It’s been awhile! Earlier this week, I realized something that made me feel a little old. ‘Casino Royale’ was released 10 years ago.
It’s not really a big deal as far as the franchise goes. There are 24 movies currently. Every movie in the series has some kind of anniversary every year. But I wanted to talk about this one in particular because, for me- this is it. This is the Bond movie that defines my fandom.
Before this movie came out, I was a pretty casual Bond fan. I would catch a movie every now and again if there was a Bond-a-Thon on whatever channels played them. I didn’t know who the different actors were, how many movies were actually out there, or anything like that. It seemed like there were hundreds, and to watch them all would be a completely impossible task.
I think the main interest I had with 007 as a kid though came out of the video games. Goldeneye was all the rage but I never got to play it since I had a Playstation, and not an N64. But when I was 9 or 10 I had a game called ‘Agent Under Fire’ for the original Xbox. This game was the shit, and I have a lot of fond memories of it. As a matter of fact, my first all-nighter was because of that game. My friends and I would play it from dusk until dawn at every sleepover we had. The same energy went to ‘Nightfire’ with my friends and I. Hours upon hours were spent with these games.
This is a reason I have always labeled Pierce Brosnan as being the video game-era Bond. In all seriousness, the guy was a great Bond, but he only really had one movie that I would label as “great” (Goldeneye), and the rest of them just kind of declined with each film. While they were all still enjoyable, it was the games that came out during his era that kept Bond relevant.
In 2006, ‘Casino Royale’ was released. I was excited, and by this point in time, I had at least seen enough older Bond movies to understand the gist of it all. I knew each movie (and game) started with the gun barrel sequence. I knew there was always a title sequence with the dancing silhouettes, and the martini’s, and the girls, and the cars, and the gadgets, and the sometimes over-the-top villains. I knew what I was in for, and expected it to be just like all the others I had seen here and there.
Nope. The movie started right away and I noticed something about it was different. A few seconds in, I realized there wasn’t a gun barrel sequence. But then right at the end of the black and white bathroom fight, Daniel Craig swept right around and shot the camera, making that intro scene kind of an origin story for that famous sequence. For some reason it gave me chills. From that point on, I was hooked. The opening titles with Chris Cornell’s “You Know My Name” was incredible, and then right after that they cut to the parkour chase.
Everything about this was so crazy and so visceral. And that pretty much defines all of the action in ‘Casino Royale’. It gets so ridiculously over-the-top at times, but it still maintains such a heightened level of realism. It’s not like the motorcycle chase in ‘Mission:Impossible 2’ where, yeah… it’s awesome…but it’s also laughable. The same could be said about many of the sequences in Pierce Brosnan’s movies, especially ‘Die Another Day’. When action is over-the-top but maintains 110% of its realism, that’s perfect action to me.
The action was one thing, but the emphasis on character is something that really shines here. For decades, James Bond was basically just his very own stereotype. He was always just this suave dude who loved martinis, women, cars, gambling, and being a cold-blooded killer with a license to kill. His ENTIRE purpose as a character in every film was to just get the job done, and to make sure all of these trademarks were placed at one point or another.
This was never an issue, just to make that clear. The producers knew what worked, and they kept it going for decades. However, after 20 movies, it was probably growing a bit stale for many people. The goal of ‘Casino Royale’ was to make things a little different. It still would abide by the same traditions, but they’d be flipped over. This was the first time I ever saw James Bond as a real human being, as opposed to a stereotypical spy who was there just defeat the villain and his evil scheme. This Bond is rugged, and ends up falling in love towards the end of the movie. This was done in ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’ in 1969, however, after that movie, the death of Bond’s loved one was hardly followed up on. ‘Diamonds Are Forever’ came out right after, and instead of them making it a revenge story, it went right back to being Spy vs. Scheme.
‘Quantum of Solace’ may not be one of the better Bond films. But at least it followed up on these themes and character motives from the previous movie. I have to give credit where credit is due. ‘Casino’ and ‘Quantum’ make for a very well done two-part story. To watch ‘Quantum’ on its own is a disappointment. But to watch these two movies back to back is fantastic. I highly recommend it.
