I confess that I’ve never read any of the famous Ian Fleming works. I never really watched any of the movies in their entirety either. A James Bond film for me consists of a montage of Sean Connery or Roger Moore leisurely rolling onto a bed with another buxom babe and maybe occasionally shooting a robot-looking Russian villain. Oh and don’t forget the fantastical evil layers on the bottom of the sea or top of the mountain, and death rays circling the globe on some stealthy satellite. Austin Powers movies probably did it better (I love the sharks). Nevermind my skepticism, I still believe that Mr. Bond is an icon, even if that icon is a final product of ancient chauvinism and Cold War paranoia.
Casino Royale is probably the only Bond movie that I watched from start to finish and loved. Daniel Craig (while questionable candidate for the role due to being blond and American) did a great job portraying James in the beginning of his career as a double-O agent. There were no typical disposable women, his character had some reaction to killing others, and the viewer got a chance to see Bond’s sensitive side. I had heard that the movie significantly deviates from the book, so I knew not to expect anything too grande. Surprisingly, it was closer to the movie than I thought it would be. Don’t get me wrong, it lacked many scenes and took a different direction in ones that were actually there. But the important points like a great minor villain, tragic love story and an exciting poker game were all present (as well as the torture scene, who can forget that one?). That was a big plus.
The big minus though is that James is still a sexist ass we all know and love to hate. He prowls around, sips his signature Vodka Martinis, constantly tries to get in the pants of the first woman he speaks to and miraculously escapes assassins/explosions with his hair implacably put together. The man is indestructible. His brief romance with Vesper might have shown some hope, if not for the fact that he is relentlessly trying to dominate her which in turn expresses in his desire to violate her. I think word “rape” slipped in at some point; but whatever, I’m not a sensitive type. What bugged me was the ending of that relationship. In the movie Vesper has to betray Bond, whom she truly loves, in order to keep him safe. Craig’s James is obviously heartbroken. He might have been initially full of hatred for the woman, but upon learning the truth, he indeed mourns for his lost love. The book made Vesper look like a hysterical B-type movie actress, unsure whether she should be a demure virgin or a sex kitten. Her reasoning for what she does is kind of botched, and Bond walks out of the final scene furious (but nothing more). That was kind of disappointing; otherwise, the book version of Casino Royale is pretty entertaining, but reeks of cheap pulp paperback a mile away. I will be checking out other installments in the Bond saga to form a final opinion.