Questioning 'Skyfall's Villain and How Closely the Film Mirrors 'The Dark Knight'

Javier Bardem in Skyfall
Javier Bardem in Skyfall
Photo: MGM / Columbia Pictures

While writing my review of Skyfall I had to delete about three paragraphs because I didn't want to hint at plot points while relaying some of the problems I had with the film. However, I didn't want to leave these ideas unexplored. So, with so many turning out to see Skyfall on its opening weekend I feel it is safe to openly explore some of my thoughts now.

My largest issue with the film revolved around Javier Bardem's villain, Raoul Silva. In exploring his character so much of the film began to fall apart and/or never really comes together, a lot having to do with the character's motivation and reasoning.

Why was he doing the things he was doing?

The obvious answer is revenge. Silva wanted to get back at MI6, but more specifically M (Judi Dench). He wanted to put on a show. He was theatrical and he was meticulous in his planning... He was, in many ways, a version of Heath Ledger's The Joker from The Dark Knight and, in that respect, Skyfall closely hues to The Dark Knight, only with its plot in a slightly different and simpler order than Christopher Nolan's massively successful second entry in his Batman trilogy, a film director Sam Mendes openly admits inspired Skyfall.

One of the most difficult tasks Nolan and his Batman screenwriters faced came at the beginning of The Dark Knight Rises.

At the end of The Dark Knight, Batman was made to be a villain. He was off the grid, gone and despised by the people. Skyfall adapts this approach with Bond only it uses MI6 as a metaphorical Batman and Bond as its internal fall guy, if you'll excuse the pun.

With the loss of the hard drive containing the identities of all of MI6's undercover agents around the world, the agency has fallen under scrutiny and just as The Joker uses his quest to have the Batman out himself before the people of Gotham, the villain that has stolen the hard drive pledges to out five agents each week, placing MI6 on the front pages. While this is taking place, Bond is believed dead and off the grid, only to return out of a sense of duty to his country. Batman did the same, returning once Gotham needed him in the face of Bane and his thugs.

This, however, is where Skyfall changes course and avoids the initial problems The Dark Knight Rises faced. Instead of ending with the hero as the bad guy, as The Dark Knight did, Skyfall begins this way, setting up a Dark Knight Rises-esque path to redemption for MI6. From this point, massive chase scenes are hardly the biggest comparisons.

Michael Caine, Albert Finney, Ben Whishaw and Morgan Freeman
Michael Caine, Albert Finney, Ben Whishaw and Morgan Freeman
Photo: MGM / Columbia Pictures / Warner Bros.

Just as Batman had to travel to Hong Kong for information, Bond must travel to Shanghai as another high wire act involving tall buildings and glass takes place. Q (Ben Whishaw) is essentially Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman), guiding Bond around London remotely, though I will concede Fox has always been Batman's Q, just as much as Nolan's Batman franchise has been as much of a James Bond as it has been Batman films. People have referred to Nolan's Inception as his Bond film, overlooking the fact that his entire Batman franchise has really been nothing more than Bond in a cape and cowl. Moving on...

A woman enters the picture, as she always will in a Bond film, and yet she meets the same fate as Rachel Dawes (Maggie Gyllenhaal) in The Dark Knight. Bond's childhood home is destroyed, a page taken out of Batman Begins. We learn Bond's parents died at a young age and he was then orphaned, Bond's uncle (Albert Finney) is easily compared to Bruce Wayne's butler and surrogate uncle, Alfred (Michael Caine) and the death of M is as close as we are going to get in this franchise to watching Bond's mother being killed, continuing the idea of a hero molded and pained by his past, a metaphor Batman carries with him heavily.

Then we come to Silva, a scarred villain, who, like Bond was once a member of MI6, a similar connection can be made to Liam Neeson's Ducard (aka Ra's al Ghul) and Bruce Wayne's involvement with the League of Shadows, a questionable organization in and of itself. Silva and Ducard, however, don't hold too much of a comparison beyond that, though you could say he does hold a comparison to both Ra's al Ghul and has some of the motivations of his daughter, Talia, but that is more a matter of consequence than comparison.

Daniel Craig and Javier Bardem in Skyfall
Daniel Craig and Javier Bardem in Skyfall
Photo: Columbia Pictures / MGM

Silva is a man whose past haunts him and drives him. He plots terrorist acts to prove a point and has devised an elaborate scheme that begins with Bond traveling by sea with Sévérine (Bérénice Marlohe) to his secret island. Here, like The Joker does with Batman in the interrogation scene, Silva tries to find common ground with Bond before allowing himself to be captured.

The Joker did the same and, like Silva, before being captured planned ahead by orchestrating an exodus of Gotham City that would magically result in two separate ferries leaving at the same time, one with prisoners on one ship and civilians on the other, both rigged to blow, along with a cellular telephone surgically implanted in the body of a fellow prisoner, which would blow up once it is called.

Silva's plan was to be captured along with his laptop, which had a virus installed that would hack into the MI6 mainframe and allow him to escape, an escape that fortunately took place while M and her co-horts were at a hearing, responding to questions regarding the stolen hard drive. Then we get to the part where Silva knew to wire an underground tunnel with a bomb that would end with him and Bond chatting only minutes before a train arrived, but that's really not the point I'm trying to make here.

  • G-Man

    Not sure if I really have much more to add other than to say this is a fantastic analysis, Brad. I noticed similarities between this and The Dark Knight when watching, but not to the extent you did. Well done. Will probably read again a little later today.

