Fifty years after Sean Connery traveled to Jamaica in "Dr. No," James Bond is back for the 23rd time in "Skyfall," an instant classic in the Bond canon and a breath of fresh air for the franchise.
Bond has been on hiatus for close to four years, leaving some with the sour taste of “Quantum of Solace” – a bloated, action-heavy film many would rather forget. Daniel Craig as Bond seemed so promising in “Casino Royale,” his first film as the trigger-happy secret agent, where we found him playing cards, swilling martinis and bedding Eva Green.
Now Bond returns Thursday in Sam Mendes’ “Skyfall,” joining forces with some old allies (Judi Dench as M) and new friends (Ben Whishaw as Q and Ralph Fiennes as a government official).
For a franchise celebrating its golden anniversary, it’s hard to imagine 007 could still surprise, but Mendes has issued a full-blown reboot, and TheWrap is here to help you catch up with seven things even the biggest Bond fan should know before seeing “Skyfall.”
Who got rid of the Bond girls?
When you think of Bond, you think of scantily clad women and passionate sex scenes -- Ursula Andress traipsing out of the water in her bikini. Denise Richards in a midriff-baring tank top. Green and Craig in a hotel in Montenegro.
This time around, Bond girls are left on the sidelines. Berenice Marlohe appears briefly for instant salivation. But aside from Naomie Harris, the Bond girls play smaller roles, and, to everyone's surprise, are mostly clothed -- no bikinis, no lingerie. Just one shower scene in the shadows.
Craig spends more time with his shirt off than all of the women put together. Eat your heart out ladies.
Where are the exploding pens?
Every Bond fan alive has gadget-envy. From the jet pack in "Thunderball" to the stun-gun cell phone in "Tomorrow Never Dies," 007 always has an array of toys at his disposal.
No more. The more modern society gets, the less Bond has to work with. Facing the most dangerous cyber terrorist in the world, Q outfits the secret agent with little more than a gun (indeed, a special gun) and a radio.
Radio? Yes, radio.
Is James Bond too old for the job?
When we first see 007, he seems the same chiseled, debonair exemplar of British fortitude. Yet we soon discover much has changed in the world of the 00s. It appears Bond dies a few minutes into the movie, but he resurfaces as a scruffy drunk, taking shots of booze at a bar on a tropical island. This Bond would rather fall asleep drunk at a bar than go home to his gorgeous mate.
When Bond is subjected to a full physical and mental evaluation, his fitness is failing, his aim askew and his mental state muddled. The government questions his return as a 00, leaving his future up in the air.
When did the villains stop caring about money?
MI6, the legendary British intelligence outfit, appears in even worse shape. It has long been home to some of the world's best agents, willing to go undercover at a moment's notice in service to queen and country.
Yet on Bond's 50th anniversary, its strategies are antiquated, and its field agents, ready as ever to engage in fire fights, appear defeated. Long gone are villains like Goldfinger ("Goldfinger") and crime syndicates like Janus ("Goldeneye"). Cyber-crime is the new danger, and its perpetrators don't want money, they want chaos.
What’s a secret agent to do when nerds rule the world?
Is this a Bond villain to remember?
How is it that only the Coen Brothers and Mendes recognize Javier Bardem’s talent as a villain? After his chilling portrayal of Anton Chiguhr in "No Country for Old Men," the Coen Brother’s Oscar-winning Western, Bardem (left) returns to his evil ways as Raoul Silva, a former MI6 agent hell bent on revenge.
His hair is blonde, his accent is spine-tingling and his plan pure evil. He doesn't fit the typical Bond stereotype. He's not Russian, he's not wealthy and he's not affiliated with a larger organization. He's a lone wolf.
He's also the best Bond villain in years, leaving us to wonder: who will they recruit next?
Does the song remain the same?
For those living under a rock, Adele sings the “Skyfall” theme song, bringing a little extra cultural cache and British bluster to the film. It’s been years since a Bond movie used the classic opening, replete with fake blood, gunshots and a roving spotlight, but “Skyfall” takes us into new territory -- underwater.
While plenty of Bond openings have featured fire and sexy silhouettes, Mendes chooses aquatic optics and a submerged graveyard. Though the scene will divide critics, the song itself shows off Adele’s powerful voice. Considering some of the recent entries -- remember Madonna’s “Die Another Day"? -- this is progress.
Did Christopher Nolan inspire Mendes?
James Bond is one of the most famous characters in film history, but "Skyfall" appears heavily influenced by Nolan’s Batman films. In keeping with the Craig-led Bonds (which began one year after "Batman Begins"), "Skyfall" is darker than earlier films, both literally (a night scene in Shanghai) and thematically (the constant fear of an attack at home).
When M makes a speech to Parliament, she proclaims the world scarier than ever because our enemies are now in the shadows -- a choice Nolanism. The villains' yearning for chaos rather than financial reward echoes Liam Neeson's League of Shadows, Heath Ledger's Joker and Tom Hardy's Bane.
The new Bond also resembles the new Batman, a man struggling with his role in a changed world, an outcast who only wants to serve his country. Believed dead, he only returns to England because of an attack on British soil.
Upon his return, Bond is now a lone vigilante a la the caped crusader, standing on a roof waiting for his next move – or perhaps the bat signal.