Marking fifty years of the franchise, Skyfall is a celebration of the franchise, a cynical and unpleasant film that aptly demonstrates not only Bond's age, but also how difficult it is to justify the continual existence of a character who has failed to update in any meaningful way. That the film has received what appears to be an endless amount of rave reviews is not representative of the quality of the film--Sam Mendes has, at best, directed a dull thriller--but rather of the failure of society to reach a level of equality where extreme portrayals of heterosexuality are condemned for the subtext they convey in relation to homosexuality, women, and anyone who is not white.
Yes, I did not like Skyfall.
I am sure you're shocked.
At the heart of Bond the franchise is the idea that no one woman can be better than Bond. On a certain level, this is true of everyone who is supportive or goes against Bond: he is the hero, after all, and he will prevail. And to a degree, this is true of the majority of mainstream films where a good guy and a bad guy fight it out. But very few films celebrate the masculinity in the way that the Bond franchise does, destroying any chance of meaningful relationships or character development within its narrative. Indeed, very few films, much less franchises, have had such a directed and purposeful disregard for the women that appear in the films. It is this fact that primarily reveals the beating heart of the misogyny exists within the Bond films, because Bond must dominate women not just sexually, but intellectually and physically.
Since the mid nineties, after the role of M was taken by Judi Dench, that misogyny has been held back, to a degree. It has still existed, but with the franchise restart in Casino Royale, where Bond was stripped of the gadgets and brought closer to the character of the original novels, where Bond is more an anti-hero than a hero, the misogyny has become less a part of the franchise, but rather a part of the character that a good film maker could twist and turn to his purpose to characterise Bond. That is he, by the way: there has never been a female director in any of the twenty-three franchised films or three non-franchised. But, regardless of that small aside, what Skyfall does in a truly tragic sense, is take the misogyny out of Bond as a character and return it to the franchise, making it not so much a character trait, but rather a filmic one, where all women must be beneath Bond, sexually, intellectually, and physically. Believe it or not, Skyfall achieves this by turning M into a Bond girl.
It is awful to watch. From the opening scenes, Judi Dench's M is reduced to a character of failure, of someone who makes the wrong decisions, again and again, who is haunted by her past and relies upon Bond to save her. The characterisation is made even more pointed when she is contrasted against Ralph Fiennes' Mallory. That's not a spoiler, by the way. If you can't figure out that a character called Mallory played by Ralph Fiennes is going to be the next M the moment he appears on screen, then you probably think the world is flat. But Fiennes Mallory is everything that Dench's M is not: a man of action, confident, secure, and willing to interrupt a woman and make her know that she's talking too much and needs to get to the fucking point, woman. Either that or that kitchen. Mallory, a man who'd like a good steak and a good brandy, can also shoot, take a hit, and wear a vest beneath his suit jacket. Judi Dench's M cannot, because, lets face it, M needs strong men around her to save her not just from the mistakes she has made, but the failure of her own gender as well.
As I said, your enjoyment of Skyfall is based entirely on how well you accept the misogynistic heart that Sam Mendes has restarted in the Bond franchise. For a lot of people, I suspect it is a return to what has made Bond great, a return to excellent Bond films, but to me, it is an ethically unpalatable film for the 21st Century.