I could talk at greater length about my love for ‘Casino Royale’. But the real purpose of this post is for me to just celebrate James Bond as a franchise. This 2006 reboot is without a doubt, my favorite Bond movie of all time. It’s a phenomenal action movie, and took Bond as a character to places we had never seen. But above all of this, it’s the Bond movie that brought me from being a casual fan, to a die hard lover. Immediately after seeing this movie, I saw it again the next day. And right after that, I made it my goal to explore the entire rich history of the James Bond film franchise.
TOP FIVE JAMES BOND FILMS:
#5. ‘Licence to Kill’
For me, this isn’t just one of my personal favorites, but one that I would also label as being THEE MOST UNDER-RATED of them all. ‘Licence to Kill’ was ahead of its time. The amount of grittiness in this movie parallels what we wouldn’t see in another Bond movie again until 2006. It was most likely done this way due to the success of ‘Die Hard’, which moved the action genre away from being campy. But James Bond had been campy for years. The abrupt change must have angered a lot of people, and the release date might have also had something to do with the movie not making much money. Its competition was ‘Lethal Weapon 2’, ‘Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade’, and… ‘Batman’. So yeah.
One could point fingers all day to why this movie wasn’t successful, but what bothers me more is that it’s STILL very over-looked. Timothy Dalton plays an excellent Bond, and it’s really a shame we didn’t get to see him play the part at least one more time. It’s far better than his other movie, ‘The Living Daylights’, which I would label as a very “middle of the road” Bond movie. Robert Davi plays an excellent villain, and Benicio Del Toro plays a terrific henchman. ‘Licence to Kill’ offers a level of violence that’s very rare for a Bond film, and features some really great moments.
I don’t see how one couldn’t put this one in their Top 5. It’s just classic. ‘Dr. No’ and ‘From Russia With Love’ may have been the ones that started it all, but it wasn’t until ‘Goldfinger’ where you notice that the traditional formulas of a Bond movie are sturdy and in place for good.
Even though this movie is clearly old, this one remains my personal favorite of the Connery movies because it doesn’t actually feel as dated as his others. I feel that ‘Dr. No’ and ‘From Russia’ have some issues finding their footing, which is fine as they were the first movies. ‘Thunderball’ gets very slow in many areas, ‘You Only Live Twice’ and ‘Diamonds Are Forever’ really begin to show some cheese that would end up being present for the entire Moore-era. Not to say those movies aren’t good or don’t have their moments. They do. But ‘Goldfinger’ is just simple, and very to the point. No cringe-worthy cheesiness, no slow points, and no trouble finding balance. If there’s one movie that sets the standard of what any Bond movie should be, it’s this one.
This movie is just so much damn fun! It’s definitely very 90’s, so in some areas, it feels a bit dated and cheesy. At the same time though, that 90’s cheese just adds to the enjoyment.
Pierce Brosnan really brings his own, and is basically a perfect balance of Roger Moore and Timothy Dalton. His other movies never really hit the heights that this one did, but Pierce always remained the saving grace no matter how ridiculous or convoluted those films got.
It’s not only a good movie, but its video game counterpart had a huge hand in revolutionizing first-person shooters, and addicting multiplayer game play. That’s gotta count for something.
Much like how ‘Casino Royale’ deviated from what was always “natural” in a Bond movie, this one did it too, however it actually brought many of the classic traditions back. We see a younger Q, which makes sense in the world we live in now. Young people are (generally speaking) way better with technology than older people. A new Moneypenny appears, there’s a tale of two M’s, and there is a fantastic classic villain featured in this.
It still tackles Bond being a real human being. You see him bent out of shape, and this just adds to the story. The movie also delves very deep for Judi Dench’s ‘M’. She’s actually the Bond girl of this movie if you really think about it too. Instead of seeing Bond go on his adventure with a romantic love-interest by his side, we get to see more of a mother and son dynamic instead.
It makes a perfect balance of new and old. If you took ‘Casino Royale’ and blended it with some of the best (more formulaic) Bond movies of the past, you get ‘Skyfall’. The only reason this doesn’t rank in at #1 for me is because ‘Casino Royale’ just meant more to me as a Bond fan.
#1. ‘Casino Royale’
No need to be redundant here.
But now let’s go into another area. There are A LOT of Bond movie. Even though I generally think that a majority of them are enjoyable, there are ones that just simply aren’t worth it.
