Skyfall? Skyfail.

The hype said, among other things, that “Skyfall” was quite possibly the best James Bond film ever. While I must admit to not being a James Bond aficionado, I’ve seen all the films (except “Quantum of Solace”) and did once read one of the original Ian Fleming books (“From Russia With Love”). Over the years there have been some pretty average films in the Bond franchise, with “Never Say Never Again” and “A View to a Kill” springing to mind, though I really liked “Diamonds Are Forever” (or, perhaps more accurately, I really liked Jill St John), and “The Spy Who Loved Me” was a good one too.

Anyway, most Bond films are pretty decent and certainly well above average when compared to some of the dreadful nonsense that gets wheeled-out under the banner of “entertainment” these days, and I don’t just mean the daily brain rot of celebrities dancing, or eating maggots, or dancing whilst eating maggots, or eating maggots whilst finding the cure for AIDS, or whatever is the latest patronising, done-to-death piece of utter crap on our screens parading as “new”. Most Bond films are pretty decent, but “Skyfall” is, well, not.

There are of course worse things than spending a Friday evening in a multiplex seat that cost £9 and eating a few sweets that cost the national debt of Uganda whilst watching morons constantly twiddle in the dark with their life-support machines, or “mobile phones” as I call them. But that isn’t the point. The point is that anyone who regards this film as anything other than one of the worst James Bond films ever should not be allowed to roam the streets at night, or even in the daytime come to think of it. When they occasionally looked up from their Nokia or Samsung screens, what did these people see that I didn’t? Or did they just fall for the modern syndrome of proclaiming anything new as possibly the best of its type? Just as each Premier League season is always “the best ever”, at least according to the Sky Sports Brainwashing Department, does being the latest film of the Bond franchise mean automatic bestowal of the ultimate accolade? It certainly shouldn’t in this case.

OK, enough prattle. Here’s why (in no particular order) “Skyfall” is disappointing, mediocre, and has more holes in it than a piece of Swiss cheese that’s been used by the SAS for target practice:

(1) Some terrible cliches

We start with a chase around a bazaar/souk. Yes, I know you’ve seen it before. A hundred times.

Shockingly, there’s a scene where there’s a fight on a train roof. Ever seen one of those before, except in every bloody “action” film you’ve ever watched? And they occasionally have to duck under bridges. Amazing, eh? The creative brains must have been up really early thinking that one out. Dreadful.

Then there’s a comment from Bond that the new “Q” (who appears to be perhaps in his mid-twenties) “still has spots”. A familiar old cliche when one character wants to highlight another character’s youth and inexperience, perhaps, but completely nonsensical when “Q” actually appears to have the kind of flawless skin that most supermodels would die for. Are Bond’s eyes starting to go?

After the death of “M” she leaves Bond a present. Don’t bother opening the box James, everyone in the audience already knows that it’s the porcelain bulldog she kept on her desk. The one you hate. Ho, bloody ho. You can see it coming a mile away. What’s the point of such predictable, sentimental rubbish?

(2) The rehab phase

After being blasted off a train roof and into a river, he somehow survives. OK, fair enough, though we never find out how. It seems like a mystery woman aids his recovery, which is helped by not shaving (straight out of the opening chapter of the Big Book of Film Cliches) and playing drinking games with the locals (where his steady hand is in evidence, though that inexplicably deserts him when he gets back to London). He’s a washed-up, psychologically messed-up agent with a “haunted” look and loads of “demons”. Wake me up when the bad guy appears, will you?

(3) He lost his parents when he was young

That’s terrible. Shall I go and tie a pink teddy bear to the gates of the Skyfall estate? Out goes “sexism” and in comes the touchy-feely stuff of the new 21st Century Bond. Clunk, clunk, clunk…is that a plotline I can hear? He’s so touchy-feely these days that he can spot a victim of the Asian child sex industry just by sharing a brief drink with her at a bar (though of course he still shags her anyway). Oh how I wish his parents had lived and spared us all this crap. I don’t want all this backstory stuff in a James Bond film. At the risk of upsetting females who may read this, Bond is being feminised in a way that is completely unnecessary and quite nauseating. And the whole thing is nicked from Batman.

(4) Mr Silva (The Bad Guy)

Apparently a former MI6 agent. Really? Is MI6 in the business of employing foreigners as agents? Perhaps they are, I don’t really know. Played by Javier Bardem, the nasty man starts off promisingly then just peters out into making all the daft mistakes that every “baddie” has ever made in any bog standard action film.

“What’s that? You want me to follow you to your deserted childhood home in a secluded part of the Highlands? Oh, OK then.”

“You want my henchmen to all be a bit thick? You got it.”

“You want me to turn my back towards the door in the old church where the finale will take place? No problem.”

He is out for revenge on “M” because she gave him up to the Chinese and they tortured him so badly that he took a cyanide pill that didn’t quite kill him, but badly disfigured him. At that point, wouldn’t a trained MI6 agent think of other ways to kill himself? “Ah well, the cyanide failed. More torture and years of misery for me” really doesn’t ring true.

(5) “M”

“M” : a woman. I think we got over that bombshell a few years ago.

“M” was played by Judi Dench, who seems to be on a par with Princess Diana or Mother Teresa when it comes to being allowed to criticise her.

“M” was the Head of the British Secret Intelligence Service, meaning that the words “turn off that bloody torch” might have passed her lips when her and Kincade were fumbling about on the moors with a revenge-obsessed psychopathic killer in pursuit. But it never occurred to her. Seems like the torch was a hell of a lot brighter than “M”. Perhaps it should be in the next film?

“M” told Eve to “take the shot” in the top of the train scene when the life of one of her agents depended on it and that agent was already tangling with the bad guy. Not great at playing the percentages, was she? Then, at the end, when she had the chance to kill the bad guy (and herself) she turned it down. Not so ruthless when it came to saving her own skin, was she?

