THREE GUYS AND… 007
series created by Marvin Mercer and Nick Stephenson
“JAMES BOND 007 (2006 – 2015)”
written by Dominick Cappello
“Casino Royale” (2006)
Directed by Martin Campbell & Starring Daniel Craig.
The series took a four year hiatus following the Pierce Brosnan era. Quite frankly, I thought he was aging well and could have done a fifth film which may have been a better send off than “Die Another Day” (2002). Producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson – daughter and step-son of Albert R. “Cubby” Broccoli – thought otherwise and made the decision to reboot the franchise. This was the popular trend in Hollywood following the “Star Wars” prequels. Sequels had become passé. Now every marketable character needed a film to tell their backstory. If you combine a prequel with a remake you get a reboot. This reboot would be the third and the definitive adaptation of Ian Fleming’s Casino Royale. Martin Campbell – director of “GoldenEye” (1995) – returned to the series and Daniel Craig was cast as the new 007. Mr. Craig had the chops, but was mostly unknown to audiences here in the United States. I’d seen him in both “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider” (2001) and “Road to Perdition” (2002) but when I read in AM New York that “Daniel Craig was the new James Bond,” I didn’t associate the name with his face. The fact that he has blonde hair was just about the biggest controversy of the decade. I guess that people tend to forget that Sean Connery wore a toupee? Myself, I was just happy to have a new installment. Four years was too long of a delay, but “Casino Royale” was well worth the wait and Daniel Craig proved his skeptics wrong with a magnificent performance in one the (if not the) best James Bond films. Daniel Craig is tough like Sean Connery, quick-witted like Roger Moore, romantic like Pierce Brosnan, and cynical like Timothy Dalton. This guy can do it all. He is the 007 most reminiscent of Sean Connery without being a clone like George Lazenby. The title song “You Know My Name” by Chris Cornell is seriously badass. Naturally, Eva Green is my favorite Bond Girl of the new millennium. Daniel Craig and Eva Green shaped a compelling love story. The first in the series since “On Her Majesty‘s Secret Service” (1969) and audiences of 2006 were much more receptive to an ill-fated romance. The action sequences featured some amazing stunt work and were dynamically edited. A reprieve after “Die Another Day” oozed CGI. I have mixed feelings about the reboot phenomenon, but “Casino Royale” was an instant classic. We fanboys could endlessly debate “Casino Royale” vs. “Batman Begins” (2005) as to which is the superior reboot?
“Quantum of Solace” (2008)
Directed by Marc Forster & Starring Daniel Craig.
This is a direct follow up to “Casino Royale” which is a major disappointment. Why is it so difficult for there to be two good James Bond films in a row? I guess that this film is similar to “Licence to Kill” (1989) in that it doesn’t feel like it takes place in the 007 universe. From the poorly edited car chase teaser, I could easily tell that whomever the director was, he had probably never done an action movie before. I looked up Marc Forster on IMDB and though he has an impressive resume – including “Monster’s Ball” (2001) and “Finding Neverland (2004) – he indeed had not one action movie to his credit. Besides the convoluted screenplay, there is a lot wrong with the characterization of 007. It’s not Daniel Craig’s fault. The screenplay let him down. One scene that really sums up the problems with “Quantum of Solace” is when James Bond kills the man in the Haitian hotel. He was told over and over again not to, then he watches the man slowly bleed to death. Why? This wasn’t a decision made by James Bond to let this man die, it was the filmmakers shoving down our throats that 007 is a rebel who plays by his own set of rules. And this may be blasphemy to some, but I felt Dame Judi Dench had a bit too much screen time. M is James Bond’s superior, not a field agent. She kept popping up in every country he went to and I was getting tired of seeing her. Camille Montes (Olga Kurylenko) was an attractive, but dreary Bond Girl. Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric) was the lamest villain ever. This character sucks. There’s never been weaker opposition for 007. I was really hoping that the secret organization referenced in “Casino Royale” was SPECTRE. Instead we got the inferior QUANTUM (though I am aware that there were legal issues preventing SPECTRE from returning at the time). I’ve heard many people say that they dislike the title song, “Another Way to Die” by Jack White and Alicia Keys. Really? That’s your big gripe? Was it worse than “Die Another Day” by Madonna? Nope.
Directed by Sam Mendes & Starring Daniel Craig.
Eon Productions usually follows a weak entry in the series with a strong one, so I was highly anticipating “Skyfall.” Sam Mendes, who’d directed Daniel Craig in “Road to Perdition,” was at the helm. Javier Bardem portraying the film’s villain – Silva – is what had everyone most excited. M was crucial to the plot, which I was leery of because I was quite vocal in my feelings that Dame Judi Dench took up too much screentime in “Quantum of Solace,” but it ended up being a ceremonious departure for her character after seven films. Q made his return, played by Ben Whishaw. Naomi Harris denied that she we would be portraying Miss Moneypenny while promoting the film, but I easily saw through that façade. Ralph Feinnes and Albert Finney also appeared. Scottish ancestry for 007 was obviously a tip of the hat to Sean Connery. Ian Fleming had done the same in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service after initially being skeptical of Mr. Connery. There was always a school of thought that James Bond was a designation that went along with the rank of 007, but the surname his parents’ headstone was Bond, so I guess that he actually is a spy bold enough to use his given name. Javier Bardem was sufficiently epic in his role, which was a surprise to no one, but let me digress. Silva did fall into the trend of having traits similar to Heath Ledger’s Joker in “The Dark Knight” (2008). The same can be said for Tom Hardy’s Bane in “The Dark Knight Rises” (2012) and Tom Hiddleston as Loki in “The Avengers” (2012) with the whole “getting caught was part of their plan” scheme. This “antagonist getting captured on purpose so to set his insidious plot into motion” routine was quickly becoming cliché. Hell, even James Bond was a bit like Bruce Wayne having Albert Finney as his Alfred Pennyworth. He said that when young James Bond was orphaned he retreated into a cave beneath his house. What!? He had an Alfred and a secret cave entrance!? I didn’t think we needed much backstory on James Bond, but if we did, why turn him into Bruce Wayne? Okay. I’ll rant more about this another time. Everything came full circle on James Bond’s 50th anniversary. Ralph Feinnes assumed the position of M in an office that is almost an exact replica of Bernard Lee’s from the early days of 007. And having Miss Moneypenny back at her post also added to the nostalgia. The band was back together. The soulful title song by Adele took home the gold at both the Golden Globes and the Academy Awards.
I’ve already reviewed “Spectre” (2015). Here is the link…
– Dr. Rochester