The Emperor's New Clothes (18/11/12)

'Skyfall' is the best Bond film in the history of the universe. Or is it? Agent Matthew Bell thinks differently

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The Independent Online

Ever since I heard it was a thing you could do, I've lived by the maxim "never apologise, never explain". But sometimes, you have to hold up your hands and say sorry. And that is what everyone who has come out of the cinema saying "Skyfall is the best Bond movie ever" must now do. Clearly, it is not.

A few countries round the world – Australia, New Zealand, South Africa – still have the premier of Skyfall to come. They have patiently endured weeks of celebrity interviews, trailers and five-star reviews, some of which put into print this absurd notion that Skyfall is better than, say, Dr No. Now, finally, they have the chance to see it, and who can blame them if they are disappointed?

It's not that Skyfall is bad. Far from it: this is a decent action movie with a few clever ideas. But it has been a victim of its own hype. Daniel Craig is cool, funny and likeable, but he'll never be able to cock an eyebrow like Roger Moore. He hadn't even had a shave until half way through. As for the love interest: if I got this right, she's a former prostitute who – spoiler alert! –gets a grope in the shower and a bullet in the head. It doesn't quite trump Ursula Andress emerging from the sea.

True, a creepy, flirty Javier Bardem makes for a spine-tingling baddy, and the plot is unusual in centring on M. But once we have grasped that, where are the surprise twists? Taking us back to Bond's family home and dredging up some childhood misery probably looked daring and clever in the script, but do we really want to put our hero on the therapy couch?

It can't be easy to keep a 50-year-old franchise feeling fresh, and at least the new films are witty with the old tropes. Barbara Broccoli has proved they can still make corkers – like Casino Royale, the first Daniel Craig film, which still stands up to repeat viewing. The problem, as with so much in life, has been in managing expectations. If you went in thinking Skyfall was going to be the best Bond film ever, you were doomed from the start. Much better to go in expecting a silly rehash of a Sixties spy film, and get exactly what you paid for.