Dirty Bond

13-Sep-07 3:51 PM by
Filed under Films; 9 comments.

It took awhile, but RiffTrax was motivation enough for me to finally get around to watching the new James Bond.

Two years ago, I watched the original 1967 Casino Royale, a comedy starring David Niven as James Bond that was so unexpected that I couldn't help but enjoy it. On the surface, the film and its characters appeared to take themselves seriously — which made the strangeness of the encounters and accessories (think Get Smart) all the more laughable. IMDb describes this adaptation as follows:

Sir James Bond, a spy from the old school (a good spy is a pure spy) is called back to service by the death of "M" and the imminent collapse of civilization. The opposition tries to compromise him, but even as nubile young agents are thrown at him, he remains above it all. Going beyond parody to sillyness, every agent is renamed James Bond, 007 to confuse the enemy, including Woody Allen who plays Little Jimmy Bond.

Compare that plot with that of the 2006 film, and you'll find almost no similarities. I expected as such; what I did not expect was to enjoy the 1967 film more. I take no exception to Daniel Craig as James Bond and don't see what all the fuss was about his casting. My more pressing concern is the direction Craig was given.

Despite being set in 2006, this film is a prequel: only M (Judi Dench) returns, with Q (John Cleese) and Moneypenny (Samantha Bond) nowhere to be seen. But whatever the cast, the setting — with Bond having recently gained his double-oh designation and having had few true adventures — puts our protagonist is in a place where he is coarse and unrefined. Craig comes across as more of a thug than the elegant, svelte super-spy to which we've grown acquainted. I'm told audiences approved of theis film's grittier nature, but I watch Bond films to escape the dark reality I see mirrored in so many other media. I want a hero who's fighting Russians, Germans, and other classic, archetypal, even stereotypical adversaries — not his own ego and dark impulses.

I don't know which model Ian Fleming intended, but the Bond character has transcended his roots and now is held accountable not to his creator, but to pop culture and his audience. Maybe they've covered that ground in the last 20 films, and it's time to move on. Or perhaps now we're through with the the awkward introductions, the next Bond film will have a suaver star. I enjoyed Casino Royale's villains and action sequences enough to see what happens next.

9 Responses to “Dirty Bond”

  1. GeneD adds:

    As I wrote in my own blog, I preferred the grittier, modernized Casino Royale to the spoof, since the weaker James Bond movies have provided more than enough opportunities for self-ridicule.

    As with other recurring adaptations, the darker version played by Daniel Craig may respond the audience's expectations as much as Sean Connery reflected the macho early 1960s and Roger Moore the suave and campy 1970s. (See Kenneth Branagh's Henry V or the Jeremy Brett's Sherlock Holmes for insight into postimperial 1980s England)

    Aside from George Lazenby's faithful portrayal (out-of-character issues forced him from the franchise) and Timothy Dalton's prematurely dour ones, I would put the more recent Pierce Brosnan films somewhere between Connery and Moore in style. As you can tell, I've been a fan for years and have all the books and seen all the movies.

    Facing numerous parodies (Autin Powers), imitators (Tom Clancy and Robert Ludlum), and misfires (don't get me started), the action/espionage franchise has endured, and I look forward to seeing how the next Craig movie continues the story…

  2. hiphopguy23 adds:

    Hiphopguy23 saw Casino Royale, the only James Bond movie he has ever seen. Hiphopguy23 felt a case of "been there, done that". Hiphopguy23 agrees that this "new" gritty James Bond was coarse, unrefined, and above all, common. The image in Hiphopguy23's head is of a charismatic, likable Bond. Hiphopguy23 will never see another James Bond film after this fiasco. What a shame. On a positive note, Hiphopguy23 did enjoy the choreography of the chase scenes.

  3. Ken Gagne adds:

    HHG23: Though we have a similar opinion of Casino Royale, I hope it doesn't color your opinion of its twenty predecessors! I'm not as well-versed in Bond lore as GeneD, but I did enjoy the Pierce Brosnan films quite a bit. Check out Goldeneye at least…

  4. peterw adds:

    Hiphopguy23 saw Casino Royale, the only James Bond movie he has ever seen.
    Hiphopguy23 will never see another James Bond film after this fiasco.

    Let's leave aside the whole issue of the "unrefined" Bond for now (although I see that being the whole point — he gets better even across this movie, and should continue to do so to reach "back to the future" to his level of savoir-faire in the other movies).

    But I hope one bad movie in any series would not be enough to put you off. There were some classics in the older Bond movies. The special effects are a bit corny by today's standards (and never mind the incredibly non-PC attitudes), but they were a lot of fun!

    And Ken, I only remember one line from near the end of Goldeneye. "I am invincible!" :-)

  5. Ken Gagne adds:

    peterw wrote:

    I only remember one line from near the end of Goldeneye. "I am invincible!" :-)

    I love that line! It's made all the better by knowing it was spoken by the same actor who would later play Nightstalker in X-Men 2. :-)

    Goldeneye is made all the better knowing it led to one of the best first-person shooters of all time.

  6. Ken Gagne adds:

    A friend and I watched the RiffTrax of this film on Saturday. It was his first exposure to RiffTrax, and he was practically in stitches in the first five minutes! Since he really liked Casino Royale without the commentary, he was totally caught offguard to hear it taken so unseriously.

    I agree that this was one of RiffTrax's better riffs. The dialogue was quick, funny, and consistent. But it did drive home the fact that, unlike MST3K, RiffTrax work best on films you've already seen. Casino Royale is a good film on its own, and the commentary overpowered much of the critical dialogue, which would've proven very annoying and distracting were you trying to follow the plot.

  7. Michael adds:

    I totally agree with you, I don't want to see Bond struggling with his own feelings either.

    I haven't seen the newest Quantum of Solace yet, but from what I have heard it has taken the series to even more pretentious levels.

    To top that off, today I read that a Bond producer could very well cast a black actor as the next Bond. I wouldn't like that very much and think it could actually be the marketing mistake of the decade — I have outlined why on my blog.

  8. Beruk adds:

    I know alot of people who never got into the Bond character who like the new Royale. This notion that Bond became the cool cynical, cad that Sean Connery portrayed the minute he was made a 007 is silly. Its like someone who insists on putting tabasco sauce on everything he eats, he may like it, it doesn't mean he it's the right way to enjoy every meal This is Bond year one, the edge develops over time (just like Batman begins, etc). Also, you have to remember these are largely period pieces, the 007 of Sean Connery's time would not cut it in this day and age. These are spies, they have to blend in and reflect the times they are in.

    As far as playing Bond of another color, 5 different actors has played the same character, furthermore considering the racial make up of enemies a 007 would have to face, the idea MI6 would not recruit people of different complexions, is silly. So anyone who has reflexively has a problem with a black actor or non-caucasian playing the role of Bond, I think perhaps you may need to examine why this would be an issue for you.

  9. John Frusciante adds:

    I totally agree with Beruk. they have to consider the audience before hiring a new bond. I think the new bond is great, and the added personal emotions just makes the movies more worthy of watching.
    But if you are looking for a copy of connory, i guess you could be disappointed, because the new bond is as far from him as you can get.
    you have to remember that they are making a movie for the general public, not only for the die hard bond fans.

    On a side note, i really enjoyed Quantum of solace. Action packed with a story attached, you don't find many movies like that nowadays.