Skyfall has landed and made a ton of money.  Tim, Renn, Nick & Steve have all offered up their thoughts on the film.  It is now my time to do so and THERE WILL BE SPOILERS.  If you haven’t managed to catch it yet, you might want to hold off on reading this piece until you do so.  You have been warned.

I’m not going to be doing a “proper” review of the film.  Between what has already been said above and elsewhere, there is no need for me to do so.  Skyfall is a wonderful addition to the franchise and easily one of its best.  It gracefully straddles the line between blazing new territory for Bond while still keeping a foot firmly planted in the doorway that leads to the more “classic” elements of the original series.  It also contains the best Bond villain since 1995.

I say original series because the Craig films are a hard reboot of the franchise.  No matter how much some fans might futilely wish that they are prequels to the original 20 films, that is simply not the case.  Sean Connery, George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, and Pierce Brosnan all played the EXACT SAME CHARACTER.  No matter how much people (including celebs like Lee Tamahori and Alan Moore) want to tout the oft-mentioned “James Bond is a code name” theory, it just isn’t true.

Minor continuity gaffs aside, James Bond began his initial cinematic journey in 1962′s Dr. No and ended said run with 2002′s Die Another Day.  While there were some hiccups along the way, it was a damn good run overall.  When the time came to cast a new actor in the role during the mid-’00s, producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson decided it was time to go back to the beginning.  EON had toyed with setting The Living Daylights (1987) as a prequel to the Connery films with a newly-minted Bond on his first mission as a 00 agent in the field.  They ultimately abandoned this notion in favor of continuing the franchise as usual and secretly hoping they would some day be able to get the rights to Casino Royale.  And during Brosnan’s run, they finally got their wish.

Instead of reworking the plot to suit Brosnan’s Bond, they instead decided to sit on the novel until the time came to recast the role again.  2006′s Casino Royale was a hard reboot of the franchise.  It does not take place in the original continuity and is instead the start of a SECOND series of James Bond films, with Daniel Craig as its “Connery”.  This was evident from the get-go, despite carrying over Judi Dench as M.  This was done so that audiences would have a bit of familiarity in a new film that had otherwise jettisoned the majority of the franchise’s hallmarks.  She is NOT playing the same character as in the Brosnan era, despite the portrayal being somewhat similar.  While some fans still pointlessly contested this over the past six years, Skyfall further cements this as fact.  How so?  Her death.  Unless you expect me to believe that the deceased M somehow regenerates, crawls out of her grave, and then manages to replace Admiral Hargreaves (Robert Brown) as M for Goldeneye, you might as well give up your futile attempts to reconcile the current runs place in the franchise.

It’s like trying to shoehorn The Amazing Spider-Man into the same continuity as the Raimi films.  It is not intended to be that way and attempting to do so is nothing more than a waste of time.  And don’t give me some bullshit about “the car from Goldfinger” popping up here.  Is it a DB5 tricked out exactly the same way as Connery’s car in the 1964 film?  Yes.  That doesn’t mean anything though.  Craig’s Bond won the car on screen in Casino Royale and given that the new film takes place six years after the events of that film, Bond has had plenty of time to abuse his access to Q branch and pimp his ride.  This is called making a mountain out of a mole hill and is just plain silly.  If you want to believe these are prequels, then that’s fine.  Sometimes fankwankery of that type is fun.  I personally like to picture the titular character in The Collector franchise as a grown up Kevin McCallister (Home Alone 1&2).  Wanting it to be true is fine, but don’t go around spouting such thing as if they are facts because that is simply not the case.

Together, Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace form a sort of “James Bond Begins” duology, although the latter is more of an epilogue than the second half of a two-part story.  Bond, already a member of British Intelligence, is promoted to the 00 Section and sent out on his first mission.  Upon its completion at the end of Solace, he is finally the James Bond we know and love.  Skyfall advances the timeline a few years and sees Bond as a veteran 00.  Remember, agents have a short life expectancy, so someone still alive and working in the field some six years later is a bit of a rarity.  The events of the opening sequence leave Bond broken physically and psychologically.  He is lost and no longer knows his place in the world.  When our latest baddie (superbly played by the great Javier Bardem) puts the pedal to the metal on his vengeful crusade, events are set in motion that allow Bond to re-enter the intelligence community and stake his claim on his territory once and for all.  By the end of the film, Bond is spiritually in the exact same place that we find him at the start of Connery’s run.  We have a familiar looking MI6, with Tanner is still in place and a brand new M heading up the joint.  We also finally have our Q and Moneypenny for this new Bond franchise.  Bond is 100% back.

