One Skyfall Scene Was Inspired By The Roger Moore Bond Era

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When Daniel Craig took over the role of James Bond in 2006, the once-durable franchise was showing signs of rust. Pierce Brosnan's run had collapsed into a heap of terminal silliness with 2002's "Die Another Day," and there didn't seem to be a clear way forward for the character in a post-9/11 world. Matt Damon's humorless, amnesia-stricken Jason Bourne seemed more in step with the gung-ho times than a tuxedoed MI6 agent whose focus is split between saving the world and bedding beautiful women.

"Casino Royale" was a back-to-Ian-Fleming basics effort with a smattering of Bourne-style parkour action. For the first time since "On Her Majesty's Secret Service," Bond fell deeply in love, and had his heart shattered for his troubles. The action set pieces were as spectacular as ever, but they had a bruisingly grounded quality to them this time out. Shorn of wit and overt gadgetry, Craig's Bond was a straight-up killer who actually gave a damn. He felt vaguely real. Perhaps too real. Because after more of the dour same in "Quantum of Solace," audiences were starting to miss the old, rakish 007.

Why be a secret agent if you can't verbally delight in the demise of your foes?

When Academy Award-winning filmmaker Sam Mendes unexpectedly signed on to direct Craig's third Bond flick, "Skyfall," no one was expecting a more frivolous 007. Mendes was a serious craftsman of prestige films. Though he'd just made a whimsical road comedy in "Away We Go," he was known primarily for the barbed satire of "American Beauty" and his brutally faithful adaptation of Richard Yates's "Revolutionary Road."

So it was a shock of sorts to see Mendes and Craig cutting loose with a lightly retro Bond. The opening credits song by Adele (easily the best Bond theme since A-Ha's "The Living Daylights") was accompanied by a Maurice Binder-esque montage that would've been right at home at the outset of a Roger Moore installment. Indeed, Mendes wasn't done referencing the Moore films (which were the ones he grew up on). In one of the movie's most amusing scenes, he pays unabashed homage to "Live and Let Die."

In a sequence at The Golden Dragon casino in Macau, Bond and a burly henchman grapple off the railing of a decorative bridge into a pit where a few famished Komodo dragons are lurking. 007's adversary is neutralized by one, but when another lurches at Bond, he hops off its head and swings himself off a light fixture to the bridge, where he's rescued by Moneypenny (Naomie Harris). This is clearly a cheeky nod to Moore's escape from a crocodile farm in "Live and Let Die."

A dash of '70s Bond

On the Blu-ray commentary for "Skyfall," Mendes discusses his rationale for lightening the tone of Craig's Bond run. "One of the things Daniel and I talked about in pre-production was trying to get some of the humor back in that he felt might've been lost in the last movie or two," he says. "One of the most difficult things, actually, was to not do it in a gaggy way."

So how did he pull it off in this instance? He says:

"[It] was very important to me that you don't see too much of [the Komodo dragons], and that it's over as a sequence quite swiftly. This was something I've not done before, which is stage a sequence around a computer-generated animal, which people are, in this case, pointing at and looking at without it actually being there. It made me, how shall I say this, not want to do blue screen pictures and deal with computer generated creatures in the future because it's very, very difficult to judge."

It works just fine in the context of the film, which gets deathly serious as it moves into its third act. Still, it's nice to see Craig dust himself off after his Komodo encounter, and remark to Moneypenny, "It's the circle of life." There's a reason the Bourne franchise sputtered to a halt, while Bond will live to die another day. It can't be all killing, all the time.