    • Darren

      Hi. I'm generally a bit reluctant to link-spam, so if this is inappropriate, feel free to delete or remove, but I actually did a post covering this a little while ago. Interestingly, I think the characters of Bond and Batman have always been, to a certain extent, thematically linked. Did you know that Adam West was considered to replace George Lazenby as Bond, for example? Or that the current driving Batman comic writer, a Scot by the name of Grant Morrison, has repeatedly and explicitly homaged The World is Not Enough? (Indeed, The Dark Knight Rises shares several similarities with The World is Not Enough, which is one of the more fascinating - if deeply, deeply flawed - films in the franchise.)

      Anyway, here's the piece I wrote. Feel free to delete:

  • Winchester

    I'm really not sure they will do something entirely 'new' and I'm not even sure that's going to be a problem.

    Skyfall is a very good and a very solidly entertaining film but it isn't really even very 'new' on it's own. I don't really have a big thing about the film following a template because what generally matters more is the execution of the template by the people involved. Skyfall is a good example of following other film's footsteps.

    But it also (as a reviewer called Cory observed in 'WIW, WYW' observed) also mashes in plot elements of several of the Brosnan films - ex MI6 agent as villain (Goldeneye), MI6 attacked directly (The World is Not Enough) and a hint of M's past biting her (again, World) and there may be some more as well. They are just the most obvious. So, the entire film is a mash up of previously seen elements.

    That remains why I refuse to be as amazed by it as some. Good as it is. As well executed as it was (as long as, with most films you don't try and dissect the logic of it too much. It's a thread I only pull at when I dislike a film).

    So, all that considered, I have reservations that too much will be 'new' going forward. But that doesn't need to prevent it being solid entertainment. Bond is still Bond to a degree and if anything the finale of the film really sets things up for a generally Bond template friendly future to my eyes.

    • Cory

      Thanks for giving me props.

      Still, Brad's analysis is pretty dead on. It's unmistakable the similarities between Skyfall and the Dark Knight and the Dark Knight Rises.

      Regarding Silva's plans; it's a hard one to crack because on the one hand, I do think he wants M to understand the nature of what her decisions from her office do to the agents in the field. So, in that sense, I understand the need for him to get capture. He wants her to see it.

      At the same time, the end goal is the same from the beginning, which is to kill her. And in that respect, the things he does in the middle section of the film are counterproductive to the ultimate goal.

      I don't think it completely hurts Skyfall but it's there.

      • Winchester

        Oh I totally agree about The Dark Knight parts as well. Obviously Mendes and the writers were more than merely inspired by Nolan.

        • Cory

          Yeah, which kind of bums me out because I had hoped that Nolan would get a crack at doing Bond with Daniel Craig but after this film, I just don't see how he could.

          For starters, his Dark Knight trilogy and Inception are clearly inspired by his love for Bond and lastly, Mendes pretty much made the Bond film I think Nolan would've made with Skyfall. I mean, as excellent as Mendes is as a director, Nolan's finger prints are all over Skyfall.

          With the way that the series is set up at the end of Skyfall, if Nolan were to ever do one, he really couldn't delve deep with the character because this Bond trilogy of Royale, Quantum, and Skyfall did that pretty damn well.

          If Nolan had a shot at Bond 24, it would essentially be a Bond film status quo, meaning a straight up action adventure picture with the world in the balance. That's not going to interesting him unless he's dying to make a Bond film, no matter the circumstances.

  • Andrew13

    Very nice analysis. I definitely noticed The Dark Knight parallels watching the film, but it didn't take me out of the movie at all. While those references may be intentional, any similarity to The Dark Knight Rises is purely coincidence, as Skyfall was already in post-production when TDKR came out.

    The way I understood Silva's motivations was that he wanted to humiliate M, bring her and MI6 to their weakest point, and then kill her. That's why he waited to kill her until her court testimony on the continued necessity of MI6. It would be as much a symbolic defeat of British intelligence as it would be Silva getting his revenge upon M.

    The only part that really took me out of the movie was Silva "throwing" the subway train at Bond. All I can surmise is that Silva knew he'd be most exposed while climbing up the ladder, so he placed the explosives there as a precaution. During rush hour in London subways do run on an almost minute-by-minute basis, so his plan is not entirely implausible.

    As far as the hard drive is concerned, I didn't see it as a plot hole, I just presumed that when the helicopters showed up to arrest Silva they also recovered the hard drive.

    • Cory

      Totally agree except his plan hinges on him knowing that M would have to go to court to defend her position as head of MI6. How would he know that what he did by stealing the hard drive would culminate in a hearing?

      That's the wonky part of the plot.

      • Andrew13

        True, I guess Silva must have assumed someone would be held accountable for the security breach, and that person would likely be M, both due to her age and her role as head of MI6. I'm sure it's not the first time M had to testify at a hearing, and the location of said hearing would be no secret.

      • Winchester

        I think that (inside the film) the plan was supposed to culminate with her public execution and probably that of the rest of the room but Bond screwed it up (thereby inverting the result of the plan and proving the need for MI6) because we need to remember she wasn't supposed to be saved.

        Once Bond had messed that up and taken her to safety, THEN the plan devolves into just destroying her anyway possible but without the in depth chain of events planning of previously. Although, yes, it gets quite bizarre with all the 'Mommy' talk if you ask me but Silva is I think by this point unhinged anyway so maybe it's no more than that.

        Not that I think any of the above makes the sequence of events that HAD to happen seem more grounded in plausibility than they were in The Joker's plan either but for me, Silva is off plan by the time he arrives at Skyfall.

        Though I did like how Bond and Silva kept borrowing each others tactics. Bond calls in the helicopters, Silva brings in a helicopter etc

        • Andrew13

          Completely agree. The other thing I've noticed in a lot of the criticisms of the film is many people feel the third act drags the film down. However, for me that's my favorite sequence of the film. I love that they turned a complete 180 on the traditional formula of having Bond storming the villains secret lair, and while there was certainly a lot of Home Alone and Straw Dogs in the sequence, it was such a refreshing variation on the Bond format. I do wish that Albert Finney had been given a bit more to do though.

