Skyfall - James Bond At Fifty Is Better Than Ever

Oct. 17, 2012
Technology Editor Bill Wong gives his take on Skyfall, the latest movie in the James Bond series starring Daniel Craig. It is the 50th anniversery of the first film, Dr. No.

Fifty years ago Sean Connery hit the silver screen in Dr. No as the sauve James Bond, Agent 007 with a license to kill. I was hooked when I saw this film and have seen every one since multiple times. I had all available at the time on laser disk eventually moving to DVDs and now Blu-Ray so I am definitely a fan.

I was lucky enough to be able to preview Sony Pictures latest Bond film, Skyfall, starring Daniel Craig and directed by Sam Mendes. I will not give away any of the plot and I will let other critics handle the movie's content but this is one film you need to see. If you are a Bond fan then try very hard not to learn anything about the film until you see it. It is worth the wait. Skyfall is one of the best films of the series if not the number one to date.

Director Sam Mendes and producers Michael Wilson and Barbara Broccoli have crafted a film that is new and timely as it is reminiscent. Bond's classic Aston Martin DB5 (Fig. 1) makes an appearance and not just as a slick looking car. It first appeared in Goldfinger in 1964.

Figure 1. Bond's iconinc Aston Martin DB5 makes a reappearance in Skyfall.

I met one of the men who worked on one of the original Aston Martins for earlier Bond films. They actually had a number of different instances for different scenes providing different functionality from oil slicks and smoke to ejection seats and machine guns. I do not know for certain but I would bet there were at least a couple of cars used with this movie because they do scratch the paint a little in one scene.

This brings me to what I really wanted to cover about Skyfall because I have been looking at movie making technology for awhile. Movies like Prometheus (see Prometheus Takes Flight With Cutting-Edge VFX Technology) and The Amazing Spider-Man (see Spider-Man Swings Through A Virtual 3D World) have been taking advantage in advances in digital and 3D technology to deliver spectacular movies. It requires technology on the recording and delivery side and it is not cheap although it is significantly less expensive and the costs continue to drop.

For some movies, such as these where many of the scenes are out of this world, the use of CGI (computer generated imagery) is extensive and critical to the success of the film. Sam Mendes employs more conventional camera work in Skyfall instead of relying heavily on CGI (Fig. 2). The movie was shot for IMAX but not 3D. In my opinion, 3D would not have added much to this film even with the array of special effects and action scenes.

Figure 2. Sam Mendes employs digital cameras but used more conventional camera work in Skyfall instead of relying heavily on CGI.

This is not to say that Skyfall is devoid of CGI or heavy use of technology in the shooting the movie. Still, there was a good bit of mechanical special effects under the pervue of Chris Colbould, Special Effects Supervisor and Miniature Effects Supervisor, that needed CGI to deliver the final product.

For example, there is a scene with a train crash where a full set was actually built. Two full size train carriages were built for the scene. They weighed several tons. Ten remote controlled cameras were used to record the scene and no one was allowed on the set for safety reasons because those train cars were literally crashing through the set. It is a miracle of CGI that Bond survives the episode.

Ok, I gave away a little but you know Bond makes it to the end of the film. Or do you?

The filming required extensive choreography and meticulous takes for safety and creative reasons. The end result are fast paced scenes that took weeks to do even with a little CGI assistance. Scenes tend to be filmed in short snippets based on storyboards.

Sony also provided some other fun facts about the film because things were a little different in preparation and on set. Sam Mendes actually had the actors do a full read through in preparation. Sam has done a good number of stage productions and brings that expertise to the the screen.

The cast actually received live weapons training before filming. They burned through 200,000 rounds of ammunition. Patrice, one of the characters, actually uses a GLOCK 18 that holds 100 rounds and can spit them all out in five seconds.

Check out the tarmac on the Istanbul streets when the motorcycles are flying by. The streets were sprayed with Coca Cola so they would not slip. How about that for product placement.

So definitely check out Skyfall. Javier Bardem playing Raoul Silva is a very memorable and haunting antagonist. Ben Whishaw is the new Q with any comedy being secondary. Look for future appearances and more chemistry with Bond.

Q provides Bond with two rather basic items that get some use but Q's interaction in this film is much more extensive. Likewise, it is Q's computer expertise that inadvertently helps the bad guys and eventually the good guys in the long run.

Finally, one reason I like this film is that is more than just about James Bond. Judi Dench delivers a rendition of M that is more extensive and more important to the plot than any M in the past.

And the Bond girls, Naomie Harris as Eve and Berenice Marlohe as Severine. Let's just say that one will be around for the next film.

Let me know what you think of the film when it comes out. Just don't give way the plot.

About the Author

William G. Wong | Senior Content Director - Electronic Design and Microwaves & RF

I am Editor of Electronic Design focusing on embedded, software, and systems. As Senior Content Director, I also manage Microwaves & RF and I work with a great team of editors to provide engineers, programmers, developers and technical managers with interesting and useful articles and videos on a regular basis. Check out our free newsletters to see the latest content.

You can send press releases for new products for possible coverage on the website. I am also interested in receiving contributed articles for publishing on our website. Use our template and send to me along with a signed release form. 

Check out my blog, AltEmbedded on Electronic Design, as well as his latest articles on this site that are listed below. 

You can visit my social media via these links:

I earned a Bachelor of Electrical Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology and a Masters in Computer Science from Rutgers University. I still do a bit of programming using everything from C and C++ to Rust and Ada/SPARK. I do a bit of PHP programming for Drupal websites. I have posted a few Drupal modules.  

I still get a hand on software and electronic hardware. Some of this can be found on our Kit Close-Up video series. You can also see me on many of our TechXchange Talk videos. I am interested in a range of projects from robotics to artificial intelligence. 

Sponsored Recommendations


To join the conversation, and become an exclusive member of Electronic Design, create an account today!