Thursday, January 04, 2007

All Bets Are Off ...

I am now 45 years old and since 1962 there has been, on average, one James Bond film every 2 years. Bond has been a permanent fixture since my birth and, like a British institution, is regarded as such. Enter Bond number 6, Daniel Craig. Last year, in this blog, I was critical of those who poured scorn on the Cheshire lad even before the cameras started rolling. I suggested that they might like to give the boy a chance before sentencing him to death by box office. Then I went to see Casino Royale for myself ...

With a feeling of expectation we settled down into our seats. Behind us, a pair of American men noisily wrestled with the hinged cushions and, once installed, a conversation started up between them. From what I could gather, they were both 50+ years old a piece and had travelled the world, though not necessarily together, now finding themselves in France. They began by discussing cinema advertisements and how they wished there weren't going to be too many before this particular film started. One of them began a story about a cinema in South America where he had seen a commercial for Range Rover. At this point American No 2 piped up; "Oh yeah, Range Rover ... that's the British equivalent of Land Rover, right?" I tried to cover up my laughter by lowering my chin into my chest but that only made it worse. Then they discussed Paris and what they thought there highlights were. The Eiffel Tower came into play; "Well," began American No 1, "I was surprised to see how many people were there in the winner-time". Not to be outdone, No 2 chipped in with "yeah, but I feel that the Tower is really over-engineered". Over-engineered? Completed in 1889, it was built by people called Jean-Claude with rivets hammers and not by people called Baab with oxycetalyne blowtorches and dental care. It was, and still is, a marvel of human achievement. I gather that the American's have their own Eiffel Tower in Las Vegas made out of empty cereal packets and poster paints. But we're drifting away from the story here ...

The film started in black and white, as if to give the effect of 'earlier in time' but the Americans were not to be fooled by anyone; "Baab, it's in black and white ...". Thank you Baab, we can all see that. Just give it a chance and pipe down, there's a good chap.

Casino Royale starts from the beginning, from when Bond gains his 00 status. Even now, I'm still trying to figure out why the film makers decided to roll back the clock just because there was a new actor in the leading role. After all, they never did it with the others. Maybe Fleming's back catalogue of original stories had dried up and they needed an excuse to rewrite and re-jig the character. In this Bond, 007 is the caring, loving human being - a bit of a tree-hugger. Then the story unfolds which explains how and why JB became what people know him as today, the love 'em and leave 'em type, a carefree bad-boy killer. Some old favourites crop up too. For example, Felix Lieter, a CIA contact and close friend of 007's. However, this time around he's a black man. I know the CIA are cunning disguisers, but changing a white character into a black fella isn't going to cut the mustard with Bond aficionados.

The first action-packed sequence is superb - beautifully executed and superbly edited. However, after that, I got the impression that I wasn't watching a Bond film but had stumbled into the wrong cinema where they were projecting some awful Catherine Cookson story. Too much slush, too much kissing, too much ... well, modern man. OK, I understand that it was necessary to explain why Bond was once a caring/sharing type who only needed the love of one woman, but come on ... you could have shaved 30 minutes of the film, saved us the long and possessive love sequences and cut straight to the chase.

For 2hrs and 27mins I sat, almost riveted to my seat. The Americans were still nattering on like a pair of old women (that's why I rarely go to the flicks - a cinema auditorium is just an extension of some people's living rooms). The over-long poker scenes were simply over-long (unless you understand poker), the crash that lead to Bond being taken captive and brutally tortured was far too quick (to think they got into the record books for 7 cannon-rolls in a car, I would have paced it out a bit longer for a bigger effect). The actual torture scene was something that should never have been in a Bond film, there were no gags and no flippant remarks.

If you're going to start from the beginning of a story, then M should have been a man, Moneypenny should have been present, Q should have figured in the story, Felix should have been white and today's modern technology should not have been included. Confused? You bet I was. I am not surprised that 'Happy Feet' took more in the US box offices - it's more their thing and easy to understand. Daniel Craig looks like he's going to be a superb Bond - if only the film makers would hurry up and let Bond do Bond-like things.

Apparently, Casino Royale is the first of a 2-parter, the second being 'Bond 22' due for release in November 2008. It takes over from where the latest Casino Royale leaves off. Well, it had better get back to being a proper Bond film - the Bond we all love and the Bond we flock to see. If not, that'll be the end of a beautiful relationship.

Bond will return - and this time, let's hope and pray, with his bloody homework done.

Stu

2 Comments:

Anonymous Paul said...

The actual torture scene was something that should never have been in a Bond film....

Well they didn't have a *huge* choice as the movie is based on the first Fleming book of the same name, and the torture scene is in the book, as are the long poker and short car chase scenes...

Saturday, January 06, 2007 7:23:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think I did very well indeed. The director and I discussed the torture scene and decided to leave it joke-free. I'm off to film another scene for the new one.

JB

Saturday, January 06, 2007 10:09:00 pm  

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