Moore’s first outing as the superspy in Live and Let Die was partially indebted to the blaxploitation era, while Moonraker was clearly cashing-in on the late-70’s sci-fi boom, ushered in by the likes of Star Wars and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Casino Royale heralded a leaner, meaner Bond and comparisons between the Bourne series and, in particular, Quantum of Solace were pretty explicit.
This time around, critics and audience members have picked up on The Dark Knight beats evident in Skyfall. While the film is far from a derivative experience, and director Sam Mendes has crafted a genuinely thrilling and fresh take on the property regardless of any similarities, there are still a number of undeniable links, some of which are more apparent than others.
A ‘Dark’ Bond
The following is in no way designed to discredit Skyfall, but rather suggest that Mendes had the creative acumen to implement that densely-plotted, cerebral Dark Knight model, and flesh out one of the more recognisable fantasy figures in pop culture.
Beware – licence to spoil
Kincade + M = Alfred
Bond’s backstory has always been purposely vague in the previous films, but Ian Fleming’s penultimate novel, You Only Live Twice referenced that he was an orphan and also offered the names of his birth parents. Bruce Wayne suffering that similar fate is merely a coincidence, yet these two incidents can’t help but establish a spiritual connection between the characters, particularly in light of Skyfall’s probing into Bond’s heritage. A link is further established when we learn that Bond even had a (fleeting) surrogate father figure too, in the guise of Kincade (played with appealingly gruff charm by Albert Finney), the gamekeeper of his parent’s estate.
On the subject of the titular homestead, while it perhaps lacks the sweeping grandeur of Wayne Manor (it’s now in a severe state of disrepair), that sense of isolation felt by the young Bond living in a remote area of the Scottish Highland in a large, austere household chimes with Wayne’s upbringing to some extent, where his exclusion from everyday society was more a social issue, rather than a geographical one.
With Bond being scooped up by the secret service early on, it would appear M took on the Alfred mantle, albeit from a somewhat emotionally detached distance, although her last line in the film suggests she may have had a closer development in the creation of 007 than initially believed. Mendes cleverly works in this ambiguity prior to the opening credits, where the torrential rain outside of MI6 reflects (and masks) M’s inner turmoil after she believes Bond to be dead.
The joke’s on Silva
The biggest comparison with the Bat seems to stem from Javier Bardem’s deranged ex-agent Raoul Silva (an infinitely more riveting character than Sean Bean’s rather anemic turncoat in GoldenEye) possessing some of the characteristics of The Joker, both in his pre-planned quest to bring anarchy to MI6, and tortured physical appearance (the revealing of which offers a truly disturbing moment in the film).
To further push this point, he also dons a police uniform as a disguise and attempts the assassination of a pivotal authority figure at a very public gathering (and, like The Dark Knight, stretches the film’s credibility level to breaking point in the process).
It’s to both the actor and the filmmaker’s credit that Bardem isn’t waylaid by Heath Ledger’s haunting interpretation, and not only does Silva make his own indelible mark, but also joins the ranks of one of the most memorable villains of the entire series.
Batman and Bond – Battered, Bruised and Broken
The hobbling, hermit-like Bruce Wayne at the beginning of Nolan’s final instalment has clearly bid adieu to his former career, and this is also the case with Bond too, following his ‘death’. He seems content to live out the rest of his days having frenzied shower sex and indulging in life or death drinking games with impressively CGI’d scorpion (Wayne can’t quite match this exotic retirement).
Inevitably both get pulled back into the action again. This in itself isn’t an uncommon hero arc, but it’s rare to see two characters in such a vulnerable mental and physical shape try and claw themselves back to the top. While Wayne is able to bypass his limitations reasonably smoothly, Bond’s medical results suggest that it would take more than a state-of-the-art leg brace to repair what’s broken.
Where do they get those wonderful toys?
Age gap notwithstanding, Ben Whishaw’s turn as a much younger Q is slightly reminiscent of that quiet and unassuming poise adopted by Wayne’s go-to gadget guy, Lucius Fox. Like that character (who was an integral part of Nolan’s franchise) Q may also turn out to be an equally handy confidant for Bond when the spy inevitably finds himself yet another tight spot next time around (fingers crossed they don’t spin him as the rogue element yet again, and force him to go on the lam from his own department).
Eliciting that “ahhhhh” moment from a character-savvy audience
Possibly the most superficial comparison is Naomie Harris’ trajectory from hardened field operative to office-bound, glorified secretary and future double-entendre recipient, Ms. Moneypenny. It’s actually a slightly less laboured reveal than John Blake spilling the beans about his birth name to an overly-nosey and unashamedly flirtatious office worker at the end of The Dark Knight Rises, and works as a fun nod to the franchise without feeling shoe-horned in.