“M” passed Bond as fit for duty despite him failing all the tests required to reinstate his “licence to kill”. Yet we are supposed to have sympathy for her when a politician questions her competence at a public enquiry into the theft of the hard drive and subsequent deaths of a number of agents. Not likely.

Seems to me that “M” would struggle if placed in charge of a school tuckshop. Even if Billy Bunter was a regular customer. How are we supposed to have sympathy for this incompetent old bird?

(6) Where were Hannibal, Murdock, Face and BA ?

The final act of the film is basically a rehash of any “A Team” script you could name. Despite being a top agent, Bond has to resort to making booby traps out of old washing-up bottles and double-sided stickytape (a slight exaggeration I admit). Yes, I know it’s “escapism” but you can justify all sorts of nonsense in films if you just say “Oh, it’s escapism”. You could abandon decent scripwriters and editors and all sorts of other expensive people if you just shouted “escapism” any time that someone spotted a hole in the plot big enough to navigate the Titanic through.

They missed a trick here. If they’d just got Macauley Culkin, Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern to come crashing into the scene in a reprise of “Home Alone” (as Bond was, if you discount rubbish old “M” and Albert Finney’s unconvincing octogenarian Scotsman) then at least we would have all got a laugh for our money. A tin of paint bouncing off Pesci’s bonce wouldn’t have made the film any more ridiculous.

As it was, the chocolate brazils were lovely, but watch the film again?

I’d rather throw myself off a moving train.

“At least in here there’s no chance of watching Skyfall again”

 

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CATPISS (Campaign Against Thick, Pig Ignorant Shop Staff)

I’m not that interested in striking-up conversations with the people who serve me in shops, pubs, restaurants etc. That’s not to say that I never do, but on balance it’s not really my thing. Maybe it’s what the Americans call “British reserve”, but I doubt it. I’m just not that interested in what the bloke behind the bar is doing on his day off tomorrow, unless he’s planning to go mental with an assortment of automatic weapons down at the local shopping centre. That would definitely get my attention and I’d probably enquire as to whether he was planning his spree in the morning or afternoon. Just out of interest. Generally speaking, though, I like to stick to the transaction at hand and pretty much leave it at that. A small exchange of the most basic pleasantries and I’m on my way. I bought a bag of crisps from you, that’s all. I don’t want to know about what you did in your “gap year”. Trust me on that.

In truth though, the talkative, slightly over-enthusiastic shop assistant/barman/waitress isn’t that common a species, at least in my experience. But they do have a much more common relation, in the same way that the termite has the cockroach in his family tree. I refer, of course, to the rude, arrogant, pig ignorant, dumb, brain-dead husks that inhabit so many of our retail establishments, allegedly in order to “assist” customers. Porcus stultus, to give them their Latin name. They give you the impression that it’s you who is receiving the huge favour from them, simply by way of their mere presence. They speak, if they speak at all, only to their work colleagues. “Thank you”, “Thanks”, “Hello”, “Goodbye” or “Cheers” aren’t in the lexicon. You’ve already distracted them from their conversation with their work colleague about last night’s X Factor, don’t push your luck by expecting any kind of acknowledgment.

I don’t want or expect, as I hope I’ve made clear, anything more than some basics. Perhaps “Hello” to start, followed by “£8.45 please”, then maybe “Thanks” when I hand over the cash and perhaps another “Thanks” when they give me my change. A few words, perhaps in something quite closely-related to English, is all I want. If I’m asking for the world, I apologise. Oh, and some eye contact is also generally regarded as both socially acceptable and desirable in Western culture. That’s pretty much all I want.

Recently, at a local railway station, I bought a newspaper over the counter of the coffee bar and the entire transaction was conducted in silence, except for my own “Thanks” as I handed over the money. Only when I walked away from the counter did it hit me that the assistant hadn’t uttered a single word. How rude is that? A similar experience took place when I purchased some wine at a local convenience store, though I think on that occasion the cost of the wine may have been whispered in my general direction, but it was very difficult to tell. Perhaps even more annoying is the conversation that is going on behind the counter as you approach, which under no circumstances can be suspended for ten seconds whilst a customer is served. Having said that, if you have the intellectual capacity of a goldfish, halting a conversation for that period of time might mean that you’ll forget what you were talking about. Which would be disastrous, of course.

OK, so having identified the problem, what is the solution? Well, it’s just two words. And they are “walk” and “away”. Yep. Walk away.

Now, for maximum annoyance to be felt by the knobhead behind the counter, this has to be timed accurately. The precise time is, I reckon, just after the item has been scanned, or an amount entered into the till, especially if (in a pub) the pint has already been poured. This is the perfect time to retaliate, to act on that feeling of outrage bubbling-up inside, to silently scream “I am not a number, I am a customer who is taking their business elsewhere because you are a rude, arrogant twat”. And walk away. They will hate it, especially if they haven’t been trained on what to do when this happens. They probably have, but they’ve forgotten, because they were texting when they were being shown. So tough shit, treat me like dirt and I’ll respond in kind. Quid pro quo. If they challenge you regarding your behaviour, perhaps even pursue you after you’ve walked out of the door, then give them some of their own medicine. Say nothing and stare blankly at them. They’ll almost certainly think you’re nuts, and will decide to leave well alone before hurrying back to a riveting conversation about “EastEnders” or some similarly uplifting programme.

If you are with me on this, please consider joining CATPISS. Membership is free but is restricted only to those who are prepared to “walk away” from any establishment which treats them like shit. You owe it to yourself.

And, perhaps more importantly, you certainly owe it to them.

“I just want to pay for this tin of beans. Serve me, then resume your discussion on the English Civil War. Do it now”.