April 13, 2007

With Bonds Like These, Who Needs Q?

So my nonagenarian self finally got around to seeing the new James Bond movie.

Yes, I realize it came out forever ago. It takes me until video release to see most films, unless I’m really itching to see one particularly; this one, not so much. I figured I would pop it on while studying, since I don’t often watch television without washing dishes, or magazine flipping, or checkbook balancing.* It’s not really a problem since most movies don’t require my full attention anyway.

Within five minutes, the French book hit the floor.

The first twenty minutes of Casino Royale have at least as much action as the opening sequence of Saving Private Ryan, and is as fantastic as anything can be without Nazis. The action segued nicely into intrigue, the plot was farfetched but well paced, and with just the right amount of separate-yet-cogent action sequences where Bond thwarts terrorist explosions in the name of the Crown. In the third act, chomping Triscuits, I knew I would be writing about it, because it rocks so very hard.

I’m not big into the Bond franchise; I have only seen the last three in entirety, and bits and pieces from various Sean Connery interpretations via lower-cable marathons. My family owns the full DVD set, prompting the evergreen dinner-table debate over who is the best / worst Bond—which always panned out Sean Connery / George Lazenby, so I don’t know why they even bothered arguing. Until now. The winner by a street: Daniel Craig.

The whole reason I never got into the series was that I didn’t really care for James personally. It’s hard to root for a protagonist who spews tired catchphrases and changes women as often as pairs of boxer-briefs, usually simultaneously. The premise that he’s hot and gets his man (singular) and women (gluttonously plural) is so Captain Kirk I never much cared what happened, and the characterization just made the cheesy lines and improbable plot that much worse. I could forgive it in the earlier movies; it was the seventies—why not blow up the world or have laser-beam wearing sharks in a tank?—but presently… it’s just so done. And not by just the Bondmakers, but everyone who ever tried to make an action movie. It’s hard to make them compelling without changing up the formula—which is exactly what Casino Royale did.

And yet, didn’t. The plot was improbable, but not impossible, and not too easy or difficult to follow. The storyline, although supposedly a prequel to the series, is based on post-9/11 events, giving it a darker but more relatable feeling. The "Bond girls" were not gratuitously nude, and treated with a hell of a lot more respect than Ursula Andress. But the best mix of the old and the new is, of course, the Brand New [God I Hope He Signs On For Six Sequels] Bond.

Daniel Craig is the Marlene Dietrich of James Bonds.** You don’t exactly know what to make of him, but you respect the hell out of him because his every move screams confidence and you fall in love with him before you’ve had a chance to find him attractive. Pierce Brosnan was a cardboard cut-out: explosions for the guys, Brosnan for the chicks. Craig is the gentleman’s Bond, the thinking man’s Bond—or rather, the thinking woman’s. He’s relatable and attractive to both sexes on all levels—an area where other Bonds fall short.

Admittedly, I like my Bond like I like my chocolate: Dark. Craig is the most hardcore and ruthless James Bond since Timothy Dalton went on a rampage to avenge that girl by killing all those guys that one time (I saw ten minutes of it twenty years ago in a window reflection). Brosnan’s cavorting and well-coiffed frippery look like marshmallow fluff next to Craig’s dark Ghiradelli truffles; he isn’t suave for suavity sake, nor womanizing just to hit the character clause—there is motivation behind every action. He praises duty above slacking off above playing by the rules. Despite his intensity, he still manages to be charming without being needlessly quippy, and seducing women through necessity while still genuinely enjoying it—not the other way around. His sense of humor is almost sanguine, sort of a “world’s going to shit might as well have a laugh” attitude.

I hesitate to make reference to the man’s smoldering hotness (which, obviously), because I feel that might weaken my argument (like, why not just write “DC iz sexxxy--see hz show!!1!!” and have done with it). Let me just say this: He didn’t necessarily, cinematically, need to be naked so often, but I appreciated it nonetheless. And so will you, no matter where you live or what your name is, because his body is world peace. [I’m done. But… really.]

The metaphor for the new badass Bond is evident in a single line, when Bond is asked: Would he like his vodka martini shaken, or stirred?

“Do I look like I give a damn?”

I do not miss Pierce Brosnan at all.

* Although reading while watching TV is a level of multi-tasking I have never successfully achieved, I keep right on trying, like Sisyphus writing a text message.
** That’s really too many proper nouns for one sentence, but I can’t think of another way to put it.


crdrue said...

I moved to top on the n'flix queue. Beedoo recommending an action movie is unique.

Anonymous said...

BTW- you are the ONLY one who got off on Q. Hmmm...not meant to be a pun.