Second First Impressions

Before I start I want to explicitly state that this blog post should be read only by people who have seen ‘Skyfall‘. It has spoilers from throughout the film and would spoil your experience to read this before watching.

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‘Skyfall’ is a tremendous Bond film, I’d recommend it to everyone, although to temper expectations a little, for me it isn’t as good as ‘Casino Royale‘. Which I think will remain the Bond gold standard for the next 50 years.

Having said all that, a few things bugged me about the film. The Pre-title action sequence didn’t grab me as it should have, something in my head wasn’t connecting quite right and it wasn’t as tense or edge of the seat for me as it should have been. Secondly and more importantly, I couldn’t get to grips with how casually they dismissed Bond being “dead”, no mention of how he survived the immediate aftermath, no real shock when he comes back. It felt trivial in the worst possible way, undermining the “gritty reality” Craig’s Bond is known to for.

This all bothered me long after I’d left the cinema. Even more after I failed to find anyone else this seemed to have bothered. How could these things have so bothered me, but hasn’t even occurred to most other cinema goers? I had a fairly lengthy discussion with @ellardent, where basically I tried to figure out what I’d have changed about the film, and he expertly told me why that wouldn’t fit or wouldn’t solve the problem. Eventually I came to this conclusion…

And I decided I would at some point go back and take a second look, and figure out exactly what my issue was. @ellardent left me with this thought…

… That gave me a lot to mull over. Since its Blu-ray release I’ve watched the film again. And while some of my issues weren’t as prominent, they where definitely still issues for me.

I started to think through Andrews point about what the Pre-title sequence is and isn’t. Since his assertion that they aren’t part of the main story seemed slightly odd at first. Of course he’s right, thinking back, for me their purpose is as a primer for the main story, it’s the film drawing you in and acclimatizing you to the film and its world. Ideally by its end you should “be in”. Quite simply it’s the films “first impression”.

And I think that was (and is) the route of my problems with the film, because probably more than any other film I’ve seen in the cinema, I’d already formed a first opinion of the film. I already knew the trajectory of the Pre-title sequence (Mendes was quoted widely before release comparing it to nested Russian Dolls), seen key shots from it and knew how it ended (“Take The Bloody Shot!”). So nothing in the sequence came as a surprise. I knew Bond and Eve would be okay until the end of the sequence when it all goes spectacularly wrong. So one of the most brilliantly executed action sequences of the film and it all kind of washed over me because I was just waiting for it to finish so I could see how they dealt with Bonds death. I’d decided subconsciously that a realistic and gritty survival and return from near death would be central to the film, and I was curious to see how they would handle that. So when that isn’t what the film is really about, I’m not going to connect with or enjoy it as much as I otherwise would.

The morale of the story is very much that I’d set myself up for a fall by reading too many spoilers. Of course they didn’t seem like spoilers at the time, most of them where in the trailer! But I’ve come to realise this is the rather odd nature of spoilers, their nature is completely in flux, what spoils something for me might not spoil something for you, and vice versa. So you might want to keep that in mind before you read a film preview with ‘mild spoilers’ or before you share a link on twitter. Beware Second First Impressions.

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