I’ve seen every single one of the Bond movies, and in the last ten years or so I’ve seen the new ones all in the theater. I’ve also read a fair number of Fleming’s novels, including Casino Royale. In other words… I like the formula. I also think it’s a important franchise that, when the formula is done well, reflects the state of the culture that produced it.
I saw the movie today with H and was quite pleased. The core of the brief, brutal book is there, right down to the torture scene. The book’s Russians are now generic terrorists that like to blow up planes, the game is hold ‘em instead of baccarat (which is fortunate as I can actually follow poker), and Bond’s Aston Martin is the new model, but the “this is why Bond is the way he is” elements are intact.
Craig doesn’t stick out as an interloper in Connery’s tux; his clothing is actually a recurring motif, with him going through about four dress shirts during the poker game alone, and spending a fair amount of time without a shirt at all. He is certainly the most physical actor to play Bond – regardless of stuntmen or not, I didn’t have the usual “Oh, yeah, like Pierce Brosnan/Roger Moore did THAT jump.”
One disappointment was that the torture scene was rewritten to make Bond look a lot tougher than Fleming’s Bond, who barely survived, almost permanently lost certain… assets, and came away with a much stronger sense of his own mortality. I don’t have a copy of the book anymore but I recall it was painful to even read, especially as I had an idea of Bond as basically invulnerable. Craig’s Bond didn’t have his ego checked nearly as much. I figure the writers and producers wanted to show Bond vulnerable, but not too vulnerable. Fleming’s Bond ends the book more or less broken, despite his ‘the bitch is dead’ bravado. The Craigian Bond ends the film in what appears to be, at least, full control, emotionally dried solid at the rate of super glue.
Still, it was extremely good overall, I think, with some nitpicking. Bond would have had a greater chance of being struck by lightning than drawing an inside straight flush on the turn with a pair on the board and then having three other players go all in for $104 million… good god. I would have preferred the bad guy catch him earlier with something more basic, say a flush over a straight, and then have Bond return and beat his full house with a four-of-a-kind. That actually happens occasionally. But, then again, he’s Bond, and he did check at least twice.
H was not happy that I casually mentioned ten minutes before the movie started that there might be a scene with a chair with no bottom and a cane. I owe her 8 Disney movies.