Bottom Three Worst James Bond Films:
#3. ‘A View to a Kill’
Alright. This one isn’t necessarily HORRIBLE. There are good things in there. Christopher Walken plays a pretty good villain, the Duran Duran theme is one of the best, and it sticks to a pretty safe and standard formula that looks good on paper.
But the thing that I just can’t get past, and the reason for why it actually makes it into my Bottom Worst- is Roger Moore’s age. I thought he was too old to be Bond in the two movies before this. By the time one rolls around to this movie, it just becomes a joke.
So even though there are elements of a good Bond movie here, it becomes a borderline parody when you see an old Grandpa doing the things that Timothy Dalton should have been doing at this point. It also doesn’t help that the girl is so young either. It just comes off as creepy. You can watch it and still enjoy it, but it is insanely hard for me to make any real recommendation to view it.
If you want a Bond parody, watch Austin Powers.
Speaking of parodies, here’s another one. Hell, much like ‘A View to a Kill’, this movie also has moments. In fact, the first hour altogether isn’t all that bad. It’s really similar to ‘The Spy Who Loved Me’, which is a great Bond movie. It even has Jaws as the henchman again!
But then they go to space and it’s just so stupid…
Any redeeming quality this movie does have can easily be found in literally any Bond movie before or after this one. So don’t bother.
#1. ‘For Your Eyes Only’
THIS MOVIE SUCKS!!!
I’m really sorry that every movie in my “Worst” list all starred Roger Moore. But I cannot help that he had arguably the worst movies in the whole franchise.
I’ve heard people say that this Bond movie was the only one that showed Roger Moore with an edge, and that’s why they liked it…
There is one scene where he kicks a car off a cliff with a bad guy inside, and that is it. That’s the only cool scene, and the only scene where I see Moore with an “edge”.
It’s an entirely boring movie, and is one long chase scene after another. There are Bond movies that are gritty and fun. There are ones that are super cheesy, but still fun. This one is just flat out boring, and to me… that is the biggest crime a Bond film can ever commit.
With all of that out of the way, I would like to point out a few more movies in this franchise that I personally feel are under-rated.
‘The Man with the Golden Gun’ is an absolute cheesy blast. I see this movie listed towards the bottom in a lot of rankings, but I personally feel there is a lot to enjoy about it. Christopher Lee as Scaramanga is awesome. It’s filled with tension throughout, especially with the fun house opening and climax, and there’s a nice amount of humor. I’m not saying the movie is amazing, I just think it gets a lot of undeserved flack.
‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’ tends to be pushed away by many people, mostly because it was George Lazenby’s one and only movie. He actually did a pretty great job filling in for Connery, and I feel it’s a shame we didn’t get to see him again. The movie itself is very good, even if it’s a bit long. I have seen that this movie has been getting more and more recognition lately, so I am happy to see that.
Lastly, as I briefly mentioned before- ‘Quantum of Solace’. It is by no means a great movie. There are a lot of issues with pacing, editing, thin plot, etc. However, to be fair, it was made during the Writer’s Strike in 2008. But aside from that, I can’t express enough that ‘Quantum’ is a very solid second act to ‘Casino Royale’. It’s not that good as a standalone Bond movie, but it is pretty good if you watch these two movies as a double feature. Had the strike in ’08 not happened, the movie probably would have stood on its own a little better. But they managed to at least continue the threads that were left by ‘Royale’ to make a solid revenge movie.
I don’t think any Bond film could be worse than the ones I listed in my Bottom Worst, and my Top Five is simply the “best of the best”, to my own personal preference. Everything that comes in-between are all pretty decent. It’d be hard for me to rank many of them, as I feel that many are on par with one another. ‘Spectre’ may not be as good as ‘Skyfall’, or ‘Casino Royale’, but I would definitely put it in the same category as ‘The Living Daylights’, ‘Tomorrow Never Dies’, or ‘Live and Let Die’. This franchise is filled with many good-to-great action films that are all excellent to pass the time with.
I hope you all enjoyed reading my editorial on the James Bond franchise. I’d love to know what some of your favorites/least favorites are in the comments!
Happy 10 Years ‘Casino Royale’!!!