          • Winchester

            Personally the part I enjoyed most (utterly due to Deakins photography) is that final third. Not so much the story aspects, but the action and truly the photography I was eating up.

    • Winchester

      It was a bit implausible the train was empty though. Unless I missed a part of that sequence which that indicated he was also controlling the Underground system and was able to intentionally route an empty set of carriages through.

      Didn't take me out the sequence too much.........but still.

  • Colin

    And yet I liked it 1000x more than Dark Knight.

    • Brad Brevet

      Care to elaborate so we can discuss? Otherwise you haven't really added anything to the conversation.

      • Colin

        Just a level of class, entertainment, maturity, and narrative coherency that Dark Knight lacked significantly. There is more, but I think I've stated my issues about Dark Knight more than enough to the readers and authors of the site.

        I did have one question to ask you that I think would make for a much more interesting discussion than a films influence. Dark Knight was clearly influenced by plenty of other genre films and no one bothered to question to that too much. But my question was in regard to the dynamics of the Bond girls. The creative choice that is made with one of them I found to be one of the most audacious things that the franchise has done with its characters in quite a while. By the end of the film though, I felt as if M had become the bond girl who the titular character shares his closest personal relation with. I personally found it to be a great emotional choice to make. What were your thoughts Brad?

        • Criterion10

          While it's definitely fair to compare narrative similarities between Skyfall and The Dark Knight, I still feel that it's unfair to compare which film is better. One is James Bond, the other Batman. And if they didn't have those similarities that we've all been seeing, then I highly doubt they would even be compared in the first place.

          That being said, I still do agree with your opening sentence, that the film was mature and had narrative coherency that TDK didn't have.

  • Scott

    Skyfall felt flat to me. After an exciting opening sequence with a clever crane gag, there's really nothing enjoyable after that, aside from Bardem's fun and eccentric performance and some truly beautiful cinematography.

    CGI Komodo dragons? The three second "jellyfish" fight? A standard gunfight.

    The self-aggrandizing wink-to-the-audience dialogue where Q proudly displays how he's not anything more special or interesting than a hacker. If you're not going to have Q be Q, why bother with the character at all? He wasn't missed in Casino or Quantum, and the producers haven't changed the Jason Bourne-style aesthetic here (except for finally giving us a properly extreme villain's lair this time).

    And the conclusion is more MacGyver than Bond.

    As a character study analyzing Bond's childhood, it's okay. But as a big, exciting 007 movie? No.

    Mystified by how many people found so much to love with this one.

    • Winchester

      And to be honest, an exploding pen wouldn't be the worst thing in the world to throw in once in a while.

  • Popcornflix

    I liked, not loved, Skyfall.

    Is this the first movie where Bond fails at his mission at the end of the film? Pretty dissatisfying. I know they wanted a reboot and gravitas, but unless Bond wins the day, it's not a proper Bond picture.

  • sela

    Also Bond spend time in the underground tunnel. He stayed in there 3 days after his parents died, and then it becomes the most important thing about the house. The well? The batcave?

    • Brad Brevet

      Very interesting, hadn't even thought of that comparison, but you're right.

  • Adu

    Yup the Dark Knight parallels are there for sure, but they never flew out off the screen to bother me. I dont think there was anything exceptional about the action scenes either, but the reason this movie is the best Bond for me is because of its awesome visuals and characters. I liked how it went deeper into Bond's origins (something I never expected) and I loved Bardem's character, he was a show-stopper. His motivation or lack of didnt was not off-putting for me. I saw him as a genius who had this chaotic vulnerability, especially when faced with his target, 'M'.

    Maybe he had that Freudian Mommy thingy going on with M's character, he kinda felt possessive about her. In the end he was just sick and tired of all the things around him and just wanted to take her with him. My thoughts.

  • Yaz

    Great write up. I find my self wondering whether this many comparisons to TDK would be made had Mendes not publicly announced his using it as a blueprint for the film. There is no doubt parallels can be drawn... Heck, people were drawing parallels from James Bond to Nolan's Batman films... But it's so extensive, and I'm wondering if that seed wasn't planted into our minds going in to Skyfall, if there'd be so many reviews drawing comparisons between the films.

    To be completely honest, there's no competition when it comes to villains between Silva and Joker. Joker was far more interesting, if only because he was so much less convoluted and contradictory to his own being. I found Silva to be quite uninteresting, to be honest. He was visually engaging when on screen, but I found that he was far more successful in being disturbing when he wasn't on screen. Once the mystery surrounding his character was abandoned, he just, well, to me he felt mediocre. Another bad guy with mommy issues at the end of the day. It was almost as if they were trying to make him clever, but when you dissected it like you did above, it just kind of falls apart.

    Skyfall was a great film and I enjoyed it immensely. I do think it's a 'beginning' and that it will set up a few more films nicely, but I do think when it comes right down to it, it was rather simple and a bit convoluted in it's plot. When you're trying ever so hard to make your villain come off as an intellectual, smart, one-step ahead-of-the-rest kind of guy and then have him make such rash and foolish moves in the third act... Things just fall apart.

  • Criterion10

    Brad, this was an excellent write up. While watching the movie, I couldn't get TDK comparisons out of my mind, and it appears that you mentioned all of the ones that I noticed as well.

    For me, this was the only real problem with Skyfall, a film which I immensely liked. It was incredibly entertaining, well made, and paced excellently. However, I couldn't help but feel at numerous parts that what I was watching was so derivative of TDK. I still enjoyed the film, though I do wish the screenwriters cleaned this aspect up a bit. I know Mendes stated that he was directly influenced by the film, but I still maintain my position in that it was his direction that brought an immense amount of new life into Skyfall. I hopefully will be seeing the film again sometime soon, so I wonder how it'll hold up on second viewing.

