Skyfall Plotholes


#43

Oh, Bond does not actually need a character arc; as you said, there are plenty of solid Bond films with no such thing. Neither do I think Bond absolutely has to avoid every form of transformation or ‘growth’ - and still remain Bond. Seeing him throw his gun away and driving off is perhaps the best example. And few would argue that’s no longer Bond collecting the Aston.

What I mean is, if there are such groundbreaking developments in Bond’s world as indicated in SKYFALL then they ought to be addressed in some form by the - nominally - centre character. But that’s never happening, perhaps to avoid too much conflict in an already conflicted tale.

Instead we are presented with backstory for Moneypenny and even some for Mallory - and when did we ever need that? All of it is logic to some extent, meaning if they were real characters in a real world they’d possibly have similar backgrounds and act in much the same manner.

Meanwhile Bond’s actions are simply driven by unwavering loyalty. But that’s what we expect of him anyway. What we are not shown is why he’s so faultlessly loyal in view of everything unfolding in front of him.

We can of course guess, we know of course (this) Bond’s entire career under (this) M’s command. But it’s still curiously uneven to see Bond drop out at the start of the film, without much reason - only to come back and not be affected by events until the very end. M’s death has some impact, true. The images have enormous impact, also true. And here I’m not sure whether the images (also his own image) carry not more import than everything we’ve seen during the two previous hours.

He’s standing atop the roof looking across Whitehall, an iconic view and Bond a part of it, like a stripe on the Union flag. And the whole pomp and circumstance is even nicely broken by the pot-ugly bulldog, ironic and playing to the sentiments of the audience. Maybe this is all the character arc for Bond in SKYFALL, from standing without much reason or explanation in a Visit London Now! ad to the moment he’s facing M - now at codename terms.


#44

I think that by the time of SPECTRE the “something is brewing under that surface” is gone–which is the point of creating a good assassin.

Exactly, Connery Bond 2 is a bit different from Connery Bond 1, but once Moore settles into Victorian gentleman adventurer mode he stays with it; Dalton was dark and sullen for two movies; and Brosnan was whatever he was for his films.

It is the perfect credo for an operative of Empire who is an assassin–he is like a wind-up toy–or a kite being blown by the wind–more acted upon than acting.


#45

I[quote=“Dustin, post:43, topic:713”]
Seeing him throw his gun away and driving off is perhaps the best example. And few would argue that’s no longer Bond collecting the Aston.
[/quote]

It is definitely Bond–it is just Bond rejecting the conditioning of MI6. The Craig films posit something new–that there was a person–an orphan boy (who M says is the best kind to work with)–who was transformed into an assassin for Empire. There is now a clear cleft presented between Bond the person (and who he might have been without the intervention of MI6) and Bond the agent (created through the ministrations of MI6).

You are right, but I think it is more than too much conflict already in the movie. Once Bond understands his conditioning; the values that Empire stands for; and the (deadly) choices its emissaries will make to maintain them, what else can Bond do but step away? Can he say: “The brainwashing was good and I like killing as ordered without question.” As SAF notes: once Bond says “I never stop to think about it,” the die is cast for him to start thinking about it and choose otherwise. This is the danger of a serious/self-aware Bond.

He’s been brainwashed–it is part of the conditioning. He has to be numb to the harmful consequences of his work in order to engage in it. And the idea that he is doing it for Queen and country is the perfect anesthetic. Also, the orphan has a home in MI6–being part of it fosters in him a sense of patriotism–which in turn produces the anesthetic that allows him to do the work that prevents MI6 from rejecting him.


#46

Which was favoured employment tactic by the man who is believed to one of the inspirations for M. M: Maxwell Knight, MI5’s Greatest Spymaster by Henry Hemming goes into this quite well. Knight is who M is actually quoting when she says “Orphans always make the best recruits”


#47

Thanks Orion. I will look for the book.


#48

Yeah, that’s true and a good point. I am a fan of Vesper dying, Tracy’s murder and the finale of YOLT because of the impact these incidents have on Bond’s psyche. But I don’t really think Bond NEEDS character arcs to be considered a PROPER character, as it were. I don’t think the Bond brand should feel like it needs to elevate itself into ‘something greater’. Life defining moments are not commonplace. The persona of James Bond is already a character defined by certain traits. Sometimes that’s enough.


