Commentary

November 16, 2012

Fly Over: ‘Skyfall’, ‘Resident Evil: Damnation’

In Theaters:

‘Skyfall’

I’m young, relatively, so I can admit my first James Bond movie starred Pierce Brosnan. The franchise has rolled out 23 installments in 50 years, so I’d be remiss to say I’ve seen every film. I hear Mr. Connery was as good as it gets, but “Skyfall” on its own, is one heck of a movie. Sam Mendes’ incarnation of Ian Fleming’s 007 is reminiscent of Christopher Nolan’s recent Batman trilogy in that Bond, James Bond, has been transformed from a cheesy, campy caricature into a more brooding, dark and realistic character who wears the scars of a man who has single-handedly saved Great Britain for 50 years.
From the start “Skyfall” kept a riveting pace with your quintessential car chases and well choreographed fight scenes. Bond (Daniel Craig) with the help of a fellow MI6 agent Eve (Naomie Harris) desperately chase a terrorist who has stolen information containing the identities of NATO agents secretly operating throughout the globe combating terrorism. The seemingly invincible spy is brought back down to Earth by a hasty and desperate order given by MI6 commander M (Judi Dench), which results in Eve shooting Bond – this all happens in the opening frame.
Bond understandably perturbed and feeling betrayed, lays low and is enjoying his “death” when a terrorist attack strikes the MI6 headquarters building. His love of country is too strong and he makes his way back to London, but he isn’t the same.
The film is wrought with subtleties that hint at questions of modernity such as Bond’s encounter with his new quartermaster Q (Ben Whishaw) who quips something to the affect he can do more with his laptop in an hour than Bond can do in the field for an entire year. Bond’s age and relevance are questioned throughout the film, even leaving the viewer to ponder if he was a relic of a bygone era.
A considerable amount of time passes before we meet Bond’s arch nemesis, but the impact of Javier Bardem’s portrayal of cyber-terrorist Raoul Silva is felt from the moment he makes his debut. Bardem, whose villain in “No Country for Old Men” also steals every scene, is far and away Bond’s most daunting foe. He looks like the Hispanic progeny of a union between Andy Warhol and a Dutch woman. He isn’t physically imposing, but he’s able to make Bond squirm in his seat nonetheless.
Silva as we learn is a predecessor to Bond who was left horribly scarred mentally and physically by another of M’s unfortunate decisions. Both characters have obvious maternal issues, but they deal with it differently – Bond dutifully obeys M while Raoul is hell-bent on killing her. Silva has spent years if not decades plotting his revenge on MI6 and M, so Bond is playing catch-up throughout the film in an effort to save M and MI6’s relevance to England.
The film is beautifully shot, and the acting is top-notch. The story is riveting, and in my humble opinion it’s by and far the best Bond film to date – yes, I haven’t seen them all, but the movie is that good. However, viewers are left with questioning where the franchise goes from here. Bond is old, beaten and ready for retirement, if not at the beginning of the film certainly at the end after barely defeating his enemy – this is not a spoiler, it’s a Bond film and he always triumphs. So, with no uncertainty, Bond fanatics can probably anticipate a franchise reboot, and although this is not Daniel Craig’s last go at being James Bond, his will always be a tough act to follow.
“Skyfall” is rated PG-13.

 

…..and on DVD, ‘Resident Evil: Damnation’

Paul W. S. Anderson’s film adaptations of the survival horror games Resident Evil (or Biohazard in Japan) haven’t exactly been given much praise. Really, though, this can be said for almost every movie based on a video game (but I stand by the first Mortal Kombat movie, which was ironically directed by Anderson as well). So if these adaptations are so bad, why hasn’t the games’ developer, Capcom, done it? This is where “Resident Evil: Damnation” comes in, the second Resident Evil film by Capcom which proves that a hands-on familiarity with the source material doesn’t automatically lead to a good film.
Sometime after Resident Evil 4, series protagonist Leon S. Kennedy (Matthew Mercer) has been dropped into the Eastern Slav Republic, a nation plagued by a violent revolution. What Leon is more concerned with, however, is the rumored use of BOW’s, bio-organic weapons created by the same virus that turns people into hungry zombies. Despite the U.S. government demanding he leave the Republic to its fate, Leon pursues the source of the BOWs with the help of the rebels. What he doesn’t know is that his old femme fatale foil, Ada Wong (Courtenay Taylor), is working behind the scenes with the nation’s government for her own mysterious reasons.
What any fan of the games will instantly appreciate is that the movie takes place in the same continuity of Capcom’s series and has nothing to do with Alice’s escapades in the Anderson films. That said, anyone unfamiliar with the video game might get a little lost on some things, like who the characters are or how someone has managed to create 10-foot-tall monstrosities. Despite the opening monologue, the audience is practically thrown into the situation without a background to make them really care (the country itself is completely fictional). The motivations of the antagonists are a little weak as well.
Where Anderson’s latest “Resident Evil: Retribution” had Johann Urb do a Dolph Lundgren impersonation for Leon, Damnation casts the same voice actor for the character in this year’s “Resident Evil 6.” Matthew does a good job with the character (I did not realize it wasn’t the same guy who voiced him in Resident Evil 4), even if he kind of disappears in the background for some scenes. Courtenay Taylor is also taken from her performance of Ada Wong in “Resident Evil 6,” and while she also keeps to the established character she only really seemed to have one tone of voice. Everyone else was entirely forgettable, except maybe Val Tasso as the rebel JD, who was too over-the-top to not be likable.
Taking Capcom’s last attempt, “Resident Evil: Degeneration,” into consideration, the computer generated effects and motion capture have improved, but only a little bit. Characters’ facial expressions are a little more animated this time, but sometimes to the point where they don’t match their tone of voice. This might be because Damnation was filmed initially for a Japanese audience, but that’s not a good enough excuse. The audience is also expected to believe a good deal of ridiculousness, like Leon brushing off a blow to the back that should’ve paralyzed him (at the very least). Still, the scenery is gorgeous and gory, whatever it needs to be for the scene, and some of the action is well put together.
“Resident Evil: Damnation” is proof that even the creators of the game can fail at making a good movie. And where was Hunk? He is long overdue for a film debut …
This movie is rated R.




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