But the 003rd Time is the Charm!
But it didn't come easy, did it? I should say not. So... uh... "Not." For one thing, casting was a bitch, and when they finally cast the role of James Bond with Daniel Craig all kinds of websites shot up proclaiming him to be a bad choice. Now look here... Sure he's Blond, and he's the first Blond Bond but what about all the other casting choices? Where are their Public Dis sites? I don't remember any websites hosing Connery when he stepped into Barry Nelson's shoes back in 1962, do you? And Lazenby? He didn't have any hate websites launched back in 1969, when he took over? I also can't think of a single site launched by Lazenby fans when Connery came back in 1971. Why the hell didn't Moore get a bunch of hate websites launched about him when he took over? He was a different kind of choice? And hey, Dalton... Everyone's hosing Dalton... how about some hate websites in 1987, or even a few in 1995 for Brosnan? Now that I really think about it... the original "Casino Royale"... why didn't a bunch of anti-Barry Nelson websites pop up back in 1954 when he got that first filmed part? Not only was he an American, but the character was referred to as (I shake and stir you not) "Jimmy Bond"!
No anti-Nelson websites in 1954! None! I have proof!
What's that? Oh, yeah, I said "original 'Casino Royale'"! You see, this here James Bond series that we've all grown to know, love and lounge around all over actually ran out of Ian Fleming novels to film a long, long time ago, so when it was time to "re-launch the franchise" (meaning: Gregory Benford-Esque Prequel Insertion), Albert R. Broccoli's Eon Productions Limited and Danjaq LLC went back to the only novel they hadn't done yet... namely because someone else had done it... twice... That being Casino Royale! And why not? Sony (who owns Columbia Pictures, distributor of the SECOND filmed version of Casino Royale) now also owns MGM, which has owned United Artists (distributor of the Danjaq Bonds) for some time. By the way, if you don't know about the SECOND filmed version of Casino Royale, I advise you to remain Blissfully Ignorant. Just... just trust me on this one, okay?
So, how is this new Casino Royale? Pretty damned good... but certainly not perfect. This is indeed a re-launch (shattering the continuity of the novels) which re-introduces Craig as Bond. He's a much more edgy and dangerous Bond (so the producers want us to believe) and his one-agent swath through the evil underbelly of impolite society is bound to raise a few eyebrows in the audience.
This new, untried "Double O" certainly raises a few with his superiors, personified by M, as played again by Dame Judi Dench. See, after a black-and-white, mood-setting opening (reminiscent of Kill Bill, but without the cuteness of Uma), Craig's Bond goes on a thrilling chase and execution that gets caught on tape and shown to the entire world. Yeah... that's good for the career. Why not show up at a club with Britney Spears (sans panties) if you're going to show everyone your "Secret Agent" face. Of course, he may have meant to be seen in an attempt to inspire an MI-6 Video Game. I tell you, that chase through the construction site reminded me of playing Q-Bert back in the '80's! Dude, I half expected everything they jumped on to change color before Coily the Snake landed on Bond and ate him.
But I digress.
"On Golden Bond" (who has an access all areas pass to reality) soon globe trots to the hottest of the hot spots with the hottest of the hot shot Bond Lot to track down a malicious terrorist organization linked to just about everything including, but not limited to... card playing. And that's lucky for Bond because he's got a Sixth Sense about people, their tells and their bluffs. So he tells Eva Green's incredibly hot Vesper Lynd, a super hot MI-6... Accountant. Man, accountants don't look like her in my company. I quit.
Naturally the whole shebang leads up to a high-stakes poker game that makes that Bravo show look like bums throwing dice in an Alley. Except that's not quite the end. The screenplay by Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and Paul Haggis seems to be concerned over whether or not there might be a sequel. To this end they tack on about three too many endings which are as fun to watch as they are unnecessary. There seems to be a strong lack of timing toward the end and a twist or three that feel tried and trite. That's not to say it's not satisfying... it is, but it's not the most realistic thing in the world. See also that Q-Bert chase.
Further, this is a re-launch with all the good and bad that comes with that concept. On one hand, it's odd to see Judi Dench playing M to a youthful Bond whereas when she first encountered him in Goldeneye she referred to him as a dinosaur and a relic. Still, she does a fine job and the concept of "Who Cares" shines sort of brightly here. Another great thing about this "re-launch" is that Felix Leiter is back, alive again and played by the cool Jeffrey Wright. It's great to see him here and it's great to see him played by such a cool actor (and without shark teeth marks to boot).
While Q is absent as a character (as he is in the Fleming books), there most certainly is a "Quartermaster Branch" active. True, also, there is no "Miss Moneypenny" here, however Sweet, Sweet Vesper does get hit with a joke that evokes her memory pretty strongly.
Otherwise, Continuity gets a beating here and established history is both served and Bitch-Slapped, depending on the content.
But the big question is, of course, Daniel Craig and his chops as Bond. For my money, he's pretty cool, and I like him. I could give two 0's about his hair color. They've given us a gritty Bond who is more than just a pretty face (a step above just a "Covalent Bond"), with muscles to spare and a mean streak. He's also a more human and vulnerable James Bond with less carousing (and potential VD spreading) and more of a focus on Queen and Country. What's more, the guy is cool as hell, adding a cocksure Sherlock Holmes detective work to the smarter side of Bond. He goes through Hell (and I do mean HELL), laughs it off in that Bond-is-KING manner, but still, realistically must take time to recover from such actions.
Such complexities are also seen in our classic, yet modern Bond Villain. And we get one in the form of Mads Mikkelsen's Le Chiffre, less Goldeneye than Crimson Eye. This is a seriously BAD bad guy with the realism enough to not be all powerful. He makes enemies and he faces the same foibles as any old muh-fuh!
It's almost too bad the attention to realism isn't followed through the entire movie. No, this isn't required... Bond is Escapist Fun... but kids, sniff the wind and notice the need for a little consistency. Luckily, director Martin Campbell remains on top of things, pumping the clever action out of this flick for all its worth and (mostly) covering up the valleys with more peaks (real or imagined). Make no mistake, this is vintage Bond and probably the best since Goldeneye itself.
But that comes from a life long Bond fan. On the "masses" side, this one attracted the attention of Michelle Bond (as opposed to Vesper Lynd) who either had her interest piqued or allowed me to wear her down on this one. She said, "Ok, so I'll go see the new Bond flick with you. The picture of this goofy newbie has my interest piqued...but not as much as Dame Dench. I read that it's not going to be the same dumbass slick dialogue and tit-wielding bimbo bazaar of previous years. So, I'll go see it." I must ask, however, what's wrong with a little tit-wielding? She emerged from the double doors satisfied, if not thrilled. If nothing else this is a fun action caper worth the time to view and have a good time with. Those hankerin' for a hunk-o-cheese can go see Borat, which is just what the milkman ordered.
All in all Casino Royale (in its third filmed incarnation) is a fun ride with a hell of an edge to it, and stands as a decent re-launch, but not a prequel or sequel. This is not your Father's James Bond, nor was his your Grandfather's... but for 2006 he's doing just fine... much better than the previous entry in the series, Halle Bikini or not. Four Stars out of Five for Casino Royale! Five full stars for Eva Green's eyes and eye-catching breasts. So, until the next pinnacle of civilization sweeps us all and we need a James Bond who fights Vampire Bunny Rabbits riding on Asteroids, spawning HATE SITES everywhere, I'll see you in the next reel!
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