I'd been meaning to see this one for a long time, plus there's one between I'm still behind on. I'm talking about the James Bond franchise, now in its 50th year.
Skyfall is more comic book in the Batman sense, a little darker and exploring roots. My Friendly movie mate (Quakers are going to movies more as a part of their practice) thought it lower budget, or at least slimmed down, but with computers added. There's an "eternal return" aspect as the formula gets followed, with old parts swapped out for new upgrades. Moneypenny gets a facelift. Bond is still getting old. He and M are somewhat over the hill and their powers are at least half from beyond the grave at this point. The opening credits play up the dead theme more than most, but then he's into "resurrection" (direct quote).
The archetype of M is celebrated. She has her posse of freaks, not unlike Picard in a wheelchair, husbanding X-Men. Octavia Butler novels came to mind, as I contemplated freakishness, a theme with me these days. Bond has several sixth senses. The part where he says "stop, go back" when they're looking at the computer, is another bead in the necklace of cliches, but also shows his John Nash like ability to pattern recognize. We could call it that. He's seen all the Bond films, by definition, through many lifetimes, and knows the pattern language.
The computer display (what the new Q is using), looks awfully Struck-like, talking Gereld de Jong and elastic interval geometry, Tim Tyler and others (I was an early adopter, had a first Synergetics pow wow about that, with Kenneth Snelson also a chief inspiration (yes, they get lumped together a lot, with good reason)). This was before I explored Sam's Flextegrity concept and prototypes.
Back to the posse, things can go wrong and agents can swallow their poison and not actually die. Or rather, who they were somewhat dies. Bond has some bardo states in the freezing cold water, and the first time is not the last. He stays in the game though as he senses his talents are needed. MI6 is soon ablaze in his absence, as the alchemy goes awry and M's posse starts to implode. Bond was a needed compression member. Without him, that chapter comes to an end.
Shanghai is as Denny describes it, electrified and bright. The height of the many skyscrapers plays a role. Another cliche for the necklace: an elevator on steroids. We don't get much of a window into why we're here. Shanghai is not implicated. Just a backdrop this time. Chinese are not bad guys, or North Koreans. The evil is a rogue agent and it's when unleashed and undisciplined by English ethics that we see the freakish abilities more. Bond is a different mix, has other talents.
My movie mate had a good idea for an English style bar in the neighborhood, that night a victim of a pub crawl so we lucked out getting a last table in the back. Our analysis continued, turning to other topics. The movie itself encouraged exploring Freudian themes, or at least probing beneath the surface about this archetype, and its association with freaks on the fringe, in the shadows, and in this world rather uniformly armed and dangerous, though moving towards more computerized.
In the backstory, M had indeed abandoned one of her agents in hopes of smoothing relations with China. There was some "greater good" reasoning. One might remember Gary Powers, the U2 pilot, and the anger some felt at his coming back from the dead. Bond goes straight to M's apartment, knowing that in coming back from the shadows, you need some real friends. The future M questioned his judgement in not wanting to fade away in what could have been a kind of bliss. Commitment, and a duty to the franchise, keep him on, past what bureau testing might advise.