#49

By the way - character arcs… So often they are trumpeted in the press as depth when they are merely shallow, going through the motions variations on the basic formula: character overcoming flaws or traumatizing events and emerging a better person.

Yawn.

I prefer people contemplating events, maybe adapting to new circumstances but actually changing very little in the end, if at all. Maybe I’m just a pessimist, but I rarely see people change completely or have a moment of clarity last longer than a few weeks.

In that regard, Bond actually feels… um… more realistic than other characters.

I don’t know about that. I imagine that SPECTRE kind of wanted to tell that story - but it did not go far enough in that direction, IMO. Therefore Bond´s decision not to kill Blofeld and throw the gun away to drive away with Madeleine appeared rather flippantly.

It wasn’t directed by Mendes as a decision with emotional weight. It was just Bond gong away with his girl, like so many times before in previous eras. “I don’t want to get debriefed now, I want to have some quality time with my current squeeze”.


#50

I don’t necessarily see a character arc as something changing people for the better. Rather something that adds to them, for better or worse. Example in case: Vesper in the books. She was an experience that happened to an already formed and fairly settled Bond, somebody almost as old as Fleming was at the time.

Bond starts out lusting for her in a fairly cold hearted manner, certainly not with anything like emotion. He even postpones making a pass on her until the assignment is over. After some existential treatment at the hands of Le Chiffre it’s Vesper who draws him back onto the brighter side of life. Bond is still coldly calculating about her - until suddenly, after “it” happened he considers to propose marriage; truly out of the blue and straining the tale somewhat.

At the end of course the circle closes and she’s yet again a bitch. So much for Bond becoming a better man under this particular character arc…

But wait, a few years later Bond skips La Vie en Rose on a record because it held memories for him. And another couple of years later Bond has every right to assume he’s dead and on his way to afterlife, possibly in the company of Tilly Masterton. And his concern is, of all things, how he’s going to explain Tilly to Vesper, the woman he last called bitch in Casino Royal.

And that’s not all of it, in OHMSS we even learn that Bond visited Vespers grave in Royale les Eaux every year at the end of season. So he not only didn’t put the Vesper experience behind him, he also made a ritual out of remembering her - which is almost a bit Rebecca-ish spooky. This adventure didn’t exactly change Bond, but it certainly stayed with him.*

*though we can only guess what Tracy would have made of this ritual to visit Vespers grave…


#51

Perfectly put. That is a character arc that works for me, too. I probably get too nervous when “character arc” as a term is mentioned because I hear it so often when executives want it done to get a character to a certain point, having an epiphany and suddenly LEARN to be kind or happy.


#53

To a certain degree the construction of a narrative will always be that: a construction.

In this case, I agree, however. I believe Bond can fall for Madeleine (she is intelligent and beautiful, he also harbors that feeling of guilt because of her being Mr. White´s daughter), and I can also believe that she develops feelings for Bond because he is protective of her and fits the profile of the men in her life. I even buy that after the Hinx-episode there is this urge to get physical and do something life-affirming. But to suddenly be in love with Bond when he gets tortured… now that is just too much.

I would have preferred her to stay on the fence, have a more conflicted attitude towards Bond, motivating him to really prove to her that he has fallen for her for what she is and represents.


#54

Which is to be expected in a culture that places such a great emphasis on the therapeutic.

I do not think that is being a pessimist. But I have witnessed true change in people and even been part of the process. What I have observed is that such change is frequently hard to notice as so much surface behavior remains the same.

For me Mendes/Craig brilliantly underplay the moment–there is no melodramatic signifying–Bond is still Bond in his delivery (the surface does not change), but what he says content-wise is very different. But the logic of the change is there for me, and the going away is different than Bond’s usual positioning atop his cuirrent squeeze.


#55

You should get nervous. These “hero’s journey” screenwriting manuals are devastating for cinema. But the demand of audiences for uplift is only increasing. I face questions about my own work since an audience member cannot walk away feeling ennobled. I wonder if in today’s environment, Harold Pinter could get his screenplays filmed.


#56

I think “underplaying” is the key word when it comes to Craig. For my money, very little seems to penetrate his adamantium alloy skin, to the point where I wonder why they continue to pile such melodrama on his Bond. Is it just to show that no matter how awful, terrifying or heart-breaking a thing happens to him, he just doesn’t care? If so, I get it already.

