Written by Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and Paul Haggis
Directed by Martin Campbell
Starring Daniel Craig, Eva Green, Mads Mikkelson, Jeffrey Wright and Judi Dench
M: I knew it was too early to promote you.
James Bond: Well, I understand double 0’s have a very short life expectancy so your mistake will be short-lived.
Nothing I am about to say will be news to the legions of existing Bond fans around the world. For the rest of you Bond neophytes, of which I also consider myself a member, it may interest you to know that CASINO ROYALE, the 2006 official relaunch of the decades-old franchise, had been made already twice before. The first incarnation, made before the franchise was unleashed, was a live CBS television production. It was later made in 1967 as a spy spoof starring Peter Sellers. This meant that Bond creator, Ian Fleming’s first Bond novel had truly never been made the way it was intended for a theatrical audience. For years, the rights to the script were buried beneath so much paperwork that it was a miracle the lawyers were able to free it up to be made in 2006. At this point, the Bond series was at a financial high point but there was concern the icon had staled some. Clearly, Bond wasn’t going away but something needed to be done. The decision was a risky one. The decision was to start at the beginning and introduce the world to a new Bond for a new day. The risk paid off.
CASINO ROYALE is an introduction to a new Bond and to a new man behind the tux, Daniel Craig. Fanatics were skeptical; after all, the man is blond and has clear, blue eyes. Craig brings a ruggedness and real grit to Bond like we have not seen before. Craig’s Bond is still smooth and confident but he is also vulnerable and capable of feeling something. Craig is also hyper sexualized as Bond. The way he wears his pants, the way he walks out of the ocean, water dripping down his perfect chest – these kinds of images have always been reserved for the infamous Bond girls. While the ladies are still lovely, Bond now has something for everyone. The men will still want to be him – order the same martini, drive the same Aston Martin – and the women will still swoon over him, only now, Bond earns it. This franchise dates back to the 60’s but it only now seems to have figured out how to broaden its appeal to universal levels.
On the eve of the first Bond sequel in history, QUANTUM OF SOLACE, CASINO ROYALE has been re-released as a special edition on DVD and Blu-Ray. This edition is a much more complete package, containing over a dozen special features, when the original edition only contained four. For such an intensely action packed film though, the features rarely reach the same heights of excitement. First off, and I can’t solely hold the people behind this release responsible for this, but marketing people need to stop naming features randomly without detailing what it actually is. To find the behind the scenes on this film, I had to randomly select features and wait to see what they would hold. What they did hold was quite a bit of understated explanation about legal rights and Bond throughout history and unfortunately, not enough about how director, Martin Campbell, managed some of the most energetic action sequences in recent history. It may make for fascinating material for hardcore Bond followers but it gets tedious for those of us specifically interested in this particular film.
I may have expected the unbridled vigor of the film to translate more to the features and commentary but CASINO ROYALE has enough wallop on its own to make up for any disappointment. It is no small feat to invigorate a decades old franchise and to make an excellent film that just happens to be a Bond film is equally impressive, if not more so. Bond may have never left but it feels like he just arrived.