Sunday, November 19, 2006


Welcome to the new trend of sequels, I like to call it the "Re-imaginings." Start back at the beginning and try to right a falling ship. Of course in the case of the Bond films how much the ship needed to be righted from a financial standpoint is a curious notion. All four of the Brosnan vehicles made a ton of cash here and overseas, but thankfully Michael Wilson and Barbara Broccoli realized that it wouldn't be a bad idea to start fresh and actually give us a James Bond franchise that we could give a shit about again, and not just enjoy some nostalgia and campy appeal.

Brosnan wasn't bad at all in the role, and a couple of the films weren't too shabby either (Goldeneye and The World is Not Enough were more good than bad). However, even the better of the four were still in the end nothing special; a few cool scenes here and there mixed with a lot of incomprehensible storylines and mediocre villains. I remember after seeing "Die Another Day" back in 2002, I walked out thinking this is it for me; I didn't think I would be watching another Bond film, and to be honest, in the beginning, I had no interest in seeing "Casino Royale."

When all of the news came out about it, I thought it sounded kind of stupid. The fact that they were changing Baccarat to Texas Hold-Em was enough to make me cringe. The only thing that interested me was the casting of Daniel Craig. Why a lot of Bond fans were repulsed at this idea, the main reason being he was a blonde, I found to be ludicrous. Can a spy not have blonde hair? It's not like it's pink or anything, and what's wrong with pink? Sydney Bristow pulled it off just fine. Semantics. The choice of the uninspiring Martin Campbell as director did nothing for me. When the likes of Quentin Tarantino, J.J. Abrams, and even Martin Scorcese showed interest in doing a Bond film, and they went with Campbell, I thought it only further emphasized that Ms. Broccoli was only concerned with being able to control the franchise and not let a creative mind take a hold of it and do there thing with it.

Then all of the good word started leaking out of the test screenings. People were comparing it to "Batman Begins," and saying it avoided all of the problems that other re-imagings, like "Superman Returns," fell into. But I still thought, I'll believe it when I see it. Well, I've seen it, and I believe it. James Bond is back, baby, and I couldn't be happier.

Daniel Craig is a "BADASS!!!" He takes control of this movie right from the opening frame, and never looks back. From start to finish, he is Bond, and if they keep up this rate, he will probably be considered by many to be the best. I remember reading some early reviews of the script and hearing a lot of criticism that it wasn't bad, but it didn't feel like a Bond film, so why didn't they just call it something else. Well, let's just say it doesn't feel like a modern Bond film. There's not a lot of cheesy one-liners or high camp. There's no real gadgets, and the only real special effects revolve around some very impressive stunt work. But this is more like the Bond we saw early on, especially in the great "On Her Majesty's Secret Service." This is the Bond that some of us have read in the books; this is as close to the Bond that Ian Flemming created that we have seen yet. So, this is most definately a Bond film. When Craig gets to finally say the immortal line, and you know which one I'm talking about it, you'll believe every word of it instead of getting a "wink,wink, nudge, nudge" kind of effect.

The villains are well done. Mads Mikkelsen (Le Chiffre) is perfect, and if you haven't seen it yet, go check out Nicholas Refn's "Pusher" trilogy, and you'll see exactly why this guy was sought out and cast. The thing I most liked about him was that he is a minor step in a very large empire of baddies that we will see more of in the future films. This is actually for the first time since the Connery films and SPECTRE, a starting off point for a series of films that actually go together and have some continuity. Hopefully, it won't get so confounding it becomes confusing, but they actually leave you hanging at the end, and interested to see how far this new evil empire goes, and what other mad geniuses are going to come out of it.

The story is also rather simple which is rather nice. Can anyone explain the story lines of the last ten or so Bond films? Seriously, try, you won't be able to do it. There is no overall idea of contaminating water supplies to stop the flow of the Pacific so we can get a submarine to cause the extinction of storks, or whatever the hell bullshit they've thrown at us in the past. No, this involves fucking around with the stock market until it fucks you back; being in debt to people you don't want to be in debt too, etc. These are very simple concepts that play up to the action instead of complex situations that are created so we can see a really cool weapon or submarine or whatever.

Martin Campbell ended up being a nice fit as well. While I would have liked to have seen a Tarantino take on Bond, Campbell does a nice job here. He knows how to move the action along at a nice pace. I could've done without about twenty minutes in the middle seciton between Bond and Eva Green's character (Vesper Lynd). I understand why it was there, but it could've been a little shorter. But Campbell does a great job with all of the action sequences, and he builds the tension up nicely. It's a very serviceable job from a professional filmmaker, and there is nothing wrong with that.

It's not a perfect film by any means. Like I said, it does lag in the middle. And the Texas Hold-em tournament is done as well as it can be. But like we've seen in any movies about playing cards, poker is just kind of boring to watch on screen. It was funny how people around me were really getting into the turning of the cards; I guess that's another compliment to Campbell. But come on, it's a movie; it's not like they were actually dealt those cards. I would also like to point out the casting of Jeffrey Wright as Felix Leiter was a brilliant move, but the two or three scenes we get to see him in are a waste of this man's talent. However, I'm assuming he will be back in future installments. And the Bond ladies, Eva Green and Ivana Milicevic, are handled a little better than in past installments, but they still end up being not much more than window dressing.

But these are all pretty minor complaints in the grand scheme of things. All I know is I enjoyed the hell out of the film, and for the first time in I don't know how long, when the words "James Bond Will Return" came up on the screen, I was actually excited. Welcome back, Mr. Bond.


At 11/20/2006 11:04:00 AM, Blogger Chris said...

I'm glad you mentioned the plots of the last few Bond movies. One thing about all my reviews over at nymoviereviews that was the hardest thing to do was cutting out all the bullshit to somehow convey the basic story. A lot of them don't have basic stories. They start out with "Bond seeks out the guy who killed an MI6 agent" and then "meets this guy, who tells him about this guy" and then "Bond poses as this guy to get close to the main bad guy" and "the main bad guy also has a ton of henchmen who do this" and "he's up to something, looks like drugs" but in the end "it's not drugs, he wants to rule the world by creating a massive hernia inside Paris Hilton," and so forth.

I was beginning to think the Bond marathon was getting to me and my brain was turning to mush. I'm glad others found them just as confusing. In the end, it seems like a lot of these plots function just to get to action scenes they want to do. I remember in You Only Live Twice when they basically introduced Q so he could give Bond a special helicopter, just so he could then use it and get into a scrape with other helicopters. The scene posed as Bond "looking for Blofeld's lair" but in the end, it was really just an excuse to blow shit up.

Glad you enjoyed Casino Royale, I for one can't wait until the next movie, something I haven't said in a long time.


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