It been almost two years since the James Bond movie Skyfall was released. The movie took over a billion dollars on the world market and cemented its hero's status as a modern icon who is worthy of consideration even when set against the backdrop of a cinematic landscape defined by the success of heroes that arose from comic books. Two years on from Skyfall, does it still hold up as a genre classic or is it simply a better interpretation of a character limited by his own history and iconography?

Skyfall was the first James Bond movie I had ever seen in which the audience gave a stirring round of applause as the credits rolled. I found myself shaking hands with my fellow cinema goers and the collective experience was truly astounding, I then asked myself why?

As a teenager I remember that the first James Bond movie I ever saw was Pierce Brosnan's first entry, Goldeneye (1995). I had always had a prejudicial approach to James Bond as my mother had always taught me that the treatment of women in the James Bond movies was reductive and also chauvinistic. My mother was correct, although after seeing Goldeneye and returning to the older days of Sean Connery and Dr No (1962) it was clear that these thematic concerns were defined by the main character's persona and the time that these movies were made. In this time the presentation of women was directly related to the societal constraints placed upon sexuality and femininity on screen.

I enjoyed the movie but I also thought the character of James Bond was superficial - he was a hero figure with good clothes, humour and sex appeal but I also thought the presentation of Ian Fleming's hero lacked the emotional pathos of Batman and the interpretations of that character that had graced both graphic novel and screen. As Bond aged badly with Pierce Brosnan's last entry Die Another Day (2002), it was ironically was usurped in that same year by the first instalment in the Bourne trilogy with Matt Damon. It was clear to me that while the production design and marketing strategies around James Bond were second to none, he lacked the contextual emotional and cultural scope to maintain his status as an icon of cinema.

In 2006 James Bond was rescued by Daniel Craig and Eva Green with Casino Royale - it grounded the character with a character arc that gave him a reason to be the closed lover of women we know and the man Adele refers to in the title song for Skyfall as she sings, "You may take my name, but you'll never have my heart." In 2008 Craig returned with Quantum of Solace (2008). The movie was flawed but it shone due to the fact it gave Bond a female accomplice in Olga Kurylenko's Camille, who acted as his friend - pointing him towards an understanding of his own persona.

James Bond runs through the streets of London in Skyfall

What Skyfall manages to do is widen the thematic concerns of Daniel Craig's Bond beyond the narrative constraints of his previous two movies and present the most expansive vision of the character in the modern age. The movie does this because it is so quintessentially British - yet it avoids the jingoism of older incarnations of the character and the 'truth, justice and the American way' stupidity of Superman.

There is a scene in the movie when Judi Dench's 'M' is reading from Alfred Lord Tennyson's poem 'Ulysses'. The poem is read as a tribute to everything that is embodied by British culture from the 19th century when it was written to the modern age of James Bond. The scene evokes a sadder historical relationship to the terrorist attacks perpetuated on Londoners in 2005, as we see police cars and ambulances scattered through the streets that our hero runs through. Yet the bravery of the director Sam Mendes is illustrated by the fact that knowingly or unknowingly he has a contextual understanding of the mythic quality of an older hero and why it has such a cultural resonance for modern audiences and the citizens of Bond's country of origin.

Judi Dench's 'M' is testifying at a tribunal in which she is indicating that the modern world still needs heroes, men and women who protect us, and yet as Bond runs through the London streets he is running through the past, present and future of Great Britain. Death and rebirth are all thematic concerns of the movie and as Bond's surrogate mother perishes, Britain as a country has seen the death of her Empire, the aftermath of war and the founding of a new cultural sense of mythic heroism that is prevalently outlined by Tennyson's poem and physically embodied by our love of myth in terms of the inspirational quality of fiction and the deep mines of the imagination. It is to Sam Mendes' credit that these contextual thoughts arise in a movie that is as fun and exciting as any previous Bond movie prior to this one, in this sense he truly manages to redefine an icon.

I have one minor quibble with the movie and that's the flippant treatment of Berenice Marlohe's character Severine. Also, hearing the Bond theme blasted out over IMAX speakers should not just be a footnote at the end of the movie.

Roger Deakins' work as cinematographer is astounding and it may have arisen this week that he will not return for the next installment. The theme song is beautifully written and deservedly won an Oscar. The cast is uniformly superb and the return of 'Q' is a wonderfully modern take on the character and also an illustration of the conflict between technology and human deeds that is encapsulated by the narrative. In short, two years on Skyfall is not only a great Bond movie, but a great movie in its own right.