  • zejoker

    It was all about M, he wanted her to wish she was dead and then he was going to grant that wish. He was a double agent because of her. He hated her and yet she was the only thing he loved. She gave him purpose. You got one thing in your write up right for sure. He was theatrical. He loved the spot for their final meeting and once she was dead he had nothing else. Skyfall was a masterpiece that yes was derivative of The Dark Knight Legend, but a very different film all together. Silva played his part, but the movie was Bond's show, how much longer can this old dog do this? He proves himself when he faces his most formidable opponent he'll ever face, a deranged man who wasn't looking for world domination, his motives made Bond's mission much more personal.

  • Torryz

    Nice job Brad. The first thing I thought about the hard drive containing a list of all the agents was how this was similar to the the first Mission Impossible and it's villain was also a member of the MI team.

  • eduardo velazquez

    i am sorry to say so, but i find similitudes to Jason Bouerne one. Mission Impossible One, and Lester Burnham from american Beauty.
    Now, plus Batman.

  • Seiko Zoorhess

    While some comparisons can be rightfully made, I have to go out of my way and say that the similarities between these films, or rather, the "Batman" and "James Bond" properties could've easily been discussed as far as back "The Spy Who Loved Me", as "Jaws" seemed like a Batman villain walking. My point is that both Batman and Bond were orphan-made over the deaths of their parents, and both have faced people like them before. In "Goldeneye," Bond is up against an operation being conducted by 008, so what is Silva? 003?

    So yes, their are similarities in this movie's construction, but this could've been said a long time ago, and I believe it's only come up now because like with the reboot of "Amazing Spider Man" and other films, everyone must be compared to Nolan's "Dark Knight"(despite the fact that it was the worst of the trilogy).
    I know when Iron Man 3 is out we'll be hearing more "Dark Knight Rises" comparisons.

    Yes, Lucius Fox is like Q, Kinkaid was like Alfred, but Lucius Fox has existed for a long time in batman mythology just as Q existed in Bond mythology.

    Oh and Jason Bourne came a long, long time after Ian Fleming began James Bond so who is taking from who there? Just saying...

  • AS

    We MUST let The Dark Knight die. Seriously. I mean, I wasn't even conscious of any of these things when I was watching Skyfall because I was too absorbed in the film. After reading this, there are obvious comparisons to be made, but that doesn't detract from the enjoyment of the film by one iota.

    • Kessler

      I actually agree with you. I was aware of The Dark Knight and even the Straw Dogs similarities, but that didn't detract any of my enjoyment either. What made those two movies work also made Skyfall work really well for me. Just because two movies have simiilar ideas doesn't make one better than the other. It all depends on how the filmmakers executed them and, in Skyfall, I thought they did a hell of a job.

    • Brad Brevet

      Once people stop copying it it will be easier to let it die.

      I have to ask here, while you didn't notice the comparisons does that mean they don't exist? Does that mean it can't detract from the viewing enjoyment for others? Because you were absorbed does that mean everyone was?

      Your comment suggests the comparisons have to stop just because they have to stop. The film obviously lifted story elements from The Dark Knight if not the entire framework of the narrative and this is on top of the issues I had with the villain, which you didn't address... or do those not matter either?

      • zejoker

        Silva was the perfect Bond villain.

        • Brad Brevet

          You care to elaborate?

          • zejoker

            I'm glad you asked! Look eight comments above your comment that reads "You care to elaborate?"

      • AS

        Okay, well, I suppose you'll always be able to make a case for how THIS movie or THAT movie was inspired by, or ripped off, The Dark Knight. What happens when Snyder's Superman movie comes out? People will just be talking about how "it's just copying TDK's dark look and tone." Well, sorry, but TDK wasn't the first movie that was ever made. It ripped off ideas and characters (one could argue that Ledger's Joker is an amalgamation of Nicholson's Joker and Nicholson's Jack Torrance) from a number of different films. So why don't we have to bring up all of TDK's inspirations whenever we talk about TDK? Well, because the films it took ideas from weren't as popular as TDK. Movies copy other movies constantly. At a certain point, it becomes futile to point out the similarities all the time. It just feels counterintuitive. I mean, what's the point? What do we gain from forming lists of similarities between two films? I suppose the only result would be a negative one, right? It would only lesson the film in one's mind.

        "I have to ask here, while you didn't notice the comparisons does that mean they don't exist? Does that mean it can't detract from the viewing enjoyment for others? Because you were absorbed does that mean everyone was?" - Of course it doesn't. It just feels like nit-picking. You gave the film a B. For the sake of argument, let's say you loved it and gave it an A. Would you be as quick to type up a list of comparisons between the film and TDK? I don't know (this is a hypothetical after all), but I feel like you wouldn't be as eager to tear down the film (and I know that's an exaggeration, but as I said before, this article could only lesson a person's opinion of the film) if you had loved it. In response to the praise the film has received, you made a declarative statement on the podcast that Skyfall was a "good film, not a great one." Perhaps you might have liked it more if the consensus was less glowing (Quantum of Solace)? You may have been somewhat irked by the seemingly hyperbolic praise and felt the need to set the record straight and point out how most of the movie is just a rip off of TDK. Again, just speculation. Merely a thought. I don't read minds and I'm not pretending to...

        "this is on top of the issues I had with the villain, which you didn't address... or do those not matter either?" - Again, while watching the film I wasn't conscious of any such comparisons apart from the most surface level similarities.

        I'm guessing your response to this might go something like "the similarities are so glaringly obvious, how could I not comment on it!" If this was your response, I would just have to reiterate what I said earlier. If you had liked the film more, I don't think you would have been as quick to point out all of its flaws.

