(Above: One simply does not go see the new James Bond movie, Spectre, without doing some thorough reconnaissance first …)
I have been a James Bond 007 fan since the ripe old age of 9, when—in the summer of 1964—I saw Goldfinger at a Saturday matinee. I was at that age when the name Pussy Galore was totally lost on me, but that car and those gadgets were not. In retrospect, a Bond movie was more of an adult thing back then—super spies, scantily clad women, double entendres, Aston Martins, and shaken (not stirred) vodka martinis—but there was no ratings code and that Saturday afternoon matinee at the Victoria Theater in downtown Tamaqua, PA, was reserved for us kids.
It was then and there that I fell in love with James Bond. Supposedly the first Bond film you see will be your favorite, and I hit a home run. I was lucky enough to see the one film everyone seems to agree is the quintessential 007 movie. I was never a fan of the Roger Moore movies; Timothy Dalton, I could take or leave (and those two films are so over-the-top, they’re almost obscene); and while Pierce Brosnan started off in an excellent film (Goldeneye), it was all downhill from there, until it bottomed out with Halle Berry, Madonna, and an invisible car (hard to tell which was more exciting) in Die Another Day.
I was an early naysayer on Daniel Craig as 007, but Casino Royale won me over … but not until the very last few minutes of the film. While I appreciated the reboot and thought Craig himself was great, it didn’t gel for me until the classic theme song came on and he finally said the words, “Bond … James Bond.”
Over this past weekend, I watched all three Craig films: Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace, and Skyfall. It’s best to watch them like this, in one day, if possible, since the first two occur back-to-back: The fairly awful Quantum picks up immediately after the end of the fairly wonderful Casino. So let’s look at them one-by-one, shall we?, he asked with that stiff-upper-lift Brit politeness.
Casino Royale (2006)
It’s an excellent intro to Daniel Craig as Bond, James Bond, and one that seems to support my pet theory of the movie Bonds, that the name James Bond is attached to the 007 designation. Craig is a new 00 appointee and more of a “blunt instrument” in this film, according to both Ian Fleming (in his original Casino Royale novel, the first James Bond book, published in 1953) and Judi Dench’s M (this theory gets blown out the window in Skyfall, by the way, when Bond’s childhood is finally discussed in greater detail). Casino also has the most appealing “Bond girl” since Diana Rigg in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Eva Green’s Vesper Lynd, plus a decent bad guy in Mads Mikkelsen’s Le Chiffre.
Quantum of Solace (2008)
Craig’s second Bond outing is just one big hot mess. Totally miscast when it comes to the female lead and villain (Olga Kurylenko and Mathieu Amalric) and directed by Marc Forster (also miscast), the movie has its moments (most near the very beginning) and then descends into chaos. Amalric’s Dominic Green is the wimpiest Bond villain since Robert Carlyle’s Renard in the Pierce Brosnan-starring The World Is Not Enough (another horribly cast Bond movie).
Skyfall was another Bond casualty, held up for a number of years during MGM’s bankruptcy. The resultant film, directed by Sam Mendes (another director you’d think would be all wrong for a Bond movie, but isn’t), is probably the best one to-date (jury is out on Spectre). Mendes’ refreshing back-to-basics plot blows up MI-6 and starts over on a number of different levels, including an older and wiser Bond, a new Moneypenny and Q (both wonderfully played by Naomie Harris and Ben Whishaw, respectively), and an incredible villain in Javier Bardem’s Silva. While Goldfinger will always be my favorite Bond movie, Skyfall is definitely the best.
Friday morning will find me in a movie theater to see Spectre. I don’t know how many more Daniel Craig 007 outings we have ahead of us (evidently neither does he, even though he’s signed for one more), or who the next James Bond will be. I do know whomever it is and whatever they call the next one I’ll be there to see it.
Hey, maybe Reboot is a suitable-sounding Fleming-like title?