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Bond is back and better than ever

I attempted to explain to my wife – who has never seen a James Bond film – the appeal of the franchise this way: “It’s kind of like Jason Bourne meets Batman meets Casanova … in a tuxedo … with a suave, British sort of sophisticated banter.”

I think she’s still confused.

And to be honest, my fascination with Agent 007 ended years ago, when I decided there was too much Casanova in the story for my tastes (seriously, the title of the 1983 Bond film was “Octopussy”?). I hadn’t seen a Bond film in years and had never seen Daniel Craig in the role … until now.

So, boy, was I in for a treat with the artful and thoroughly enjoyable thrill ride now in theaters, “Skyfall.”

Debuting 50 years after the first Bond film, 1962’s “Dr. No,” “Skyfall” is the 23rd film in the franchise (or 25th, depending on whether you count the “unofficial” ones), and though my lapse in watching the films renders me unqualified to compare it to previous installments (as Bond fans do obsessively), I wouldn’t be surprised to see “Skyfall” make many Top 5 lists, even among the faithful.

Actor Daniel Craig, naturally, puts his own spin on 007, with quite a bit more Jason Bourne and a darker, rougher edge to him than, say, the more impish Sean Connery, who launched the franchise as the original Bond.

“Skyfall” also tones down the Casanova element, focusing more on Bond and his story than on his femme fatale – a choice I find makes the film far more palatable than some of its predecessors.

But what really makes “Skyfall” shine is its recognition of the legend that Bond has become. Part homage, part origins story, this telling of Bond’s tale is filled with constant references to the previous films, twists and reveals (I won’t spoil them, no matter how badly I want to spill the beans) that actually caused the long-time fans in my theater to cheer with glee.

Gorgeous cars, stunning women, exotic, obnoxiously opulent sets that are dazzling to behold, gadgets, action, danger, sophistication, lavish opening credits, the “Bond” music – whatever you have ever loved about Bond, it can be found in “Skyfall.”

And “Skyfall” has one more thing going for it: the masterful actress Dame Judi Dench in the role of “M.” The winner of an Academy Award, two Golden Globes and seven Lawrence Olivier Awards, the queen of British acting brings a Shakespearean gravitas to the film that announces immediately this is not just another action flick, but a work of art. She is a joy and a privilege to watch on screen.

And speaking of a work of art, the opening credits and title song (performed by Adele) are practically a mini-movie in and of themselves.

But what about the film’s message? It’s worldview? It’s cultural impact?

“Skyfall,” despite continuing a franchise that began 50 years ago, builds its storyline around a very contemporary theme: cyber terrorism.

In a world where a hacker halfway across the world can blow up a building with a cell phone call, crash a company’s stock price with a click of the “enter” button, it’s a whole new world … or is it?

“Skyfall” casts as foils to Bond new, young security agents; new, young politicians; and new, young-minded villains. These haughty youngsters try to relegate the aging 007 and even more aging M to the dustbin of history. It’s a study in the sophomoric, in the arrogant, “wise-in-your-own-eyes” attitude of youth.

And it’s an attitude that James Bond is more than happy to put in its place.

For the most part, “Skyfall” is just a movie about the good guys battling the tide of evil as it morphs into a new face in the 21st century, but at a time when America’s younger, tech-savvy generations seem to fill every comment section on every news article and YouTube video with rude, arrogant, condescending but ultimately ignorant and foolish comments, perhaps movie audiences could use a dose of “respect your elders, whippersnapper.”

So bravo, Bond, for coming back in style.

Content advisory: