Skyfall turns that around with a heck of a pre-credits sequence, which has Bond driving a steam shovel along the top of a moving train. But the opening ends with a wounded Bond falling off of the train and plunging into the water below. And then we get the most insane credits sequence in Bond history. The previous Craig films downplayed these scenes, but the iconic “weapons and naked girls” music videos that run over the title theme are a proud Bond tradition. They are always ridiculous, especially in hindsight. But Skyfall’s video begins with Bond drowning and then takes us inside his bullet wound, through a cemetery, and then has him ineffectively fighting unseen enemies. When we used to see naked ladies fired out of enormous gun barrels, instead we see Bond’s long dark night of the soul.
A friend of mine called Skyfall “James Bond’s midlife crisis”, and he’s totally right. Only I think he meant it as a negative. Here’s the thing – James Bond has never been less relevant as an idea. His defining qualities make him feel incredibly dated, and in the real world, we keep hearing about intelligence failures that lead to tragedy, while it’s the soldiers who do things like kill Osama Bin Laden. Nobody things a guy in a tuxedo is going to save the world. But if Bond doesn’t work as an icon anymore, he gets to finally be a character. In fact, we actually see a Bond who’s unfit for service. He’s not unlike Bruce Wayne in The Dark Knight Rises, which is a way that we’ve never seen him.