How Sam Mendes Remade The Dark Knight And Called It Skyfall
I just got back from seeing Skyfall a third time. No seriously I did. It rocks. I highly recommend you see it if you haven't, and if you are one of those people, I additionally recommend not going ANYWHERE near the contents of this article. It's filled with MASSIVE spoilers for both Skyfall, The Dark Knight, and The Dark Knight Rises.
On all three trips to see Skyfall I couldn't shake the feeling that I'd seen it all before. In a good way. It took me a while to realize exactly where my feelings of narrative déjà vu were coming from, but eventually, the idea floated out of the aether and into clarity.
Skyfall Is The Dark Knight Rises....and both trilogies in general kinda match up. It's true.
That's why I enjoyed it so much; those fantastic thematical elements that permeated Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy were the foundation of the latest Bond series, in many ways. I don't think this is an overt ripoff, by the way, but rather an occurrence that happened via cinematic osmosis.
If you're still a little unsure of my conclusion (and some Moviepilot employees would agree with you), allow me to take a bit of your time with an explanation as to why I feel this is true. The evidence is there, you just need a smarmy journalist to stick it on a plate for you.
I am that journalist guy, and here is your steaming hot plate o' TRUTH nuggets!
Reason 1 - A Broken Hero
In the first act of both Skyfall & The Dark Knight Rises, our protagonist puts his life in harms way and finds himself with a severe case of movie-death. That special kind of death where you either spend your time in a prison pit, or in a bar drinking scorpion shots. We've all been there. In both cases our hero triumphantly returns bigger, badder, faster, and stronger. Sometimes it take being brought low to rise to the top, and both Bond and Batman are taken to the starkest of dark places before they man up, and come back fighting.
Reason 2 - A Killer Opening
As is tradition with both Bond and Batman movies, we're greeted with a fantastic opening sequence. It serves to introduce us to our against-the-ropes hero in an exciting way. Bond leaves 00s to die in order to retrieve a stolen hard drive, and the Joker manages to ditch his cohorts in a violent attempt to make his mark on Gotham. High stakes... killer opening.
Reason 3 - A Mad Dog Chasing Cars
Here are where the HUGE parallels begin. Choose your villain, Joker or Silva. Whichever you like. Both are out of their mind psychopaths with a ridiculously complicated plan that defies belief when it's finally executed. Both like to get caught in order to pull off the final phase of their master plan, and both reflect the dark side of our hero's light. Joker is a product of Bruce Wayne's decision to put on a mask. No Batman? No Joker. Silva is an ex member of M's secret agent force who, after one betrayal too many, went a little sour. Fine super sour. Bond is one failed cyanide pill away from becoming Silva. Both antagonists are caricatures of real people, hold a deep fascination with the hero, and have a single, clear goal: eliminate the protagonist and the people he cares about. Why so Silva?
Reason 4 - Q Is Lucius Fox
Simple enough. Need a reliable character to supply you with the most awesome gadgets this side of Little Nellie? Then you have two options; you can call the brainiac, Q, or you can call slick Lucius Fox. The choice is yours, the outcome is the same.
Reason 5 - M Is Alfred... And Gordon
Bond and Batman form close emotional attachments to the few close people in their lives; probably because they're both orphans who find little purpose in the world other than their occupations. These are the people that interact with them most; they are anchors. For Batman, it's Jim Gordon and Alfred. For Bond, it's his troubled, but stoic boss, M. Both act as a concerned parent and moral compass for our off the chain heroes, nowhere more so than in The Dark Knight and Skyfall. It's in these movies that M and Alfred are able to provide the key pieces of advice that help take down the villain.
Reason 6 - A Death In The Family
As viewers of the latest Bond flick know, M dies in Skyfall. It's painful and sad, but also perfect in a way. Bond finally rips himself wide open when he shows the most important woman in his life his true soul. M leaves this world truly knowing the agent she commanded for years, and with the realization that she did her job well. Bond is more than an agent, he's a son to her. Not managing quite the emotional heft that Skyfall did, The Dark Knight kills off someone of equal importance, Bruce Wayne's escape plan, Rachel Dawes. With Rachel dead, Batman loses the only romantic attachment he had in this world, and is spurred on to the events of the final movie. These slightly different cataclysmic deaths have the same outcome...
Reason 7 - The Hero Skyfall Deserves
At the end of these movies we find our hero EXACTLY where he belongs. For Bond it's in the stately new offices of MI6, a stuffy male M behind the desk, and a sexy Moneypenny in the reception room. Ready to serve Queen and country again, Bond ends up where he was meant to be. Batman has a similar fate, but it's not quite so pleasant. Taking the fall for Harvey Dent's murder, Batman heads off into the night to become the hero we all know him as. The hero Gotham deserves, but not the one it needs...right now. On the wrong side of the law but protecting the citizen's safety. Exactly where he belongs.
I want to reiterate again how much of a fan I am of both of these movies. I think it's awesome that Mendes took huge amounts of inspiration from my favorite superhero film, and it's awesome that both movies have different window dressing, but provide us with the same framework underneath. Go dark, go bigger, go badder, and you won't be sorry you did!