For some reason, I wasn't invited to the Royal premiere of Casino Royale the other night. I can only assume that my invitation was lost in the mail (the Royal mail that is - so I'm holding the Queen personally responsible). I am, however, off to see it tonight. Here are some "before and after" thoughts:
It's impossible to turn on a TV or open a magazine at the moment without seeing Bond all over the place. I feel like I've already seen the film but in fragmented clips and montages. Based on what I've seen and what I've read, Daniel Craig is the right man for the part, and director Martin Campbell has already delivered one amazing Bond reinvetion (Goldeneye), and it looks like he's going to deliver again.
I'm looking forward to there being an actual character arc in this film (and, as has been suggested, the next one). As well as the usual action and thriller aspects, there'll be a good dose of tragedy too. Hopefully.
Some concerns: I think keeping Judi Dench is a mistake - her presence creates a slightly illogical link with the Brosnan pics. There's no Moneypenny or Q. I understand why they've omitted them this time around (especially as both characters were mishandled/miscast in the last couple of films), but I'm hoping that they'll show up in the next one.
All Bond films are made to serve a number of functions. A good Bond film will nestle comfortably into the central intersection of this Venn diagram:
In a few hours time I'll try to pinpoint where Casino Royale falls within this nexus.
First of all, the diagram. Casino Royale sits slap bang in the middle it. Slap. Bang.
This film is more fun, more gripping than the last few Bond films put together. Science fiction and CGI are out the window in favour of Bourne-style physical effects and human drama. The first big set-piece, a free-running chase through a building site, is one of the finest sequences of stuntwork since Indiana Jones. Just fifteen minutes later we're dealt another that most films would be happy to have as a climax - but Casino Royale is still in act one.
That's not to say this is just a series of stunt jobs strung together in lieu of a plot. Bond - and the characters around him - are fleshed out motivated. One of the best moments is a completley unexpected tender scene where Bond comforts a post-traumatic Vesper Lynd in the shower (but not in the usual Bond way).
There are plenty of fan-pleasing references and challenges to the conventions, props and locations of previous Bond films, but not in a tongue-in-cheek or intrusive way. The only irksome moment is a completely pointless cameo from Richard Branson which gives the audience an unwelcome wink when everything else happening on screen is cranking up the tension. He did exactly the same thing in Superman Returns and quite frankly he should stop it. Now.
My only other reservations are that Judi Dench really should have been cut loose, and the opening credits sequence is a bit rubbish. But that's it.
Rather than compare it to other Bond films, which either pale in comparison or belong to a different era and style of film-making, I'd say this has more in common with the source-respectful Batman Begins, the brutal Bourne films and the stylish Ocean's 11.
That's to say that Casino Royale has the potential to be a modern classic.