Casino Royale: A Good Film. But is it a good Bond film?
After watching this film three times in the theaters, I finally watched it again a few days ago. Following a review of the entire series as well as this film itself in the past 7 weeks, I now have a final opinion on Casino Royale.
This was a very well made motion picture. However, I do not feel that this was a well made Bond film. I will explain why this film was a cleverly conceived idea that was executed improperly.
Before I review to the film, I want to state that I believe the literary Bond and the cinematic Bond are two different things. I think that is fairly obvious considering it has been going on for 46 years. Don't try to tell me some of the early ones were similar to the book. Sure some were more serious, darker, and played like true spy thrillers, but none of them had torture or men getting drowned in a bathroom sinks or choked to death while struggling like an animal. I believe the cinematic Bond should resemble the literary Bond in looks, background, and behavior. Whether you like it or not, the cinematic Bond is the most popular. Basing him on the literary Bond is fine, but I do not think that even Fleming himself expected or wanted some of the "grittiness" (if you must call it that) of his books to be adapted to the screen. Keyword: ADAPTATION.
First, no proper gunbarrel. I do not care if this was "007's first mission". The gunbarrel is required to make it a good Bond film. If Cubby, and most certainly "Mo" Binder, had been alive today, there would have been a proper gunbarrel. I did not like how Daniel Craig killed the man in a bathroom that looked like a place where Larry Craig should be soliciting sex. I can't believe I just thought of that coincidence.
I will say this film had Danny Kleinman's first good credits sequence since Goldeneye. His last three were terrible. This one still had a flaw: no dancing women. Another 007 tradition broken.
If the producers want to ground 007 in reality and move away from OTT and unrealistic stunts and action sequences, why did they have a Bond on EPO chasing who was apparently a world-class track runner who may or may not have been fathered by Spider-Man?
Judi Dench's M in this film seemed to only be there for comic relief. Sure Bernard Lee has a few humorous moments with Sean and Roger, but those was sophisticated humor, not "How could 007 be so stupid?". How many times are we going to hear M insult Bond's judgment? Oh, what the hell is up with the line "Utter one more word and I'll have you killed?". What??? I was not aware the UK was a military dictatorship who could kill their employees on a whim. Cheap comic relief.
Kudos to whoever cast Caterina Munro as Solange. The sexiest Bond girl for me since Kristina Wayborn as Magda. Although Denise Richards was pretty nice, too, even though her character wasn't much. Too bad they killed off Munro too soon. I found Eva Green to be an average Bond girl. Not too bad. I still felt her and Craig had no chemistry and their being almost the same height hurts Bond's screen presence if you ask me.
Mads Mikkelsen portrays a decent villain. Not too threatening to me. The blood-weeping eye felt like over-compensation to me though. He was the only good thing in the OTT and out of place torture scene. Wow, ball scratching humor? A new low. I'll take a pigeon doing a double take any day. If they had to do something as "gritty" as that, at least take it seriously.
The gambling scenes were well done and did not drag too long for me. I agree with most when I say, "I want more Felix!". Bond and he talk like twice. Shame. Mathis was a forgettable treacherous ally. The fight scene between games was great until Bond choked a man to death like he's John McClane. I love McClane, but he is supposed to be more violent than Bond. Vesper's shock did not please me and Bond comforting her in the shower was also out of place. Bond films can have some emotional performances and stuff like that, but that seemed like something out of The Notebook.
The car was awesome, but once again like in TWINE, destroyed too soon. The best action sequence was at the airport. Not too OTT or violent. However, the defibrillator scene was too much, like something out of DAD (first he stops his heart thru meditation, and now he revives it like this).
I did not feel that Bond and Vesper were in love, especially Bond. Bond films rarely have character development. If you must try it, don't screw it up. The montage scenes in OHMSS convinced me more than this film. Her suicide was done well though with a nice action scene to accompany it.
Daniel Craig is a good actor. I saw him in Tomb Raider, Road to Perdition, Munich and Layer Cake. He was remarkable in the last one, but just because a young, fit, cool acting English actor can play a violent drug dealer does not mean he will be a good Bond. I am past the fact that he is 5'11'', too muscular (Bond is lean not cut) and has a high school jock's hairstyle (what happened to sophistication?). He plays the role too serious and HARDLY smiles. Dalton played a serious Bond better than anyone. He still smiled a lot and looked like he was having fun! That is important for the character. Even Connery's Bond smiled and had some fun. Dalton would be the best Bond had he done a few more films. Oops! Off-topic. Craig can't do humor at all. Yes, Bond does give damn about his martini's preference. Still though, I will not rank him just yet. It is not fair. Maybe with a few more films he will develop a better style. The only things he did that were "Bondian" to me were the car alarm scene (very smooth) airport action sequence.
All I have left to say is that it lacked more tradition. No Q or Moneypenny? Even though I disagree about leaving out Q, at lest that would make sense of the film's purpose (reboot). Moneypenny could have replaced that buffoon Villiers and made this so much better. She is a staple in Bond films. Period. She and Q better come back in Bond 23. No James Bond Theme until the end? Don't tell me this crap like "He wasn't James Bond until the end". That is crap. He is, was, and always will be Bond. The theme is required.
Too many traditions were broken for the wrong reasons. Cubby would have never broken tradition. He told Wilson NOT to make a prequel years ago and that it was a bad idea. What happens after Cubby's widow dies? The prequel. Great job conforming to mainstream Hollywood, kids! Way to respect your parent's wishes.
This was a very good film as far as acting, dialogue, plot, and set design goes. It beats the last three in all those departments. But it still lacked in realistic stunts and action sequences as well as music (Arnold is so mediocre these days). It has about ten Bond films beat when it comes down to spy thriller themes, seriousness, dialogue, acting, and plot, but I cannot rank it Top 10. It did not FEEL like a Bond film. A gun barrel, the theme song, Q, Moneypenny, dancing ladies, and a Bond who has fun is required. This film had none. DAD was a step too far in one direction and this was a step too far in another. It tried to take Bond back to basics but came up average because it sacrificed tradition and was full of hypocrisy (like no more OOT stunts yet Bond fights Spider-Man.) Do you people who say this is the best 007 film since OHMSS really think that DAF thru DAD were all mediocre and forgettable? I hope not. Why did you keep watching if you felt that way? All of those films sure do entertain me. They certainly entertain me a lot more so than Casino Royale does because they FEEL like Bond films.
Lastly, they had better not act like Bond 23 and on are not related to the first 20 like these first two Craig vehicles aren't. That would be taking a crap on the franchise's continuity and legacy. Bond's continuity stopped making sense years ago. He is ageless and timeless. Cubby did not erase Dr. No thru Moonraker beginning with FYEO because Moonraker was OOT and kinda campy, did he? I like to think we have been watching the same Bond all these years. The same guy who killed Dr. No killed Gustav Graves in my eyes.
All in all, still an entertaining motion picture.
005 out of 007.
Last edited by yodboy007 (14th Jan 2008 00:50)