        • Yaz

          Hard not to draw comparisions to the film when the director comes out a month before release and openly admits to using it as inspiration... Hell it wouldn't surprise me if the statement was made intentionally just to get people into theatres.

          Oh yeah, The Dark Knight is the greatest film of all time. :)

        • Josh Z

          Personally AS I don't think Brad is ripping this movie or trying to take anything away from it. This article feels like a "food for thought" as in hey this is interesting lets see what others think. I feel that there is no harm in pointing out comparisons that are clearly there and as YAZ pointed out mentioned a month before its release by its filmmaker. Lastly you question his feelings about this film and grading, shouldn't you know that Brad HATES grades and he only kept them on here because too many people complained? I bet you any money he would be saying the same things if it were an A + or D. Don't feel like I am attacking you or anything but ease up a little I know you said you aren't a mind reader but you kinda come off as thinking you are one.

          Saw it tonight and LOVED it by the way. My Uncle agreed with The TDK comparisons as well and he doesn't read these sites so its there to everyone I believe.

          Please remember everyone we are all here for the same reason, love of the movies. Lets not get mean

        • Darren

          I can't speak for Brad, but I really liked Skyfall, and I couldn't help but notice the similarities.

          But, then again, Nolan's borrowed a lot from Bond, and turnaround is fairplay. I think the difference is that Nolan borrowed smaller elements. You won't get a two-page article about the Joker borrowing Rosa Klebb's shoe, or Ra's Al Ghul moving into Piz Gloria or Bane watching the intro to Licence to Kill and going "That looks like a good idea."

          (Or, "Zat loooksh l-ike a gooood hi-de-a!" (exhale))

          On the other hand, Skyfall adopted a lot of the philosophy of The Dark Knight, particularly in how it approaches the relationship between a pop icon and the real world (Batman as poltiical commentary on war on terror, Bond as metaphor for how we cope with real-world terror), but also in terms of structure.

  • Mikey

    I noticed some, though not all, of The Dark Knight comparisons while watching. However they didn't bother me one bit. I still name The Dark Knight as one of the best movies of the last decade (at least entertainment wise) and I see no problem with a director borrowing a few pages from the Chris Nolan playbook, especially when the end product and tone feels unique and new, as Skyfall did for me.

    As for the Silva character, he was easily my favorite thing in the film and I think I understood his actions on some level. The first thing we must accept is that he saw M as a mother figure. I personally made the assumption that he was an orphan (obvious parallel to Bond and M says something about orphans making the best recruits). Now M filled this mother role and when she turned him in, he felt utterly betrayed. Silva described to Bond how he has spent the last few years "playing secret agent" but answering to no one. This is Silva's rebellious phase. Like an angry teenager, he's sticking it to his mom, saying he doesn't need her. But something's still eating away at him. No matter how much he tries to exist without her, he still is angry at M and wants his revenge. He can't be happy until his score is settled with her.

    Step 1 of his plan: Make M pay for her betrayal. "Think on your sins". He steals the hard drive, starts killing some agents, and hurts M emotionally as well as her career. This accomplishes two things for Silva. 1) He can show off to M how much he can accomplish without her. In essence, that he's surpassed her. 2) He begins to torture M and make her suffer in a way similar to how he did. Step 2: Get captured. However this is where I feel Silva especially differs from the Joker. His capture is not meant simply to cause more mayhem. He wants to see M face to face. He wants to see that he's beaten her in her eyes and make her express remorse for her betrayal. After this face to face conversation he can easily escape and move right on to Step 3 of his master plan: kill M.

    However this is where his plan goes awry for 2 reasons. Firstly, M doesn't feel remorse. And she doesn't apologize or acknowledge Silva's superiority. In fact she's found a new son (Bond). And secondly (and far more importantly) Silva still truly loves M. No matter what she's done to him, he still feels a mother/son bond with her. As a result he sets out to finish his plan and kill M, but his heart's not really in it. No matter what he's told himself, killing M was never going to fill the mother-shaped hole in his heart. And with her new son protecting her, M escapes no problem. Now Silva's got some thinking to do. Moving on to...

    Revised Step 3. Silva tracks down M and Bond. Now he doesn't care for Bond at all. He just wants him dead by any means. Blow him up, shoot him, whatever. Just get M's new favorite out of the picture. With him gone, Silva can have M all to himself. Now he still wants her to pay for her sins. However he also wants her to accept her punishment. And thirdly, he's finally come to terms with the fact that he doesn't want to live in a world without his mother. The logical way to fit all his criteria? Have M shoot through both of their heads, killing them both. She'll accept her punishment and they can both be at peace. However M doesn't pull the trigger, she betrays him yet again. And then her new son (and by extension her) literally throws a knife into Silva's back, bringing his entire story to a poetic close.

    Whew! Well that's at least how I took the character. Feel free to argue, discuss, point out my misunderstandings. I'd love to talk about my favorite character of 2012 some more.

    • adu

      Very nice breakdown dude. I loved Silva's character, Bardem was brilliant.

  • Daniel

    I'd like to see Daniel Craigs take on Bond end after the next 2 films. Not that I don't like him in the roll but I look at the whole franchise like Nolans batman. I see Casino Royale and Quantum Of Solace together as Bond Begins. Skyfall as a stand alone and as you explained in this column Bonds equivalent of The Dark Knight and the next 2 films like the first 2, has a 2 movie arc. Those together would be Bond Rises. Casino Started with Bond receiving Double O status and I'd like to see at the end of the next 2 films Bond retire or possibly die. The bond franchise will continue for years to come but I'd like Craigs Bond to be a franchise within the franchise. Craig can't do it forever so I'd like some closure to his bond as opposed to continuing his story with several different actors. Then when his story is over give it a couple years and do a different take on Bond with a new actor in the roll.

