A site of satirical musings, commentary and/or rhetorical criticism of the world at large.

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Monday, November 20, 2006

Casino Royale

James Bond is back in his first adventure. If that sounds strange, imagine the problem his fans have coping with the idea that, after 40 years of spy adventures, we are finally given his back-story. Here we see his transformation from cocky, arrogant, newly minted –OO agent, to the cold, ruthless, male-chauvinistic super spy. In all these years we have never pretended that he is someone to look up to, but we do love his style.

This latest installment of the James Bond franchise is faithful to the Ian Fleming novel of the same name. This is an accomplishment in itself when you consider that such earlier entries as “Moonraker” and “The Spy Who Loved Me” claimed to be based on those same name novels, but took only the title and threw away the rest for the movie versions. Otherwise, this new film has most of the elements of the novel. Yes, the game of baccarat has been changed to poker, but there is still the graphic torture scene, and the twist ending survives.

We should very briefly acknowledge the first version of “Casino Royale”, a mess of a movie that has been charitably described as a spy spoof. It has been reported that elements from the first “Casino Royale” inspired the creation of Austin Powers, the spy spoof for our generation. That’s probably the nicest way to remember it.

In the new version, we learn why he treats women the way he does, and why he takes his martinis shaken, not stirred. It turns out to be a matter of self-preservation. When Bond tells a woman “I love you,” it is actually fate saying to the woman “You are going to die a violent death very shortly.” See for yourself! Read the original novels and see what happens to Vesper Lynd or Tracey di Vicenzo, who was actually happily married to Bond for a few minutes in “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.” He takes the hint very quickly that his chosen profession doesn’t lend itself very well to the nine-to-five grind with the wife and children awaiting him at the end of each day.

This new “Casino Royale” is very different from the other films. It has a whole new texture to it. It’s rough and graphic – we actually see Bond with scars on his face – and he dresses his own (multiple) wounds. As his fans may recall, the old Bonds would engage in all sorts of fights and barely show a bruise. Once in awhile, we were allowed to see our hero in a cast, or bandage, but very seldom bloodied. The new Bond bleeds, profusely on several occasions.

The action sequences are exciting as always, but even here the new toughness that “Casino” brings makes some of the earlier entries look like Hanna-Barbera cartoons. This doesn’t necessarily make the new “Casino” a superior Bond, or a candidate for my all-time favorite. (I’ve got that narrowed down to three.) Still, it goes a long way to answering many unanswered questions about Bond’s character. Now we can enjoy his future adventures all the more.

Of course we are always assured that our man will have new challenges to face. The end credits always tells us that –



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