The only pop culture character I can remember successfully conveying “pretends to have no emotions but feels things deeply” is Mr Spock, and the only actor who could get that right was Leonard Nimoy. On some level I understand that Craig-Bond is supposed to be feeling things, but I rarely see it in the performance. Craig’s face is like an Easter Island statue.

For me, it becomes an exercise in futility. A stand-alone story has the freedom (even the responsibility) to create growth, evolution, catharsis in its protagonist: the hero should end the tale differently than he began it. The Bond series, however, is a franchise, and for all intents and purposes a superhero franchise: 007 needs to end the story pretty much the same as he started it, to be ready for the next adventure. It’s not about character growth, it’s about telling and re-telling a formula tale in perpetuity.

Given all that, I prefer the Connery/Moore model Bond that didn’t have to undergo catharsis because nothing happened to catalyze it, as opposed to a version that’s constantly bombarded with “life changing” events but ends up the same cold, immutable killer robot it was in the first frame. The more they accent this melodrama, the more it reminds us how limited the character really is.


#57

Exactly.

Mark out all of a character’s scenes. In each mark any emotional or intellectual change. That’s their arc. It can include anything that defines a change in the character’s mood, opinions, hopes, fears, or their raison d’être.

These are all arcs and all stories have them, but in a good script they each have a cause and effect which add up to their grand arc describing their journey through the story. And in that ‘good’ film this journey makes emotional sense because we’ve witnessed these effects and their causes.

If a character doesn’t have an arc then they’re not effected by the story and are basically automatons of the writer to enable the contrivance of the story they want to tell.


#58

I know what you’re saying, but I quite like the Craig era approach.

Vesper asks if killing bothers him. His exterior is granite. He says it doesn’t, but we know it once did, and possibly still may. The depth is there but it’s mostly left unsaid. The first two kills to become a 00, and the betrayal of Vesper, made him evolve into that ‘superhero’. He does care about certain things, but he doesn’t show it anymore….he can’t show it anymore – as I argue with Silva’s execution of Severine.

And I do get a kick out of him being that ‘superhero’. But I also like the little things that show there’s more to Bond’s hard man act. Holding Madeleine’s hand in the Silver Wraith as they approach Blofeld’s lair, for example. She says “I’m scared, James”. He’s comforting someone, but I get the feeling he’s uneasy too. He projects a steely face and piles on the smug arrogance upon exiting the car.

Being Bond is a state of mind. That mindset can be disrupted at times (after the Skyfall PTS). But he always manages to remain that ‘superhero’ and keeps the act going.


#59

Well said.

By the way: I think the moment would have been so much stronger if Madeleine had not said that stale and overclichéd line.

Also: comparing Craig and Dalton, I think Dalton offers a much more layered performance, while Craig is mainly doing two temperatures: ice-cold and fiery.

I would have LOVED to see how Dalton had played Bond in SKYFALL.


#60

If push comes to shove I prefer Craig because of the Connery machismo he provides. But funnily enough I still agree with you. Dalton’s performance is more layered. It’s more introspective and thoughtful. It’s amazing just how well The Living Daylights soundtrack captures his Bond’s soul. He feels like a grounded human being, and that is reflected in the foes he faced – arms and drug dealers. It’s satisfying to see the relationships he developed, too. Such as Saunders - someone he initially endured but grew to respect.


#61

I mostly agree. I’ve always pretty much thought that. I never understood why so many see that as a plot hole. To me that was one of the more believable aspects of Silva’s plan. He escaped into the Underground and changed into a policeman’s uniform. It wasn’t so he could mingle with the Underground crowd, it was for when he got out of the Underground and arrived at Whitehall.

He’d always planned on crashing the train, but he wasn’t expecting Bond to be there as that was not plannable. It was only through Bond’s skill that he got there at the right moment. But Silva was quick thinking enough to disorient Bond just a little with the explosion and to mislead him with the information that the train was for him. Whether or not it killed Bond didn’t matter to Silva–only escaping the scene did.

Ultimately, the crashing of the train fulfilled Silva’s purpose of diverting all local and available police and emergency response teams to the area, which meant some members of law enforcement being taken from nearby Whitehall allowing him easier access to get to M.


#62

But how does he know that train is there at that exact moment?
And we find out after this moment that it is rush hour, but it looks like there’s no one in that crashed train. How is that possible? I find it a ridiculous scene.


#63

If only there was some service that tells you the route and times that each train is on it…