  • Jordan

    In all seriousness, you can't take this film's cast, who are playing classic characters and say something like "Q=Fox". The problem with this is one, the character of Q has been around since the 1960's he's just not been in the films since 2002. Also, yes there are many things that in this film were inspired by Nolan's Dark Knight. But Nolan has said many times that a lot of his inspiration has been from the Bond movies. So it's like an inspiration within an inspiration(see what I did there). And again going back to Q, his character has always supplied Bond with his gadgets/cars. If this seems a lot like Fox, then in all honesty, what you need to realize is that Fpx is inspired as a movie character by Q.

    • Owen

      I was just about to say that. Of course I can't find it now, but I remember reading a quote during the preproduction phase of 'Batman Begins' saying that the producers were taking the Bond franchise as large influence going in to the new series. Also, Christopher Nolan has been quite vocal about wanting to direct a Bond movie.

  • Garth Franklin

    Silva's motive was the most basic and one of the strongest there is - revenge propagated by betrayal. M established herself as a mother figure in his life and then personally hand delivered him to torture, disfigurement and death - why? In his case for the sake of political convenience.

    The whole film is essentially about a dysfunctional pseudo-family with M the matriarch, Silva the fair-haired older child once adored but then scorned and abandoned for not obeying his mother's rules, and Bond the younger sibling mommy's boy. Bond's death at the beginning was his abandonment by M, but he came back into the fold like a dutiful son.

    What are Silva's scenes with Bond if not the older brother trying to drive a wedge between the younger brother and the parent figure. What is the whole film if not a 'coming of age' of the Bond formula - reborn in Royale and maturing here into the adult Bond we know from the earlier movies. Unlike Bruce Wayne whose arc is either to die or leave the cowl behind for a normal life, Bond embracing his spy hood is the end of his arc - he doesn't do it because he has to, he does it because he wants to.

    I got the impression Silva's plan was to professionally and publicly destroy M, to get her to express remorse before finally killing her. Thus he would free himself of the obsession for revenge that has been brewing over the past fifteen years. If he wanted to just kill her she would've died in the gas explosion of her office.

    The theft of the drive and the explosion led to questions of her competency and ultimately an enquiry where this woman, whose decisions have been kept secret for national security ,would be out in the open and all her judgements exposed and called into question quite publicly. M was also supposed to die very publicly at that enquiry and shake the country's confidence in MI6's ability to do its job. Bond intervened though, ultimately screwing up Silva's plan and forcing him to improvise - which lead to the Straw Dogs act of the film.

    The gun scene at the end if anything emphasises this familial connection. Look at the concern he momentarily expresses at M's injury. This is where the real Nolan parallel comes in - basically all of Nolan's films are about men trying to find solace in life but are unable to because of the obsessions that drive them. That's what Silva means by "free us both."

    The hard drive is a pure macguffin, no question, and its being forgotten about seems silly - especially as all it would've taken was a quick scene in the abandoned city with Bond picking it up from Silva's lair while he was being put into the helicopters. There's also no question that it relies on a hell of a lot of convenient timing and assumptions that don't really hold up to any real world scrutiny.

    "Skyfall" does emphasise a few elements of Bond lore that hold parallels to Bruce Wayne (ie. parent's death, orphan) but I think you're making a few too many, or wrongly crediting Nolan for stuff already established about the character in both the Fleming books and the previous Bond films.

    • Darren

      To be fair, the Bond!cave and Scottish!Alfred are 100% Skyfall, not Fleming. So I do think both point to one major influence. Scottish!Alfred literally says that the Bond!cave made Bond who he is. "He wasn't a boy anymore."

      I don't mind the similarities, but it's hard to argue Skyfall is only building on Fleming, rather than acknowledging another film series that borrowed heavily from the Bond films.

      • Winchester

        To be honest I find lines like Finney's 'He wasn't a boy anymore' as psuedo-smart silliness as well. It means absolutely nothing minus any kind of context - because I don't recall being told in the film how the parents died - but it's supposed to sound like it's key to Bond.

        More generally, the whole family background for Bond (which I still question the merits of giving us - did we truly need something so derivative after 50 years? I'm dubious) is definitely lifted relatively wholesale.

        But one thing does bug me a little. Silva's plan of revenge was triggered because M traded him years prior for politics. Well, it's my understanding within the in universe Bond set up (and spy setups in general) that's what he signed up for the possibility of when he joined MI6 all those years ago. If he overthought his relationship with M and that they were closer than they were (yeah, the familial element again but it's also tired and oft used) then that's HIS mistake. Silva should have known that could Bond should have as well. I recognise the point of the revenge, I just think it's not really a good one if you work in the spy business. But it recurs frequently as if agents conveniently forget what they agreed to in the first place.

        Yet both act as if M should have given them special consideration during their respective 'final' missions. Because they were...........well...........THEM. Well, no I gotta say I agree with what M did both times because it's part of her job to call it that way, and part of theirs to implicitly accept that she could someday make that call.

        All you have is the story of Silva's and Bond's different ways of overcoming her decisions effects on them in the line of duty. Though I'm increasingly dubious even Bond would have survived such a huge fall as well without snapping his neck................but I can ignore that as it's not as important.

        • Darren

          I know that GoldenEye and Casino Royale confirmed it was Fleming's back story concerning the death of the parents: rock climbing accident, which always thought provided a nice Fruedian excuse for Bond's recklessness and fatalism, and his attitude towards responsibility for others. His parents left him to do something reckless and died, so Bond spares others the attachment.

          But the cave thing was quite unnecessary, but so pointed it couldn't help but be an explicit reference to another iconic action hero orphan.

        • Garth Franklin

          Kincaide and the cave were pure new additions and definitely hold Dark Knight parallels.

          The question is all about emphasis on Bond's being an orphan and how much that affects his character. It is a part of the character but it was never a defining part pre-"Skyfall".

          Mendes certainly puts over emphasis on it, much like the way Guy Ritchie over emphasises Sherlock Holmes' fighting skills, but even so I still got the impression it isn't anywhere near as defining a trait as it is to Wayne. That's partly because they did in a climbing accident on the other side of the world, whereas Wayne's parents were murdered in front of him.

          Wayne is almost entirely motivated by those deaths whereas with Bond it's more of a chip on his shoulder, not his driving force for being. Even if they were alive he would be the same boozer, womaniser, cold prick he always was - maybe a bit more tempered.

          What it does better explain is his loyalty to M even with her actions and attitude towards him, and one of the reasons why he didn't go down the path that Silva did.

          It's one thing to accept mentally being caught and tortured, it's another to go through it for months on end. One of the things I love about the film is that you do understand that M's toughness and coldness are necessary traits in a job that's always about making the decisions for the greater good. That doesn't make it any easier for the person who comes down on the bad side of one of those decision.

          • Winchester

            I think that's my question mark (regarding if it 'made' Bond who he is as an adult) because I'm left unconvinced this information does inform the character and lines like Finney's (which I assume are supposed to help sell the idea) don't really work in the film for me.

            I agree totally on the point that when it actually becomes reality then it be very different to the idea of it happening. But it seems to be a story point that gets quite frequently used especially in the genre and I dunno........I just tend to wonder if it's a borderline lazy crutch the genre uses to supposedly drive the story.

            • Darren

              I don't know. Fleming notoriously treated Bond as a blank slate to make him easier to write and to read. It was the third book before we discover Bond has an office. (And even then it's made clear he doesn't have a life between missions.)

              So the death of his parents is much less essential than that of the Waynes, by simple fact that Thomas and Martha Wayne died in the first page of Batman #1 and a viewer could make it all the way to GoldenEye before discovering that Bond is an orphan. (I can't even remember where it came up in Fleming's work. I'm re-reading Doctor No and no mention yet, seven books in.)

              That said, I think the orphan thing fits so well that where it is made a point (as in Skyfall and - to a lesser extent - Casino Royale), it explains a lot. Bruce never really learned to cope with his parents' death. You could argue that dressing up as Batman is a childish fantasy of a kid who refuses to accept reality. Bruce learned an exaggerated sense of responsibility and guilt from their deaths - in the comics he wanted to see the film, and in Begins he left early. He takes on an impossible and by definition unwinnable war on crime in their name. He might as well wage a war on death.

              In contrast, Bond's reaction was the opposite. He grew up. He became over sexualised. Nolan's Bruce is practically chaste for Begins and the Dark Knight, pining for Rachel. His inceased sexuality in Rises (both Selina and Talia in one film) is a sign of a healthy maturity and growth. In the comics, Bruce is one of the few heroes with an almost exclusively male inner circle, with Robin and Alfred far more essential than Batwoman or Batgirl. He lacks a Lois Lane or Mary-Jane, with Catwoman's sexuality far more threatening than most comic book girlfriends. (And their dynamic traditionally far more chaste than Bond and his girls.) It reflects a young boy's clubhouse. Bruce doesn't even drink, fearing loss of complete control of his body. Bond probably wouldn't think twice about swinging into a car chase after a martini. (Although they'd never show it, the fact he drinks on assignment suggests it.)

              Where Bruce fought impossible odds, Bond embraced fatalism. This is apparent in Fleming's Bond musing about his inevitable morality and his vow to enjoy life until he dies. In the films, it's reflected by his love of gambling carried over from the books. Regardless of the skill involved, Bond embraces chance and luck far more than Bruce.

              Bond learned from his parents death that nothing lasts forever and people die. Bruce simple believes that sheer force of will can avert those inevitabilities and redeem him.

              • Winchester

                That's a lot of very nice perspective in there. I like a lot of that. I'm not familiar with the Fleming books so I don't know what they contain about his background.

                But plenty of food for thought in yours.

  • Ducard

    Great analysis that put into words a lot of the same things that I was thinking. "Skyfall" is a very good Bond movie, but it's not a great Bond movie. "Casino Royale" still tops my list here.
    The Joker comparisons to Silva are spot on. He even looks like Ledger's character especially when he dons the police uniform. I thought Bardem struggled to find a consistent tone throughout. He vamps one moment, goes cold blooded the next before he finishes with white hot rage. I was alternately amused & intimidated by him whereas Ledger never amused me. The Joker flat out scared & creeped me out from start to finish. Mads Mikkelsen's "Le Chiffre" was more intimidating.

    • Benjamin

      And I think that's where many people complain about the Joker in TDK, that he WASN'T funny enough. Personally I found the Joker very funny at times, but in a dark, twisted, "I should not be laughing, but I am because I'm a sick person" kind of way. I think Skyfall is to Goldfinger as Casino Royale is to From Russia With Love. Casino Royale is a more character driven picture, it's a lot more low key. Skyfall is like Goldfinger, it's louder, more stylish, more action, but Skyfall still retains some of the character drama from Casino Royale where I felt Goldfinger didn't maintain any of the subtleties of From Russia With Love. But anyway, Silva to me, actually had more humor than the Joker but was equally menacing in that unhinged, "dude this guy is bat-crap crazy" kind of way.

  • Benjamin

    Here is my theory that MAY explain the seemingly counterproductive actions of Silva. It all boils down to the fact that Silva wanted to kill M, he wanted to humiliate M, the fact that he managed to humiliate MI6, I think, was just a byproduct of that, he stole the hard drive to get M's attention. Now here's where I think I can explain away, at least seemingly, the conflicting actions of Silva, he fully expected to successfully kill M at the hearing. By killing M at the hearing, he will have accomplished his goal, the last thing M experiences before she dies is her personal humiliation and her professional humiliation, and that she "pays for sins." I also hypothesize that Silva, had he killed M at the hearing, would have subsequently killed himself, his goal accomplished. In the end, getting MI6, getting Bond, was never the goal, Bond was just in the way. The assault at Skyfall was Silva's last ditch effort, pulling out all the stops, and just making a mad-dash to M, kind of like the ferries in TDK, it was the Joker's last ditch plan to accomplish his goal, which was to show Batman the inherently selfish and evil nature of Gotham's citizenry and why it was pointless for Batman to continue to protect them. To me, Silva, for all the cool philosophizing he does with Bond, at the core, has a simple motivation, revenge against the person who betrayed him, M. His hatred for M is more than his hatred for MI6, I think, again I'm just guessing, that he hates the person more than the institution, although he does harbor dislike for the institution. That to me is where Silva and the Joker do differ, Joker's trying to prove a point, Silva is just out for revenge. He tries to prove a point to Bond regarding M, but ultimately that point is secondary to his true objective.

  • Tommy

    All I can say is that I'm glad I'm not the only one who thought of the exact same thing you've written up in this article.

  • John

    You people need to watch more films.

    The fact that there is a picture comparison between Q and Lucius Fox suggesting that Q is the impersonator of Fox is an absurd, ill conceived joke!

    The Quartermaster/Q character pre-dates any incarnation of Lucius Fox by 30 YEARS!

    You want a parallel to be drawn between "Skyfall" and another series? Try the JAMES BOND FRANCHISE, which has been running for 50 years now.

    The Dark Knight Saga just sprouted in 2005 and only gained immense popularity in 2008. Sure the Batman character existed in the 1940's, but these absurd comparisons are solely being drawn from The Dark Knight Trilogy as if that series INVENTED such things as:

    1) A deranged mastermind: seriously? Heath Ledger's Joker was the FIRST villain to have long hair, a tench coat, a physical deformity, and a master plan?

    Lest we forget Heath based his performance on Sid Viscous and Alex De Large from "A Clockwork Orange", or did Stanley Kubrick use the De Leorean to come into the future and steal the idea of the Joker and use it for his film?

    2) A housekeeper/father figure: You MUST be joking. Michael Caine's Alfred the Butler was the FIRST father figure/butler EVER? There has never been a housekeeper/mentor in cinema before him?

    3) A Dark Character Driven Sequel-- The Empire Strikes Back didn't do this? The Wrath of Khan didn't do this?

    You "film goers" seem to believe these tropes started with Chris Nolan's films, and it frightens me to think that you all are active in the film world, because your ignorance is staggering.

    Fill your Netflix ques STAT and with films that came out before Tarantino and Nolan.

    Watch some John Ford, Stanley Kubrick, John Huston, Sergio Leone, David Lean.

    • Brad Brevet

      You need to read a little more closely.

    • Darren

      You should be careful. You might end up with a few splinters demolishing that strawman.

    • Jess

      Actually, there are similarities between the two, due to the fact that Sam Mendes has admitted to both being a fan of and taking inspiration from Nolan's trilogy.

  • Jess

    This is a really thoughtful and interesting analysis. However, while I fully understand the parallels between Silva and The Joker, I always saw closer similarities between Silva and Harvey Dent/Two Face.

    While we mostly see Dent as a 'good guy' and only see Silva as a villain, I believe Silva is just Harvey +so-many years, had he not died.

    The first parallel is due to his general appearance, most notably. They have a similar hairstyle, solid figure and smart dress sense - even if Silva is much more flamboyant.

    The greatest similarity I see, however, is that they both began loyal and heroic, before become corrupt by higher or stronger powers. M destroyed Silva, much like the Joker and the death of Rachel destroyed Dent. A line in the Dark Knight is "You either die a hero, or live long enough to see yourself become the villain", an idea which is definitely portrayed by both characters.

    Another is their facial disfigurations that they both got at the moment they were corrupted and mark the beginning of their villainous futures.

  • Seth Burke

    Here is a side by side video of Skyfall and Dark Knight:

    In terms of shot composition, there seems to be some similarities.

  • Viper4

    "In exploring his character so much of the film began to fall apart and/or never really comes together, a lot having to do with the character's motivation and reasoning."

    Not surprisingly, as critics are want to do, two important words are admitted from this excerpt of the analysis: "for me".

    "In exploring his character so much of the film began to fall apart FOR ME and/or never really comes together, a lot having to do with the character's motivation and reasoning."

    As someone who writes scripts and stage plays I find the criticism of "Skyfall"'s similarities to "Dark Knight" irrelevant. It is axiomatic that NO art is original; it builds and borrows from that which came before it. Stravinsky used the baselines and rhythmic modalities of other composers in a ballet he wrote. When critics slammed him for this his reply was merely, "You respect, I love."

    Steve Jobs himself acknowledged something Picasso said: "Good artists copy: great artists steal." Jobs even went so far as to admit he was "shameless" in stealing other ideas. Does this admission make Apple products "fall apart" under scrutiny? David Bowie considered himself "a tasteful thief". T.S. Eliot said immature poets imitate; great poets steal. He also said bad artists defaced that which they stole; great poets turned it into something better--or at least different.

    It is even thought true by numerous historians that Aristotle accompanied Alexander the Great to Alexandria in 333 B.C., looted the great library there, using the collection as the foundation of his entire system of philosophy and science.

    The fundamental question about "Skyfall" is not "How similar is it to "Dark Knight" but
    was it transformational and the answer, in the context of the Bond franchise is a resounding "Yes"--in my opinion and Roger Moore's as well.