My Love/Hate Relationship With "Casino Royale" - by Alec '006' 

I have had a very stormy relationship with "Casino Royale". I won't say that the movie should've been exactly like the book. That argument won't work for me. It started when Pierce was kicked to the curb by the producers in the very worst of ways. Pierce for me was partly a combination of  Connery's toughness, Roger Moore's panache, charm, looks, and incredible humor, with the rest Pierce by himself with his talent and dedication. A package that had one last great Bond movie left, and it should have been a darker, edgier film where he would've been very, very good with the proper send off he deserved. 

I don't think any Bond actor can look back and honestly say he left the franchise with his absolute best work, and not want to do another one. Sean left on his terms. George got some bad advice and looks back and knows he should've done more Bond and could've just kept going from quite good to quite great. That's my opinion...not George's ego (an overblown media lie, I'd like to think!). Roger Moore stepped in and saved the franchise with "Live and Let Die". He teased us all the way up to "A View To A Kill" before finally departing. With a smile and a "Job well done!" from "M" and the producers, Sir Rog gently went into that goodnight. Timothy got tired of waiting and wanted to move on. For me he was damn good and who can blame him? Pierce got a very hurtful phone call. Michael and Barbara had just revoked Pierce's "Licence To Thrill". He couldn't do much more but just try and collect himself and tell his lovely wife and his closest friends what had just happened and what he'd be doing in the future. No fifth gunbarrel for the 'Billion Dollar Bond'. I believe Cubby Broccoli never would have allowed this. 

Later, it's officially announced, that Brosnan has been replaced with some guy named Daniel Craig. "Why him? Who is he? He doesn't look like my idea of 007! He is so definately NOT right for Bond just getting his "00" status!" 
Dalton Heathcliff

"Commander Bond...British naval Intelligence!" I said out loud. I immediately went into my mind and re-cast the role in my head with a young Timothy Dalton, fresh off his great performance as "King Phillip of France" in "The Lion In Winter", with O'Toole, Hepburn, and Sir Anthony Hopkins. The script....hmmm.  I wanted someone to write an opening pre-credits intro that would "rock your world", showing the death of Bond's parents in a climbing accident. "Stop dreaming!" I said to myself as I came out of my trance with the news about a sixth 007 actor in my head. You aren't dreaming. Babs and Michael have other plans. I then got gently into my car, took a quick, light breath, looked out on to the street...and drove. I went to my nearest video rental place and brought home and watched " Layer Cake".

I liked the movie. I thought Daniel Craig's performance was very good. I thought to myself "He can act". That doesn't however, make him right for James Bond. How is he going to pull off my expectations of my favorite British Secret Service agent? At least I had some optimism. Thank God I rented "Layer Cake" and not "Tomb Raider."

I was quite ill in Novermber of 2006 and didn't rush to see the 21st Bond film. I'm usually there within three days of a 007 film opening. My Dad and I were both pretty down one day in December and we needed a "pick me up". I suggested an afternoon showing of "Casino Royale" at a beautiful, huge multiplex cinema near us. We went, sat down, and the lights dimmed. As the Columbia Pictures logo faded, my heart started to beat. It damn near came to a dead stop when the film opened on a dark quiet street in Prague.

Am I in the wrong theatre? I thought. Where's the music? The gunbarrel? What the hell is going on? I opened my mind and reminded myself that the producers were rebooting - but leaving the most iconic opening out of my favorite movie series was unsettling, and upsetting. It was like going to see a "Star Wars" movie and it starting without the famous 20th Century Fox Fanfare, "A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away....", John Williams brilliant theme blaring, and the opening scroll.

