On Wednesday we finally got to see 'Casino Royale' (thank you, 'Orange') This film lived up to the hype. Before we went in, we ranked the Bonds as follows:
- Brosnan (perhaps controversial to put Dalton ahead. Brosnan was a more natural Bond, but the films were getting way too silly - and I liked the 'edge' of Dalton)
- Lazenby (he had bad luck in being the first change of Bond, and in getting OHMSS which was the one where Bond gets married... this script would have worked well with an established Bond, not with a new one)
When we came out, we were debating whether Craig should go above or below Connery. Seriously, he was a damned good, Bond.
Little reliance in gadgets, gentle humour (no Moore-style punning), a real edge to him - and for once a Bond film without major plot holes and things blowing up that have no right to blow up without a judicial application of explosive (yes, Goldeneye, I'm referring to your blowing up of the Arecibo Radio Telescope)
It also stayed pretty true to the spirit and plot of the book, Vesper Lynd, the general mission and so forth. Yes, details varied (the eventual fate of Vesper is similar, but not identical, and there were some added items during the Casino sequences) - but these were not complete deviations from Fleming. Some pieces of background were changed for obvious reasons to do with the geopolitical state of the world today. The scene with Bond and Le Chiffre towards the end was excellently done, and virtually unchanged from the book in the important respects.
Essentially what was on screen was probably the closest to a Flemingian Bond that has been seen to date, with a few alterations to make the film flow better and we loved it. Wonderful stuff.
The audience did, I think, begin to worry at the end of the film that it was being undercut by sentimentalism (OHMSS number 2?), but they turned that around wonderfully.
So, what next?
Now there are no more major unfilmed Bonds, I'd like to see Eon begin to move through the sequence of books in order, making them with this new grittier ethos in mind, perhaps we might get some character development instead of pressing the reset button for each film? Perhaps when we get to OHMSS it might not come as such a complete shock!
This would make the next film 'Live and Let Die'... although the downside of this policy is that 'Moonraker' would be next. Though, who knows? Replace Moore with Craig and it could work!
There are reports that one of the short stories from 'Octopussy and Live and Let Die' could be used as a basis for the next film - or that the end of Casino Royale is setting things up for a sequel. Plot development between films? That'd be nice!
The Casino Royale trailer has been released, and I like the look of it. No obvious over the top gadgetry, hard edged, gritty. It looks like the most Flemingian Bond to date. If they deliver on the promise of the trailer, this could be the Bond film I've been waiting for.
The Casino Royale trailer is out, and has been for a short while.
I have to say that I like the look of this. No invisible cars, no metal satellite dishes blowing up despite there being no flammable objects in sight. From this small clip it looks close to Fleming, something I've wanted for a while. We've never really seen a 'hard bastard' Fleming Bond on screen (Dalton and Connery were probably closest, with Brosnan not far off), for people who are only familiar with the High Tech Bond, this resetting of the genre may prove unsettling. For me? Great - Bond should be about the man, not the Deus ex machina gadget.
For me, it's hard to pick my favourite Bond, they all have something which I liked.
Connery is the quintessential Bond, against which all others are judged. Certainly there are parts of Casino Royale which are set up specifically to invite comparisons to Connery (remember the scene in Dr. No when Bond is seen in a pair of blue trunks, well that's in the film).
I quite liked Lazenby, though he didn't get the best film to start I felt he could've been a good Bond if they'd stuck with him for a bit. Lazenby had three big problems, firstly he was the first Bond who was not Connery, and that handicap is huge, secondly he wore that kilt thing with a frilly shirt... why? Thirdly, Bond showed vulnerability, he got married. The audience wasn't ready for that, it all added up to too much of a change at once.
In my opinion the worst Bond is easy, that's Moore. The one-liners were nice, but became overused, and Bond was played for comic effect. Yes, he lasted for a long time, and there were lots of good bits, but whenever I think of a Roger Moore playing Bond, there's always something that simply seems tacky (I mean, the UK flag on a parachute?)
Tim Dalton: now, lots of people didn't like Tim. I suspect it's that he was the first new Bond after a generation had grown up with Moore. Certainly I had never known another Bond. To me, Roger Moore was Bond (shudder!). Dalton's bond was harder edged - a counterpoint to Moore. Dalton has become eclipsed somewhat by Brosnan, and people seem to have filed him along with Lazenby for memorability.
Pierce Brosnan: A whole new generation have grown up for whom Brosnan is Bond, after all, Dalton hasn't been Bond since the 1980s (I feel old!), so for twentysomethings this will be their first new Bond in practice (although admittedly many of them will have seen earlier Bonds on TV). Brosnan himself was an excellent Bond, he really was - he had almost the right about of 'bastard' in him, but Brosnan's films were spoiled (at least for me) by the overuse of gadgetry - a hangover from the days of Roger Moore.
Of course, there's also Barry Nelson (the first ever Bond) and Bob Holness, the less said about David Niven's Bond the better...
Casino Royale is the last unfilmed original Bond story (yes, there was a spoof called Casino Royale, but I'm ignoring that). If this goes well, then I would hope that they look at the rest of the books, in order, with the same ethic.
For the curious, france2.fr has a 'behind the scenes' look at the new Bond Film, Casino Royale. (Scroll down for Tournage du nouveau James Bond) It looks pretty good to me - mostly as it's 'Back to Basics' time. There are Dr. No references to signal this, and there don't seem to be any stupid invisible cars. The opening scene in the interview with Daniel Craig standing in the sea is a direct Connery reference.
The Bond Franchise started to use it's gadgets, but it started to over-rely on the gadgets - and the gadgets got sillier and sillier (yes, Roger Moore, I'm looking at you). Until by the time of Brosnan (who was otherwise a good Bond) the gadgets got rather outlandish. I like the source material and so I want Bond to be, as Dame Judi Dench said in one film, a 'mysogynist bastard'! ... and I want Bond to be the star, not the gadgets.
There is a danger that this could make Bond look like some of the pretenders out there, but I'd argue that it makes the pretenders look to be just that - Bond, after all, is Bond.
Bond 21 will be Casino Royale. I'm hoping against hope that they do it 'properly', CR is quite sedate in pace, it is not a fast moving all action story.
I'd have liked to have seen Tarantino's Bond. A period piece, a dead 'ard no holds barred scrapper, a rogue.... no invisible cars.