Sunday Smackdown: Skyfall vs Spectre

When you like a worse movie better than a better one

Let’s try yet another intermittent weekly series on this blog: pitting two pieces of art or entertainment against each other to decide a “winner.”

All of my parasocial friends on YouTube and the rest of the internet have been optimizing their SEO by talking about James Bond movies to capitalize on No Time To Die. Even if I felt comfortable going to theaters again, that movie is around two hours and 45 minutes long — somebody on Twitter more clever than I am called it No Time to Pee — so I’m not going to be seeing that until it comes to streaming services or cheap rentals.

The movie looks interesting, but Black Widow and Shang-Chi both satisfied my action-spectacle-on-a-big-screen quota for 2021. Honestly, the most compelling part of the movie for me is Ana de Armas, who I thought was fantastic in Knives Out and is so preternaturally beautiful that it’s hard to believe she isn’t a digitally-created person. I like Daniel Craig a ton, and the only reason he’s not my favorite James Bond is because the Sean Connery movies exist, but honestly, I’d much rather see him in Knives Out sequels, except where they find an excuse for him to spend most of the movie with no shirt on.

And while Craig is pretty great, the movies post Casino Royale have been pretty disappointing. Skyfall has been near-universally praised as one of the best in the series, but I was so turned off by it that I didn’t even bother watching Spectre until last night, as a compromise: if I can’t watch the new Bond movie, I’ll watch the new-to-me one.

So I was pretty surprised that I kind of enjoyed it. To be clear: it’s absolutely absurd, even frustratingly so in parts. But then, that’s true of almost all of them. I think the franchise is best when it leans into the absurdity, with the important qualifier that everybody in the movie has to act as if the absurdity is genuinely cool. That’s why Roger Moore came across as too silly, and Pierce Brosnan came across as too eager to be in on the joke, while Sean Connery could be in situations that were ludicrous and even downright offensive, but still somehow retain an aura of cool.

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