Where to now though?  What does the future hold for this new incarnation of 007?  While the possibilities are endless, we won’t have to wait too long for our next adventure.  There will be no 3-4 year wait for the next entry.  Daniel Craig is signed for two more outings and writing on Bond 24 began back in June.  John Logan is the sole screenwriter this time out.  The duo of Neal Purvis & Robert Wade, who have been with the series since 1999′s The World Is Not Enough, have moved on.  Production on the currently untitled Bond 24 is slated to begin in the latter half of 2013 after Craig finishes his work on Clooney’s recently announced Monuments Men and is targeted for a November 2014 release.  I suspect Bond 25 will keep the two-year gap in play and follow in 2016.

Barring the producers managing to woo him back for a sixth outing (which would tie him with Connery), we can likely expect our next Bond actor to make his debut in 2018 or 2019.  While it is far too early to tell what tone or direction they might strike with Craig’s eventual replacement, there is a distinct pattern to the way things have gone in that department over the past 50 years.  Connery’s run started out grounded and gradually became more fantastical as it went on.  Lazenby’s single outing was another down-to-earth affair and Connery’s lone follow-up to it mostly kept to this, albeit with an extremely heightened sense of humor.  Moore’s first few kept to this as well before, once again, edging into fantastical territory.  Dalton’s two-film run brought things back down to earth and Brosnan’s era mimicked Moore’s on a smaller scale, with the initial films more grounded and the latter going crazier as they went on.  Craig’s current three once again have their feet squarely planted on the ground.

See the pattern?  Bond going over-the-top again is inevitable.  It’s going to happen.  The question is how soon and to what degree.  Craig himself has expressed a desire to have things at least slightly more lighthearted and fun on the rest of his entries.  I suspect he’ll get his wish.  Will they go full-on Roger Moore?  Extremely doubtful.  That said, I won’t be too shocked if they follow a trail similar to the one that Connery tread on in his latter films.  Given the way things went when Bond was introduced post-Dalton, don’t be too shocked if the next actor’s debut (be it Bond 26 or one further off) is a Goldeneye-esque romp in the “classic tradition” of the series.

Since this is a new franchise, will the producers every get ballsy and remake any of the original films?  Absolutely not and they have said as much.  We will continue to get original Bond tales in the future, although I wouldn’t be too surprised if they keep combing through the Fleming novels to find subplots and sequences that they still haven’t used for inspiration.  What about using fan favorite characters like Jaws or Blofeld?  The possibility and potential is there, but I suspect if they won’t head down that road any time soon…if it ever.  We are far more likely to get a new assassin with his or her own crazy physical defect or weapon than to see a new actor playing Richard Kiel’s most famous role.  Blofeld is a different matter and certainly a possibility on down the line, though I’m not sure if the character will manage an appearance in Craig’s run.  I find it doubtful, but anything is possible.

What is a certainty is that we have a fantastic supporting cast (Fiennes, Harris, Whishaw, Wright, Kinnear) in place to interact with Bond for years to come and I hope all are utilized to their full potential in future outings, both with Craig and his eventual replacement.  With its record-breaking performance in the UK and an increased box office take over here, Skyfall has proved for the umpteenth time that James Bond is here to stay.  007 is once again on top of the world and James Bond’s future is as bright as ever.

While, due to reader demand, a follow-up piece is in the works on the three unofficial Bond films, this is my final statement on the official franchise for the time being.  I’ll be doing my own part in Bond 24 coverage over the next two years, but that is its own beast.  I’ve had a wonderful time writing these pieces and discussing them with all of you, even when we haven’t seen eye to eye.  Thanks for reading!

My Personal Ranking

1.  From Russia With Love
2.  Goldfinger
3.  Skyfall
4. Casino Royale
5.  GoldenEye
6.  On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
7.  The Spy Who Loved Me
8.  The Living Daylights
9.  For Your Eyes Only
10.  You Only Live Twice
11.  Diamonds Are Forever
12  Moonraker
13.  Live And Let Die
14.  Tomorrow Never Dies
15.  Thunderball
16.  Dr. No
17.  Octopussy
18.  Licence To Kill
19.  Quantum of Solace
20.  The Man With The Golden Gun
21.  The World Is Not Enough
22.  A View To A Kill
23. Die Another Day

THE SPY WHO ORPHANED ME

LICENSED TO KILL

NOBODY DUBS IT BETTER

THUNDERBALLED

DR. (K)NO(W-IT-ALL)

A VIEW ON THE THRILLS

SKYFALL & BEYOND

Addendum – Calm down about those “Idris Elba met with EON about becoming James Bond” rumors people.  Regardless of the fact that I find it highly unlikely that we will get a Black Bond anytime soon (whether that is wrong or not), the timing doesn’t line up.  The role will not be recast until 2017 at the absolute earliest.  That’s AT LEAST five years away and we’ll be getting at least TWO more films with Craig before then.  EON has no interest in trying to recast 007 in advance.  If Elba has met with the producers as actress Naomie Harris has suggested, it has nothing to do with playing Bond and everything to do with locking the actor in for a role in Bond 24 before he is booked solid for next year.  Stringer Blofeld, perhaps?  Whether anything comes of these rumors, I think Idris Elba would make a fantastic Bond villain.