There are many good things about urban Malaysia.
Most notably, the museums, the malls, the cinemas and the food.
And, as I pick up the boy from KLIA on a day so grey and rainy that I shiver in the air-conditioning and wonder whether I’ll need a coat against the imagined cold, I’m figuring we should fit in at least three of the four.
Because Skyfall is out in Malaysia, weeks ahead of the US, and, more relevantly, Australia.
Zac has seen a bunch of movies I’d liked to have seen with him over his happy couple of weeks in Oz with his dad.
Skyfall is mine, my precious, mine!
We wants it! We needs it!
Must have the Skyfall!
One of many fab things about becoming a parent is these kind of franchises. James Bond, like Doctor Who, was part of the rhythm of adolescence and young adulthood for my parents.
I grew up with both Bond and Doctor Who. And now my son is growing up with them too.
We are staying in Bukit Bintang, a neon-lit enclave in downtown KL. Streets of Malaysian-Chinese eateries ripe with the stench of durian alternate with streets of Malaysian-Indian places, knocking out flaky roti chennai and meats of every flavour provided it’s curry.
Cheap guesthouses line the alleyways, and ropy nightclubs open up each weekend under the glitter of the Petronas Twin Towers and the spangle of the radio tower.
It’s gaudy. It’s touristic.
But… it’s central and we like it.
We are also within shouting range of the ginormous Berjaya Times Square, a 12-storey mall that comes complete with a two-storey indoor theme park that spans the width of the building.
Besides what’s debatably Asia’s longest indoor rollercoaster, it boasts several multiplex cinemas.
Needless to say, as with last time we visited, Berjaya Times Square is firmly on Zac’s map of KL.
I love going to the cinema in Asia. But I especially love going to the cinema in KL.
One of the lessons we’ve learned over 1000 days of RTW travel is that sometimes it’s the mundane stuff that’s most revealing – the way an urban, trendy, Bangkok cinema crowd will stand for the king, the sweet cheese popcorn they guzzle in the Philippines, the abysmal dubbing of Vietnam, the way you have to bring a layer, because in the wealthy multiplexes the A/C’s turned down icy cold.
Indonesia, truth be told, ain’t a cinema place. For a good while the government wasn’t on speaking terms with Hollywood distributors and though some multiplexes survive in the big towns, most Indonesians pick up the pirate DVDs for a few cents, or stream downloads on whatever device they have.
So stopping over in KL en route from Bali to Nepal and Everest Base Camp, we need all the consumerist crazy we can get.
We buy our tickets at the eleventh floor box office – “How old is he?” “Thirteen,” I lie, without a blush – but they’ve only got seats in the first floor cinema now, so we work our way to a lift and manoeuvre through the queues of folk awaiting Windows 8 tablets, the fast car raffles and promotion gals, the waft of lard from the foodcourt.
And – wow! — Skyfall is brilliant.
Bond, like Doctor Who, reflects, at its best, the anxieties and fears of its era – nuclear war in the 1960s, terrorism in the 80s, media manipulation in the 2000s, and, in this decade, cyber-terrorism, identity and the interwebz.
We’re gripped. Not least because we’ve visited most of the places where Skyfall is set. From the opening car and bike chase through and over central Istanbul to a dramatic battle in a Shanghai skyscraper, from a glittering, retro-dynastic Macau to a subterranean London and eerie, desaturated “Scottish” moors, we love it.
The explosions are huge. The effects are epic. The opening sequence and the theme tune work.
Heineken is a low point, but the drama carries it. And, in self-referentially grappling with Bond as a dinosaur, it updates the franchise enough, I think, that Zac, who has, like me, seen almost every Bond film out there, can inflict it on his children when he reaches my age.
That’s if I don’t beat him to it.
I bore him with it later. We watch quite a few films together and tend to talk about them.
Not that I know jack about film. That’s his dad’s turf.
Zac is a bit of a Kubrick geek, though neither of us could cope with Spartacus. We had watched The Shining shortly before we went to see my friend A making a film in the Wadi Rum.
“Yeah,” I say confidently. “You know those long tracking shots he achieves. That’s what it’s famous for…”
“Actually,” A interjects, embarrassedly. “That’s Steadicam. You can’t do it with a tracking shot. Because otherwise you’d see the rails. So you need to have someone running with the camera…”
Anyway. It’s one of those.
“You know the name of the actor who plays the bad guy, right?” I say.
“You’re TOTALLY going to know it. You’ve seen him. He’s sinister in the other film you’ve seen him in. TOTALLY sinister…”
“I don’t know him.”
“When I tell you, you’ll recognise it. You’ve watched the film at least twice with me and Grandpa. No Country for Old Men…”
“Don’t know it.”
“It’s got Tommy Lee Jones! It starts with corpses after a gun battle in New Mexico and suitcases full of cash. Javier Bardem’s the bad guy. He kills people in this really unusual way….”
“Yeah,” Zac says, wearily. “I know he does it with a canister full of compressed air. But I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen the film.”
“Javier Bardem,” I say, triumphantly. “Like Christopher Walken, or Dennis Hopper, was MADE to be a Bond villain.”
My son rolls his eyes.
It’s good to have him back.
“Hey!” I say. “Fancy watching Goodfellas tonight?”
“Nah,” he says. “I’ve got six hours of Futurama to mainline.”
It’s REALLY good to have him back.