Disclaimer: I have a rather large anti-Bond bias to begin with. Expect anything. (also, some moderate-to-heavy spoilers.)
Andrew above believes that Skyfall "should not be watched too critically". Being cursed with the dreaded critical and analytical genes that make up "mathematics student", I don't have much choice in the matter. Nevertheless, I have seen it and I shall review it. In fact, I have the (dis?)pleasure of coming into this with fresh eyes - as someone who is neither a fanboy nor someone with a passing interest in the franchise. I have seen it as a standalone film - a rarity after fifty years of "Bond. James Bond." I'll say straight away, for those of you disinterested in my biased viewpoint, that as a stand alone film it's not great, but Bond fans will enjoy it. Guaranteed.
First and foremost, it was interesting seeing the differing views of the people coming out of the cinema, which I can categorise into two rough groups: those that love the 007 franchise and all its glory, and me. Every single one of us watched as James Bond jumped headfirst into his latest mission: retrieve a stolen hard disk and do whatever the hell you like to the guy carrying it. Unfortunately the mission goes awry early on, and Bond has to deal with the aftermath of this failure by doing what Bond does best. Yes? Nearly. In fact, that was a heavily recurring theme in the film - the old ways are the best ways. This return to older, more familiar Bond elements can be summed up with two key trope-lampshading lines from the dialogue: first, "What were you expecting? An exploding pen? We don't do that stuff any more," and second, "Is there anything left of the old 007?"
To answer the first one: Yes. I was expecting exploding pens, or at least some other kind of deus ex machina that was (by definition) over-the-top and hilarious to see the results of. Isn't that what Bond is all about? Poking fun at that idea, among others? Maybe. But Skyfall isn't. Skyfall seems like it's more about poking fun at its predecessors than anything else (but obviously not limited to the Daniel Craig movies). And yes, there is a lot left of the old 007, but it does seem very outdated. The Aston Martin, long since replaced, became a plot point as opposed to a Macguffin (read: crime against my sensibilities). "Eve Moneypenny" jumped into the fray, but to be honest, it wasn't a Pussy Galore moment. Other minor bits and pieces such as 007's martini were blended in with all the subtlety of a brick being launched by a catapult that also happens to play death metal music turned all the way up to eleven whenever the big red "Launch" button is pressed. Face it - the Bond creators have tried too hard to rejuvenate the old Bond, and drawn too much attention to it. A few passing references might've worked.
On the other hand, I noted that the movie was quite good at slightly-more-subtly juxtaposing the old and the new in a couple of other ways. The "new", fancy MI6 headquarters is blown up early in the film and a relocation to WWII-era tunnels is necessitated. A lot of the first maybe two-thirds of the movie is about stealing back a hard drive with a list of Agents on it, then frantically trying to trace it, only to have its encryption cracked and the agency toyed with thereafter; in the final third, electronics disappear completely and the movie takes a Macgyver-like twist when Bond, M and Kincaid are left alone in the freezing Scottish countryside with little more than hunting rifles and dynamite. (On that note: I get a little narky when people use the words "hack" and "virus" erroneously. Good to see that Skyfall avoided that pitfall. Ahem.)
Skyfall seemed also to pride itself on Chekhov's gun moments. In fact, I lost count - probably upwards of a dozen. As a result, the ending was made almost predictable and the rest of the movie seemed drawn-out1. I say "almost" predictable since the remarkably unpredictable Pyrrhic victory at the end was fairly well-executed. Not amazingly, but fairly well. Of course, I'm told Pyrrhic victories are fairly common these days, and especially for Bond. Other Bond classics were seen in spades - and drawn-out as such. Gratuitous explosions? Dime-a-dozen. Comedy? Well, no, but there were funny bits. M being totally unshaken by everything to the point of near insanity? Done, done, and done. ...nearly.
Nearly. There was one moment during the film where M cracked. I have to make the note that Judi Dench's acting was quite amazing. In fact, for the most part, the acting was impressive. I've heard a lot about how "X Bond actor was better than Y Bond actor" and so on, but I tend to ignore it all and say Daniel Craig slots himself right into the role quite well, particularly for Skyfall. The cinematography and visual effects were quite good, too. I admit, I really want to go swimming in that rooftop pool after seeing the film.
A few other minor points to add: "Skyfall" does not sound like an old house, it sounds like a song title - maybe some epic trance track. The film's length, at two and a half hours, was a bit too long, and Silva's dogged pursuit of M was too dogged by the end. We don't see Q after his heroic disobeying-of-authority and we never learn what happens to him, if anything. As with other Bond films, plot holes abound and Silva was always far too far ahead of MI6. Finally, a train car in the Tube was labelled "96069", and if this wasn't deliberate, then it sure as hell deserved to be.
My anti-Bond bias puts the film at 3/10, but I'm better than that. I see the merits of it, and officially give it 5/10. Good acting, visuals and chuckles counteract the reminiscing, surrealism and length to make it tolerable for me to watch... once.
1 Having said that, I don't know if this was the creators' fault or merely if TVtropes has ruined my life.