02 November 2008

Casino Royale

Not Sure What to Make of Casino Royale
By Kristin Battestella

I’m not a super major obsessive Bond aficionado. I don’t have all the girls and license plate numbers or car gadgets memorized, but I do like a few films from each Bond-Connery, Moore, Dalton, Brosnan- even On Her Majesty’s Secret Service has earned new respect, recently. Unfortunately, I’m not sure if I like 2006’s Casino Royale or not. Blonde Bond Daniel Craig’s debut in this updated adaptation of Ian Fleming’s first novel reinvents the franchise for 21st century savvy folks. But did Bond need such intervention?

Now that he’s gotten his license to kill, James Bond (Craig, Layercake, Sharpe’s Eagle) follows the trail of high roller Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen, King Arthur) with the help of MI6 accountant Vesper Lynd (Eva Green, Kingdom of Heaven). Bond risks it all on a High Stakes Texas Hold ‘Em game in order to catch his man while love losing and learning how to take a martini shaken, not stirred.

I’ve only seen Daniel Craig in small villainous roles prior to Casino Royale. He seems talented enough and likeable, but it will take getting used to him as Bond. Eva Green as Vesper Lynd was a pleasant surprise, and Jeffrey Wright (Syriana) is a delight as the new Felix Leiter. Hip, edgy, not trying so hard as I think some of Craig’s action sequences. Judi Dench is on form, of course. Even though there’s no explanation of how M keep’s getting older while Bond has the eternal fountain of youth, it’s understandable we have no Q or Moneypenny this go around.

If Casino Royale was just an action movie about any other spy learning the ropes of his profession, I would have no doubts about my love. I want to like Casino Royale, it gets everything right, but it isn’t a Bond flick to me. All the things that make Bond Bond aren’t there. When taking in a holiday Bond-athon. I never thought to myself, ‘Gee, what was Bond like before Bond was Bond?’ Who’s idea was this that Bond needed to be revamped? Why should I care if it is? Was the franchise stuffy, old, and out dated? Perhaps, but I liked it that way. Bond’s over the top lifestyle, British innuendo, and outrageous gadgets made the series.

My favorite Bond is actually Timothy Dalton. After Roger Moore’s fine exit with A View to a Kill, as a kid I enjoyed seeing a new, young, kick ass Bond. Many folks in the eighties, however, disliked the Americanized vigilante Bond from The Living Daylights and License to Kill. What then is Casino Royale but a new, young hip Bond deBritted for a cool American audience?

Casino Royale also takes some questionable liberties with timeline tweaks. Fleming’s first Bond novel-written in 1953- is updated to today, post Cold War and completely utilizing all the latest Bluetooth. Texas Hold ‘em replaces Bond’s baccarat of old, and the classic theme music doesn’t reveal itself until the end of the picture. I should research further with extreme Bond aficionados. Are the traditional fans pleased or have Fleming’s book fans already been burned by a series that took far too many liberties in bringing the books to the screen? Moonraker, anyone?

Naturally then, I must also gripe about the torture scene in Casino Royale. Although largely taken from Fleming’s source novel, what’s meant to be a serious turning point in the picture falls down to a ball joke. This young demographic that director Martin Campbell is chasing, do you think they would care for Bond or laugh? I know I laughed at the absurdity. It’s not that Campbell is incapable of seriously great work. In addition to Goldeneye, Campbell directed two of the finest Homicide: Life on The Street episodes, “Ghost of A Chance” and “Three Men and Adena”. What happened to serious reflection, intelligence, and Brit wit? No previous Bond would have his family jewels in anything but a pleasurable situation. I even miss the chauvinistic female names for which the franchise is famous. Holly Goodhead, now that’s tongue in cheek.

Like Casino Royale or not, its success and the forthcoming twenty second (or twenty third depending on how you feel about Never Say Never Again) film Quantum of Solace ensures that there’s no stopping James Bond. At least there’s plenty of him to be had, with the recent DVD collections and now Bluray releases. Have questionable decisions in this franchise stopped it before? Of course not. But God I hate Moonraker!

Alright my Bond peeps! Check out my Casino Royale Revisited! post for more screen captures, pro and con musings, and my usual 007 ranting!


thebonebreaker said...

Yeah, I can take or leave Casino Royale - I can suspend my disbelief for only so long.

I do have hopes for Quantum of Solace though. . . :-)

Nice Review!

Kristin Battestella said...

Hi Bone.

Yes I suppose the entire Bond series is pick and choose or take and leave. I'll still watch Quantum of Solace, too!

Thanks for Reading!


Kristin Battestella said...

Hey Folks.

I made a few screen captures from the DVD set I received of Casino Royale, and I'll be posting some additional analysis, too. I'm not sure if I'll add it as a comment here or post something completely new as yet.

Stay Tuned!