Entertainment Value: Casino Royale – Connery Did It First, but Craig has Done It Best

I will admit that going into this movie I had my trepidations. My main concern had to do with longevity of any cult icon. Superman, Batman, James Bond, these are all movies that have had such powerful staying power that they are being remade over and over again, regardless of whether they should be remade or not. I’m pretty sure that the reason that they keep getting remade is in order to make them not only better than the original, but the best period. The combination of director Christopher Nolan and actor Christian Bale did this with Batman Begins not only making up for what can only be described as the mockeries that were the previous two installments, but it was so much better that it could easy be argued that this was how the Batman series should have started. I wasn’t so sure that director Martin Campbell and actor Daniel Craig could do the same with James Bond in Casino Royale. I was wrong.

From the very beginning the revamped James Bond is given an overhaul with a darker grittier representation that Daniel Craig brings to the table. It is quickly apparent that the dry cool wit and sexual suggestiveness that is all previous Bond movies holds little to no sway over the new direction that this film takes.

Even the opening theme song is a far cry from the days that we would see silhouettes of naked women strolling through the frame over and over and over again, ad nauseum. If you’re gonna have boobs in the film, show them damn it! Instead the opening is a blend of artistic creativity with the harshness that could only be the life of a double O.

From there the audience is treated to what I believe to be the finest foot-chase scene ever caught on film. After you see it you will come out with the same question: you mean that free-style walkers can actually get movie rolls? Hey, what can I say? It worked.

Not that this movie is a total departure from the original campy versions of Bond movies, there are still plenty of action filled moments that are not only improbable, but probably impossible. Yet somehow Campbell has filmed them in a way that not only seems possible, but they are so entertaining that you really won’t give a shit. It’s just fun to watch.

Now, I’m not sure if anyone actually knows this, but there was already a Bond movie called Casino Royale! I know; I had no idea either. Evidently it was made in 1967 and starred the much fabled “third actor to play James Bond”. I’m pretty sure that it’s only a Trivial Pursuit question these days, but if you are ever asked to name all five actors that have played James Bond, the answer is: Daniel Craig, Pierce Bronson, Sean Connery, Roger Moore, and David Niven. Who is David Niven you ask? Exactly. Though one could also ask the same for Daniel Craig. Of course, you should answer this as: the best actor to portray James Bond. And if you are that curious to see the original, just remember this, there is a point in the movie when all agents are named James Bond and Woody Allen makes a cameo as young Jimmy Bond. Still interested?

Whoa, whoa, whoa, before you all get your panties in a bunch faster than Trekkies arguing the question Kirk or Picard, take a deep breathe and keep reading. I love Sean Connery as an actor and I live for hearing him say “Pussy Galore”, but it just doesn’t hold up to the remake. Not only does Casino Royale reinvent James Bond, but it also has the sense of humor to poke fun at itself for the past ridiculousness that Bond movies have released upon up. Example: Bond- I’ll have a vodka martini. Bartender- shaken or stirred, sir? Bond- Does it look like I give a damn?Admit it, that’s funny.

And for all those out there that refuse to accept a remake of James Bond, I would like to ask this question: are you the same losers that were made that Star Wars Episode I was made for mature audiences? Because the originals were made for everyone, too. Just because you’re a 35 year old virgin doesn’t mean that you get to see Queen Amadala’s boobs. The same holds true here. There is plenty that is James Bond. There are moments that he is dry-cool and damn sexy. But there is also a side to him that admits the stupid little character flaws that are all too present in the franchise history. This movie is darker, more realistic and just plain better at every angle. If you’re looking for a bit of nostalgia, you’re in the wrong place.

Oh, yeah and I suppose I should tell you what the plot is: do I really have to say it when it comes to a James Bond movie? Freedom fighters, suicide bombers, chases, fighting, high stakes poker to replace baccarat, a love interest and a couple of twists to keep you guessing. The details aren’t that important when it comes to this review, besides, do you really want spoilers? You’re in the wrong place.

How did it rate: It’s just plain better on every level than the originals. I suppose that the only thing it lacks is originality (well that and I’m not really sure that you can classify good pokers players when you only see them play the best hands, you’ll understand when you see it). Craig delivers on all levels and we can only hope that this Bond’s run is not short lived. 5 out of 5.