The Daniel Craig Years, by Rich Paschall, Sunday Night Blog
After 20 James Bond films and 40 years, EON Productions finally had something that eluded them from the start. They obtained the rights to the first Ian Fleming novel, 1953’s Casino Royale. The story had been adapted into a 1954 American television drama and a 1967 comedy spoof, but had never been given a serious big screen treatment. The chance was at hand when Pierce Brosnan declined the opportunity to go on as 007.
The change to a new Bond also meant another change in attitude at the studio now run by the daughter of original Producer, Albert R. Broccoli. Other studios had given their heroes a new start to great success, so why not Bond? Comic book characters had moved away from cartoon portrayals to serious action heroes. It was time to move Bond away from the comic quips and amazing gadgets. With an eye towards a more faithful portrayal of the book than any of the previous Bond movies had done, Casino Royale, starring Daniel Craig took the story back to the beginning as secret agent Bond becomes 007.
Interestingly, the series did retain one cast member. Judi Dench returned as the head of MI6 and the boss of James Bond. She sends him on his first mission to Casino Royale. Only Timothy Dalton gave us such a serious Bond, but Craig shows less emotion than any previous version of our favorite spy. He is serious and calculating in his efforts to defeat the bad guys and serve his country. If you were a fan of the novels and a more serious Bond, the “reboot” might be much to your liking.
In Casino Royale, Bond must defeat the terrorist financier Le Chiffre at the Casino. Taking away the bad guy’s money is a dangerous plan for both players. There will be no spoiler alerts, but Bond will not escape with a few double meaning quips and hidden gadgets. This will be a painful ordeal.
Not everything is resolved at the end of the movie which allows for something the series has not tried before, a story arc. Elements are carried into Quantum of Solace as Bond seeks revenge for a murder and tries to learn about the organization, Quantum. It is clearly a more serious and more violent film than any Bond movie we have had so far. An interesting side note is that Craig and director Marc Forster wrote sections of the script due to a screenwriter’s strike. They did not receive screen credit. The role of Judi Dench is expanded this time out. It make sense to make greater use of an actor of this stature.
The third Daniel Craig movie, Skyfall, may be the best so far. It honors the Bond canon by bringing back some favorite characters in the person of new actors while making reference to times past. This time out the story centers around M (Judi Dench) and the challenges to MI6 from outside and in. The only agent she can really trust to hunt down the threat is, of course Bond, James Bond. Already in her late 70s at the time, Dench is featured in the trap that Bond lays for the bad guys and the action sequences that follow. Javier Bardem is the evil trouble maker who is out to destroy the spy agency and get M. The action is intense.
Skyfall picked up a collection of nominations and awards. Adele sang the title song which you could not escape on the radio for a long time. It won the Oscar. Miss Moneypenny returns to the franchise. If you have not seen it, I will leave the surprising revelation for you. The Quartermaster (Q) returns and he is not the old-timer we were used to seeing in Desmond Llewelyn and John Cleese. Of course, Llewelyn was a lot younger when he first appeared in a 1963 Bond film. British stage and film star Ben Whishaw is the younger Q, much to the surprise of Bond. He is more of a computer geek than a developer of gadgets, although he does have something for Bond. He is the perfect 21st century Q and a clever return for the character.
Ralph Fiennes is on hand as Mallory, M’s boss, and will play a continuing role into the next feature. Veteran Albert Finney is also on hand to support Bond in the late action sequences. All things considered, I liked the casting, the return of certain characters and even bringing back the Aston Martin. It is clever script writing by people familiar with the Bond legacy. It is directed by Sam Mendes, who returns for the 4th Craig film.
If you saw the early Bond films or read the books, you knew that James Bond was often on the trail of members of the criminal organization, SPECTRE. So it should be no surprise that the Bond reboot will find our hero on the search for information about the organization and its leader. We find another name from the past as the leader of SPECTRE, Ernst Stavro Blofeld.
SPECTRE contains all the right elements: M, Q, Moneypenny, evil villains and beautiful “Bond Girls.” The storyline incorporates elements from early Bond stories by Ian Fleming. It will be interesting to see where they go from here. Will Craig be back? Will the newly reintroduced regulars be back with the same actors? Will the storylines continue to look for elements from Fleming novels and bring them up to date?
It is impossible to compare the Craig portrayal of Bond with the previous actors. The series “reboot” has given us a Bond for the 21st century, different from what we had before. I think it was the only way to go. The Connery, Lazenby, Moore and Brosnan portrayals are charming, yet dated. I hope Craig is back, or someone who can bring the same level of action and intensity.
Just for fun, even the Queen is willing to appear in a James Bond film: