan whose parents were killed in a climbing accident, and that was about it. And even that little tidbit may no longer be operative now that Daniel Craig is the rebooted leading man.
Best actor to play Bond: Sean Connery, of course, although Daniel Craig is a surprisingly close second.
Worst actor to play Bond: Poor George Lazenby, who had the thankless task of essentially impersonating Connery in “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.”
In “Skyfall,” Bond becomes an actual character with real reasons for getting his license to kill, not just a force of nature moving from one impossible situation to the next. Bond the flawed-and-complicated human is far more compelling than Bond the cold-blooded killing machine, the same way Indiana Jones became much more interesting when former Bond actor Sean Connery showed up as Indy’s dad in “The Last Crusade.”
Best Indiana Jones flick: “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” duh.
Worst: “Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.” But you already knew that.
The James Bond series is the longest and second most profitable franchise in the history of cinema.
Most profitable film franchise: The Harry Potter series, with $7.66 billion in total ticket sales.
Least profitable film franchise: Probably anything with Steve Guttenberg in it.
In order to sustain interest, it’s not enough just to repeat the same formula with subtle variations — opening action sequence unrelated to movie’s main plot; theme song sung over opening credits filled with scantily clad women; Q dispenses gadgets; Bond introduces himself with his last name first and orders a martini shaken and not stirred, etc. Eventually, we have to care about this guy, and “Skyfall” is the first Bond film that lets us do exactly that.
After all, only weirdos watch Bond movies just to memorize meaningless facts and figures.
(Nothing to add here. I’ve said too much already.)
Jim Bennett is a recovering actor, theater producer and politico, and he writes about pop culture and politics at his blog, stallioncornell.com.
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