As Spectre is supposed to be a direct continuation of Skyfall, I felt it might be interesting to look at what we learned from Skyfall. Why did Skyfall try to reflect so much on James Bond’s past? As a species, we are a very nostalgic bunch. We tend to look at the past anytime we cross a big milestone. And so it was for James Bond and the 50th anniversary of his film debut: by creating a film that wanted to start the next 50 years with a bang, Skyfall looked to the character’s past, and wanted to pay homage to what came before. In a more subtle way (sometimes much more subtle than in OHMSS and its credit sequence or office sequence with past musical themes) than Die Another Day, which marked the franchise’s 40th birthday (and had a plethora of past props in R/Qs workshop), Skyfall mentioned a few elements from past movies, even useed past movie locations, but most of all, went back to 007’s past. Something no previous movie had done, even Casino Royale with its train sequence where Vesper tried to analyze James Bond’s MI6 profile and his upbringing.
In Skyfall, we learned more about James Bond’s childhood and past than in any other movies combined! And the second reason of these tidbits (beyond the golden celebration), was to deconstruct the whole character and myth of James Bond to rebuild him anew. The whole movie was a referential wink (with some action set pieces!) on the role of a spy, on the role of James Bond, and his place in the world of espionage, intrigue, and cinematography.
What is interesting is how much Batman’s origin has influenced the Bond filmmakers… Maybe it’s Nolan’s influence, which is an interesting cinematographic wink since Nolan was influenced so much by James Bond and even hired some of the Bond movies’ crew members.
5. His parents were called Andrew and Monique
At one point in the third act, James Bond picks up his father’s old hunting rifle and we discover a set of initials on it: AB. Now, we know the B stands for Bond, but we’ve never seen James Bond’s father before. What does the A stand for?
Well, near the end, when James comes close to the church on his property, we discover the tomb where his parents were laid to rest. There is a single tomb, with the names Andrew Bond and Monique Delacroix Bond. So, not only do we learn what the A meant on the rifle, we also learn about James’ mother… It is a great touch in the film: it doesn’t remove the mystic of the character, it doesn’t reveal too much about James Bond’s origin, but at the same time, it humanizes him a great deal!
An interesting bit, actually, is that just like Bruce Wayne, whose parents are buried on the family property, so are Bond’s parents.
4. His parents died a tragic but mysterious death
When James Bond takes M in hiding behind the wheels of his trusty DB5, at one point in the journey they have stopped on a side road, and James Bond is seen looking at the horizon and the road. As M comes out of her uncomfortable sleep, she asks 007 “Is this where you grew up?” and Daniel Craig grunts a nod. What is interesting is that when M asks about “growing up”, she could actually mean that this is the place where his parents died, and he grew up from a boy to a man…
Furthermore, when Silva reads Bond’s tests results, the psychological tests results mention a “childhood trauma” that Bond never completely healed from… Indeed, we know from Casino Royale, and again from M at the same site where the DB5 stops, that James Bond is an orphan, and that they “make the best recruits”.
So; just as in point 5., not only do we learn new tidbits on James’ past, we also learn more about his parents. But this time, it actually adds to the mystery, as it is never mentioned how his parents died!
Again, just like Bruce Wayne, Bond was an orphan early on, and it’s perhaps this trauma that forced him to enlist in MI6 to right whatever wrong he perceived his parents had been the victim of…
3. When his parents died, young James Bond spent 2 days in a tunnel under his house
Just like Bruce Wayne, Bond likes to brood in a cave! Indeed, we learn from Kincade that when James learned about his parents’ death, he spent “2 days in the tunnel, and when he came out, he wasn’t a boy no more”.
In this tunnel that leads from his house to an underground lair, or in this case to a nearby pond and not the Batcave, James Bond spent some time alone, to recover from the shock or learning about his parents’ death. He wasn’t alone, as Kincade was probably there, as well as other
2. One of his mentors was called Kincade
This groundskeeper was all James had to tie him to his past, it seems. And yet, Kincade doesn’t even know that James Bond is a spy! Kincade and James go out to try the only remaining weapons they have, and Kincade is amazed by James’ aim. That’s when we discover that James probably never stayed in touch with Kincade after he left and enrolled in the army and MI6.
Again, as a funny comparison: just like Bruce Wayne, who was raised by a butler, Bond was partly raised by an employee of his parents.
1. He grew up in a big Scotland manor called… Skyfall
While I don't know how the writers came up with the name Skyfall (and I don't believe the name comes from Ian Flaming), it wasn’t clear until the third act where the name was coming from. It wasn’t the bad guy’s name, it wasn’t the bad guy’s plan nor secret lair, it wasn’t the Bond girl’s name, and it wasn’t the name of his service or the mission…
Actually, when I saw the first teaser trailer, I thought Skyfall was actually the name of the operation that went wrong during the pre-credit; and that was why James was upset during his debriefing sequence and word association test. But we then learn that it's more related to his parents than the job. And that is why he is upset when he hears this word.
Skyfall is indeed this sprawling if cold and grey manor when James was probably born, grew up and lost his parents. What is interesting in terms of Bond mythology, once again, is that originally James Bond wasn’t from Scotland. He was most likely from England, just like his creator, Ian Fleming. But when Sean Connery – who initially was far from being Fleming’s first choice! – proved so popular in the role, Fleming used Connery’s Scottish origins to inform Bond’s origins as well… Probably to make it more coherent with the actor that was inhabiting the role at the time!
Fleming probably couldn’t imagine that most of the former Commonwealth countries would provide a Bond of their own, and that Sean Connery would not only fight for Scotland’s independence, but abandon the role after a few outings. Fleming couldn’t imagine either that the writers of Skyfall would name the place where Bond grew up, and would try to come up with a name that would sound close enough to a mysterious Bond item, just like GoldenEye…