Bond films of late had become so fucking silly and over-the-top, each one trying to out-do the previous oneís stupidly named girls, crazy stunts, gadgets, toys, cheesy one-liners, and with the amount of advertising crammed in them. It had gotten to the point where Bond parodies like Austin Powers were giving more attention to plot and character than the modern Bond films were themselves. After the invisible cars of Die Another Day even the Bond producers must have taken a moment out of their busy money-bathing schedule to pause for thought over the direction of their franchise. Then Batman and Superman re-booted their franchises and the answer seemed obvious. We all know Bond as the suave womanising martini-sipping super-agent but how did he get his start as an agent? What shaped him?
The opening scene of Casino Royale gives us a glimpse into this, and shot in gritty black & white also signposts that the film is not going to play by the rules the others have been blindly following for so long now.
Thereís more depth into the Bond character here than in the last 20 films combined, which isnít too much of a criticism since the Bond films havenít really ever strived to be anything other than frivolous fun. Think the Jaws character or any of Moonraker, for instance. Thereís still fantastical action set-pieces here to make sure the Bond fans of old get their money worth while also trying to bring in the general film-going public thatís been more seduced by the dizzying hand-held action exploits of Matt Damonís amnesiac Jason Bourne than James Bond of late.
The main distinction between the Bond of old and this Bond is the capture scene. Back in the day Bond would have been strapped down and had a laser set upon him, searing itís way slowly up to his groin before Bond ingenuously escapes at the last second. Here Bond gets strapped to a chair and hit in the nuts with something resembling a shot-put. Repeatedly. Canít really imagine Connery or Brosnan in that situation. Maybe Dalton. But it is here where Daniel Craig really creates his take on the Bond character. Yes, he still has the ripped body, the cool swagger and a series of sexy looking cars and women, but he can also be vulnerable, he can get his ass kicked, he can make mistakes and fall in love. He is a spy led by his emotions, and it makes for a much more engaging character.
Still, while it may not be an archetypical Bond film, itís still at times a straight-up action film, and while I recognise all of the above good points to the film, it was still a struggle to get through this without "resting my eyes" on a few occasions. Surely the half-hour card game fascinates only those caught up in the recent poker explosion, because it bored the crap outta me. A solid, if a little lacklustre at times, start to a new Bond. I am interested to see where they go from here.