‘Skyfall’ falls short on expectations

It’s not hard to make a good Bond movie. “Skyfall” marks the 23rd in the franchise, so clearly the well-worn structure for not screwing things up is still good.

The formula: Include a relatively attractive man with charisma, lots of fun gadgets for geeks to drool over, a sleek car that will inevitably get decimated, gorgeous women, a sexy opening song and a bad guy out to either destroy the world, or just England — your pick. Also, blow up a few things.

I fail to see a good reason to change things up.

In the film, someone has stolen a list of all the undercover agents for the Secret Intelligence Service, or MI6, and Bond (Daniel Craig, “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”) must retrieve the list before the thief uses it to unmask the agents and get them killed. He also has to protect M (Judi Dench, “Stars in Shorts”), the head of MI6, when her past comes back to haunt her.

Here’s the thing, the bad guy doesn’t care about agents, England or even the world. He just hates M and wants her humiliated and dead.

That is the driving plot of this movie.

That doesn’t sound so bad, right? Wrong, because the basic plot deviation is only the first issue. There are too few cool gadgets, the hot chick is mostly ignored except for a little lip service, the gorgeous car isn’t gorgeous enough and the writers rush the important parts of the plot while showcasing duller bits.

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The writers try to get too deep into Bond’s past, as well as M’s, but neither are explored enough to make the attempt worth it. You learn that Bond had a troubled childhood, M has made a few bad decisions (who hasn’t?) and the world is changing around them while they seem to stand still in time.

That doesn’t sound so bad for a movie, but again, it’s too deep for a Bond flick, and it isn’t explored deeply enough to make viewers actually care.

Perhaps the two most vexing parts of the movie deal with the ending, which won’t be discussed here, except to say that the writers try to make the plot come full circle, but it doesn’t work entirely.

Craig’s acting is emotionless as ever, even when he appears to be trying to express feeling. As Bond the agent, he’s great and impersonal, but when the character tries to show basic humanity, he doesn’t quite convince the audience. Dench is wonderful as M and holds her character to an amazing standard, even when faced with more attempted character building than M is honestly meant to go through.

Another fun actor is Javier Bardem (“Eat Pray Love”), who plays the villain, Silva. His character is interesting and isn’t explored enough. His character is a psychopath, but he’s suave, witty and not nearly as full of himself as he could be. This makes his issues with M so half-assed — no real reason is given for him to have gone so far off the deep end. Bardem does well with what he’s given, however, and makes Silva memorable.

Ralph Fiennes (“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt. 2”) plays a small and misleading role that aids in the movie’s plot. He does well, and his character will likely be far more important in the next two Bond movies already announced, the next projected release is in 2014.

The movie isn’t horrible, but it isn’t a Bond movie. It’s an attempt to reinvent Bond without the commitment to doing it right. Perhaps if it had been done well, the overhaul itself wouldn’t be so disappointing.

Movie: “Skyfall

Release Date: Nov. 9, 2012

Director: Sam Mendez

Starring: Daniel Craig, Judi Dench