For a die-hard James Bond fan like myself, every new Bond movie is an event worthy of major anticipation. In the past, much of the excitement centered around what cool new tech toys Bond would be given by Q, but in Skyfall, the tech has taken on a decidedly retro look and feel.
Skyfall asks the question of whether or not a gun-toting secret agent like James Bond is just a tired relic of an earlier era who should have been put out to pasture when the Cold War ended. To drive that point home, most of the tech Bond gets to use in Skyfall is stuff that we've seen before, going back almost as far as the very beginning of the 50-year-old Bond movie franchise. Sure, Bond whips out a couple of gadgets like his Sony Xperia T, but that's something anyone could go down to the store and pick up today.
When Bond meets the nerdy new Q for the first time, the young computer hacker tells Bond that he could "do more damage on my laptop in my pajamas" than Bond could manage in a year out in the field. The point being that cyberwarfare makes sleuthing around shooting bad guys irrelevant if you can do that same thing with a few clicks of the mouse.
To reinforce Q's impression that Bond is out of step with the times, he gives him just two pieces of equipment when he returns to duty: the famous Walther PPK pistol he has used since the beginning, and a radio-tracking device that looks like a leftover from one of the 1960s movies. The Walther has received an upgrade with a smart grip that only fires when Bond's hand is holding it, which is at least a cool tech twist, but uses already-realized technology. When Bond expresses dismay at the low-tech offerings, Q asks, "were you expecting an exploding pen?"
Cars are always a highlight in any Bond movie, but Skyfall doesn't try to wow us with some crazy rocket-powered machine that shoots nuclear-tipped missiles. What we get instead is the return of what must be the most famous Bond car of all, the Aston Martin DB5 first seen way back in 1964's Goldfinger. The car gets dusted off and used mostly due to its lack of tech, making it harder for the baddies to track its position. When I saw the movie, the audience burst into applause when the car appeared, showing that I'm not the only one who appreciates classic tech.
These days we use so many amazing gadgets in our everyday lives, that creating a jaw-dropping tech moment really takes something special. When Bond flicked on his LED watch in the opening of 1973's Live and Let Die, I knew I needed to get one of those ASAP. Now, it doesn't really matter how many Minority Report-style screens we see, they all just have a bit of a been there, done that feel to them.
James Bond #3, Sir Roger Moore, recently said that Skyfall is the "best Bond ever made." I'm not sure if I'd go quite that far, but it definitely is one hell of a ride with great performances from both Daniel Craig as Bond, and Dame Judi Dench in her seventh outing as M. The plot is simple and easy to follow, and the acting avoids the common Bond trap of becoming cartoonish and silly. Craig's Bond feels like a guy who's desperately trying to justify his existence in a changing world, and he manages to prove that point all while perfectly delivering on Bond's famous blend of gritty toughness and cool sophistication.
Just don't go expecting to see exploding pens.