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"Skyfall"

celebrates the 50th anniversary of the James Bond films by using the past to inform the future of the series. The film, directed by Sam Mendes, reintroduces many of the classic Bond tropes to the series after the franchise-reboot

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"Casino Royale"

presented a stripped down version of the hero and his trappings.

Despite the return of the gadgets, quips and cars, the film does not represent a simple return to the status quo. The superficial trappings of the Bond series have been contextualized in the light of the character work lain in both

"Casino Royale"

and the underrated

"Quantum of Solace."

Earlier Bonds, particularly Roger Moore and Pierce Brosnan, were presented as male fantasies, and their adventures depicted as escapism. But what does it mean to idolize James Bond?

The new films are interested in exploring the inherent sexism and colonialism embedded into the character. They re-frame his womanizing as a hurt longing for his lost love and his emotionless quips are no-longer pithy one-liners but rather examples of his deep set brutality.

Because of the first two films in the rebooted series, Bond has been recast as a tragic figure. A man who only knows how to use women and kill.

We thrill at his adventures, sure, but we no longer wish to idolize Bond.

Without the previous two films,

"Skyfall"

would take on a very different context. It doesn't provide the same internal examination or critique of the character the way

"Royale"

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and

"Solace"

did, nor does it have to. It uses the groundwork from those two films as a jumping-off point. This film could easily have been the introduction to Daniel Craig's Bond. It structurally mimics the classic Bond films in a way that neither of his previous outings do. It is as if these three films were merely a prologue to the story of the Bond that we know - a prologue that now we know, changes how we view the character entirely.

In text, the film even references this rebirth of the character. (Spoiler alert for a moment that's shown in just about every trailer for the film), at the conclusion of the opening action sequence and just before the beautiful Binder-inspired title sequence, James Bond is shot and declared dead by MI6. He returns to find an organization that is as unfamiliar to him as it is familiar to us.

Even outside of these thematic implications, "Skyfall" is a rousing success. With Sam Mendes, it seems that EON pictures (the producers of the Bond series) are forgoing the workman-like directorial hires that previously defined the series (Martin Campbell has saved the series from irrelevance twice, with

"Goldeneye"

and

"Casino Royale"

without ever bringing his own flair to the proceedings). Mendes, partnered with the gorgeous cinematographer Roger Deakins create a spy film that is visually distinct both from the classic Bond films and from the new-wave of Bourne inspired spy genre. It can only be hoped that the painterly quality Deakins has brought to the film defines the look of Bond for the pictures to come.

"Skyfall"

is the third film in a row where the James Bond you get at the beginning of the film is not the Bond you see at the end. With the reboot, directors Campbell, Forster and Mendes together with Daniel Craig have finally made James Bond a character in his own movies. For all of their successes, the Bond franchise had survived for 20 films without the character ever growing or evolving. He acted merely as a driving force for the plot, and occasionally not even that (think back to how little James Bond actually does in franchise-favorite

"Goldfinger"

), but now he's a character who grows and changes and falls deeper and deeper into the world of spies and further from his own humanity. They've completely transformed him from an escapist fantasy to a tragic hero.

It's a brilliant way to set up the new franchise, and a bold direction to take the next 50 years of Bond films. Even though

"Skyfall"

looks backward, it's going to be very interesting seeing where the series goes from here.

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