Director Sam Mendes has made it perfectly clear that The Dark Knight was a huge influence on the latest Bond film, Skyfall. Maybe a bit too clear, if you ask me. I thoroughly enjoyed the latest 007 entry, but I couldn’t help notice quite a few similarities. So come join me as I try to one-up a week old internet story!
SKYFALL Spoilers Ahead and Every Which Way:
1. Silva is a blonder Joker
This is the obvious one, right? So let’s knock it out of the way first. Like Heath Ledger’s Clown Prince in The Dark Knight, former agent Raoul Silva has a very grand idea: make everyone go crazy and they’ll take each other out. In his highly memorable introduction, Silva exits an elevator door and slowly inches over to a captive Bond, all the while telling an old anecdote about getting rid of rats. You don’t use poison or drown them in water. You lure them all into an oil drum and starve them, forcing the rats to eventually eat each other until only two remain. You release the surviving pair back into the wild. But you don’t have to worry about them coming back, because now they’ve gotten used to eating each other. They’ve changed. That’s Silva’s point but it was also the whole point of the Joker’s scheme; he did have a plan: “When the chips are down, these… uh civilized people, they’ll eat each other.” Recruiting Gambol’s thugs. His Hospital Bargain. The Ferry Showdown. It’s all there yo.
Silva and Joker also enjoying just fucking shit up in general, as Skyfall’s subway chase makes quite clear. A blatant riff on Nolan is Silva’s decision to get himself captured, only to escape the clutches of MI6 anyway. Throw in the flamboyant personality tics, a willingness for self-destruction and some facial disfigurements, and it’s not hard to see the connections here.
2. Police Commissioner, Head of Secret Intelligence… same thing
Remember when Gordon faked his own death to protect his family? Well M can’t really do that here but there’s a very similar attempt on her own life. And if we extend our Silva/Joker analogy, it fits almost perfectly, since Javier Bardem is gunning specifically for the Big Cheese at MI6 this time around.
What’s more, both Gordon and M are undeniably changed by the end of their arc. Gordon comes to understand that the gamble he made with Dent and Batman didn’t pay off; that they’d failed and the world of Gotham was never as simple as passing off responsibility to the next handsome idealist who showed up (something Dark Knight Rises broadly answered, too). M also changes. Apart from realizing that ‘hey, maybe treating Double-0 agents like chess pawns kinda makes you a bitch,’ she comes to acknowledge even her lofty position makes her kinda expendable. And then she proves it.
3. Wayne. Bruce Wayne.
There’s nothing quite like exploring mommy and daddy issues is there? Set aside Silva’s creepy references to M as ‘mommy’; Skyfall also picks at Bond’s parental problems. Though it’s less yucky, Bond also seems to share an estranged relationship with M, who by proxy of his parents’ death is probably the closest thing the secret agent has to a Mom in his life. Needless to say, they don’t get off to the best of starts in their latest outing. But we also see a pseudo father figure in Albert Finney’s stand-in, Kincade. I had a lot of problems with his character — namely how he’s tacked on to the last half hour with little development — but his resourcefulness, paternal stoicism and wealth of knowledge did remind me of a certain handy butler…
Let’s not forget that Bond’s parents also died at some point during his childhood. When you pair Skyfall’s destruction of an OLD MANOR (eh? eh?) and the suggestion that perhaps a premature death influenced the deranged man their son James grows up to be, it’s like watching those full circle elements of Begins and Rises all over again. Ingonyama nengw’ enamabaal… Ingonyama nengw’ enamabaal… Ingonyama nengw’ enamabaal
4. Thomas Newman riffing on Invader Zimm is the best of things.
Thomas Newman’s Skyfall score features a number of similarities with the Zimmer/Newton Howard soundtracks. The oscillating between percussive statements and those quiet piano reflections. In fairness to Newman, his previous work for films like Road Perdition already had tons of quiet (and fantastic) moments, and it’s not like Hans Zimmer was the first dude to throw an ostinato in every once in a while.
On the other hand, “Jellyfish” sounds a lot like the fucking Batman theme.
5. We’re all like connected and stuff these days
The Joker wasn’t afraid to use old fashioned dynamite and gunpowder and gasoline. But what The Dark Knight revolutionized (I know STFU ALREADY right?), what it did that was so novel was place beloved characters and Katie Holmes in a truly modern context. When I say ‘modern’ I mean including all those cell phones and laptops and internets that young people use today. To put it more concisely: What would Batman do in a post-9/11 world?
Instead of hacking traffic lights like Seth Green did in that Italian Jaooorb remake, Skyfall takes advantage of the same smart, tech-savvy writing of Nolan’s Batman universe — his Bativerse. Laptop hackin’ and hidden ‘splosions and camera feeds and 4G LTE on your new Samsung Galaxy Nexus. You can’t avoid that shit in a developed civilization, so you build a HIGH FREQUENCY GENERATOR. Or in the case of J.B., you can tell The Grid to fuck off and leave it all behind.
All these comparisons, and you’d think I’d be complaining… You’d really think.