Though much is taken, much abides; and though / We are not now that strength which in old days / Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are; / One equal temper of heroic hearts, / Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will / To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.
What made Skyfall the highest-grossing film in the UK in 2002, and win several accolades, including Outstanding British Film, Best Sound Editing and Best Original Song?
James Bond has no lack of duplicates. For example, Ethan Hunt in Mission Impossible is his counterpart with the same heroic heart and deeds. The clichéd elements of an action thriller find full expression in Skyfall. The overall structure echoes the pattern of a mythological hero’s adventure. A crisis happens and calls for the savior/hero’s rescue. With the supernatural aid, the hero steps into the mysterious land, like the dark forest or deep ocean, slays the monster and returns with a final boon to benefit his society. Let’s see how James Bond in Skyfall fits into this pattern. The crisis Bond was assigned to solve was to capture M’s rival, a former agent turning into a traitor. The dangerous criminal is no less threatening than the ancient monsters. Bond the hero/savior is lightly armed to fight against the traitor with powerful weapons---a perfect replica of David against Goliath, the triumph of the small over the big, the reincarnation of David’s bow and stone in Bond’s knife. Of course, the bullet-proof hero undergoes trials and tribulations physically and mentally--- the climbing to heights and diving to bottoms, the chasing through tunnels and the setting of traps. The hero/ savior must explore the dark land with a supernatural aid. For Bond, his aid always comes in the form of a beautiful female figure, be it White or Black. This time, it’s M and his partner, a Black beauty, as well as an abused Oriental lady. The trio constitutes Bond’s aid, leading him into the dangerous place, the mysterious Oriental land, Shanghai. There, he captured the very monster, but unfortunately, didn’t slay him right at the spot. After all, Bond is the law-abiding British, a gentleman who adheres to the law. The traitor should be left at the hands of the government. And what’s the final boon to bestow upon his fellow men? The spreading of the virtue of patriotism and self-sacrifice.
James Bond is distinguished from other agents in that he exudes the very flavor of the British--something distinctive in the British civilization, continuous and persisting, stretching into the future and past. It is the one not only characterized by “winding roads,” “green fields” and “red pillar-boxes” as appearing in the scenes of the film. It is also the invisibly patriotic sentiment that pervades the British hearts, soothing and inspiring them in times of hardship. Patriotism has entered into the British soul, so to speak. Despite the changing of times, such a uniting force never fades. George Orwell once indicated that patriotism, although taking different forms in different classes, runs like a connecting thread through the British: “Up to a point, the sense of national unity is a substitute for a ‘world-view’. Just because patriotism is all but universal and not even the rich are uninfluenced by it, there can be moments when the whole nation suddenly swings together and does the same thing, like a herd of cattle facing a wolf.” James Bond films feature the crisis that threatens the nation. The hero/savior manifests the very unifying force of patriotism. He represents the collective consciousness of the British people---loyal to the nation and invincible. The great British Empire has seemingly lost its splendor. But no, it has James Bond's boss, M, to remind people worldwide that “Though much is taken, much abides; and though / We are not now that strength which in old days / Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are; / One equal temper of heroic hearts, / Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will / To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.” With the endorsement of Tennyson’s lines, James Bond cannot be Ethan Hunt. He remains a British hero forever.