Casino Royale broke away from what I came to expect in a Bond movie, almost too radically. Judi Dench, who I think is a wonderful actress and in my opinion, almost as good in the role of "M" as the late Bernard Lee, was not a welcome fixture in this James Bond experience for me. For me, she was Pierce Brosnan's "M", lecturing him and calling him a "sexist, mysogynist dinosaur...a relic of the cold war." Now she's still lecturing, but at a newly commisioned 007 on being "a blunt instrument", and the finer points of "taking ego out of the equation". As much as I like the Dame as "M" to have her be Bond's superior on his first mission ruins the continuity of the series. Director Martin Campell even admitted as much. When you were watching all the 007 actors you quietly knew about all his past missions from Dr No, S.P.E.C.T.R.E., and Goldfinger, to Yorgi Koskov to Alec Trevelyan and Gustav Graves. You also knew about all of the women in Bond's life from Sylvia Trench to Honey Ryder to Paris Carver. You also knew 007 was married once, and Tracy was be a woman Bond never quite got over. With this new imagining of Bond all those moments are lost, like tears in the rain.
Walken Bond

Those are the biggest sticking points I've had with "Casino Royale". The thing is all of my gripes are with the producers and the new Bond concept, not shouldered by Daniel Craig. As far as Daniel Craig is concerned, he doesn't really "look" the part - neither by the way Ian Fleming describes him in the novels, nor by what we would expect looking at the five actors who preceded him. That still to this day, is a bit of a sticking point. Having said that, I believe Daniel Craig is good as James Bond.

Pierce Brosnan said once that "you really felt the animal with Sean". We all know what Pierce is talking about, I think. Connery's integrity, sense of humor, toughness, ruthlessness, and tenderness all at the right moments still make him everyone's favorite. Even Sean's catlike way of walking, his physical presence, all make him "animalistic". George Lazenby had physical ability with a pinch of Prince Phillip. Roger Moore was suave, clever, humorful and dashing. Timothy Dalton was quiet, reserved, conflicted, cold-blooded, ruthless, and loyal as hell. For Pierce Brosnan, see Connery and Moore. Daniel Craig's legacy is that he's more like Timothy Dalton before him. Craig maybe doesn't have Fleming's Bond down in physical looks, but he has some of the attributes. Craig's Bond is vulnerable. He's a killer. He doesn't really enjoy what he does. He's conflicted. Killing those people doesn't bother him, or so he says, otherwise "he wouldn't be very good at his job if it did."  He falls in love...then hates himself for it.  Daniel Craig is Timothy Dalton 20 years after the fact, except not quite as strong an actor as Dalton, and lacking Timothy's dark, mysterious good looks that are closest of any Bond actor to what Ian Fleming described on the pages of the novels.

Craig's Bond is more physical. He takes you along for the ride on his missions and God only knows what might happen. After struggling to even warm up to him as Bond I'm finding Daniel Craig a bit more interesting. The villians he must face, whether it be MI6's bent Dryden, a bomb maker, the world's terrorists, Dymitrius, Le Chiffre, or "QUANTUM" they're all quite down to earth and frightening. They're scary because they're more believable. Their motives could be those of someone anytime, anywhere. I do miss villians like Dr. No, Goldfinger, Mr. Big, Drax, Stromberg, Max Zorin, and Gustav Graves. They were over the top and sometimes, like Bond, for them even the world wasn't enough. A villian like Le Chiffre falls into the Yorgi Koskov, Brad Whittaker, Franz Sanchez, Alec Trevelyan type category. Their motivations and means are more modest and down to earth. It makes them more plausible and contemporary and possibly more likeable.

Bond doesn't seem to enjoy the finer things in life as much as he usually did. He doesn't insist on Beluga caviar, he now checks into a hotel as a "spur of the moment thing", the desk clerks don't already know his name, he dresses in golf shirts and khakis, and when it comes to how he likes his vodka martinis, he really "doesn't give a damn". Dammit James, you really are moving with the times, aren't you? Craig's Bond is not above sleeping with a married lady to get him closer to his objective and at the same time shows compassion for women he really cares about to the point of sitting fully dressed next to them in a running shower to console them.

David Arnold's musical score for "Casino Royale" is his best ever, and now one of my favorites of the series. Arnold doesn't even use Monty Norman's Bond theme till the last track. John Barry would be proud. Chris Cornell's song "You Know My Name" blares in my flat and bothers my neighbours whenever I need to stop being so sensitive and get some attitude. I also bought the Original Sountrack on C.D. and I love them both.

It didn't happen right away with my favorite British Secret Agent. I was upset, I was jaded, and I was turned off. I'm experiencing détente.

- Alec '006'


c 2008 Alternative 007