Nov 30, 2012

Stargate Skyfall

Crossposted from Reflections Journal.

I caught Skyfall over the holiday weekend and I loved it. Daniel Craig continues to bring a gravitas to the role that transitions Bond from outrageous camp to something with surprising depth. And this was probably the darkest yet -- a journey through death and resurrection, as the series reboots itself yet again. This is a bold re-envisioning, exchanging the high tech gadgetry, that has become too ubiquitous to be entertaining, for low tech cleverness. Javier Bardem is just flamboyant enough to be a Bond villain, yet tragic and human enough to be a believable character. He's also consistently brilliant.

The movie is excellent. But the opening credit sequence is a masterpiece.

Leaving aside for a moment the sheer awesomeness of the cinematography and the buttery richness of Adele's voice, what captivated me was the layering of esoteric imagery. It was the genius of the opening credits (posted above) that convinced me to brave the crowds and see this movie in the theater.

As with the recent Olympics, and so much in popular art and entertainment, it's hard to say how much of the symbolism is deliberate and how much is subconscious. But it's hard to believe that a film about a journey through death and rebirth just happens to have one portal image after another by accident.

This is the end...

The sequence opens with a wormhole as Bond is pulled through a swirling vortex on the ocean floor. From there, the viewer moves through one circular gate after another, from bullet holes, to the circumpunct like barrel of a gun, to James Bond's eye. We slide through these apertures, moving from one dark, surreal landscape to another.

Skyfall is where we start...

There are also numerous images of the Celtic Cross, aka the Medicine Wheel, aka the four directions. We see it in classic form on tombstones, but also made up from guns and the great stag. In one remarkable turn, Bond finds himself at the center of four, intersecting, shadow selves.

Where worlds collide and days are dark...

In one particularly stunning sequence, we move from trails of blood in the water and into the realm of the Chinese lung, or dragons -- the great, fire-breathing wyrms themselves.

Where you go I go. What you see I see...

There is also a lot of mirroring imagery, as one divides into two, in perfect reflection. And in the penultimate sequence, Bond finds himself in a hall of mirrors. He shoots holes in one mirror after another, finally shattering the illusory world around him.

Let the sky fall. When it crumbles...

The title itself, Skyfall, suggests the death of the illusory world. The sky, the boundary of our perceptual world, crumbles. It's the apocalypse -- the revelation of secrets hidden behind the veil.

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