Casino Royale to Spectre: How Daniel Craig’s James Bond redefined the role but wasn't consistent

Anshu Lal

Nov 23, 2015 07:20:59 IST

When Daniel Craig was confirmed as the sixth cinematic James Bond after Pierce Brosnan back in 2005, quite a large number of 007 fans were outraged at the decision.

Film critic John Marriot had suggested that Clive Owen would have been a better Bond than Craig because he thought Craig didn’t have “the classic matinee idol look”. There was even an unofficial website started by Bond fans called danielcraigisnotbond.com, where fans asked people to boycott then upcoming movie Casino Royale.

The opposing fans and critics, however, were proven wrong, and how! Casino Royale turned out to be an excellent spy movie and one of the best Bond films, if not the best so far.

What made Casino Royale truly stand out and become memorable, apart from the usual Bond film elements such as elegant women, creepy villains, martinis and fast cars, is change. The way that film revamped the entire franchise is what Bond fans remember most now.

Casino Royale to Spectre: How Daniel Craig’s James Bond redefined the role but wasnt consistent

Daniel Craig's immense potential wasn't fully utilised in the Bond films post-Casino Royale. Reuters

And the main focus was obviously on how Daniel Craig depicted that change. With seemingly effortless ease, Craig depicted a Bond who had been stripped of all his ridiculous gadgets and had to rely on his own brain and brawn to overcome obstacles. Here was a James Bond who was not invincible and detached, but a more human and even damaged man who made mistakes and got emotional at tough times.

Bond became real. The fans could now identify more with a man who used awe-inspiring parkour to chase the bad guy than a man who drove around in an invisible car and could make things explode by pressing a button on his watch.

Vesper Lynd, the Bond girl who was brilliantly depicted by Eva Green, played a role almost as crucial as Bond himself in the movie rather than being reduced to a damsel in distress whose job is to look pretty. Even though Q and Moneypenny were absent in the film, the viewers didn’t miss their presence. Replacing the usual gun barrel sequence, the movie began in black-and-white, followed by an opening sequence with an incredible rock-based theme song, very different from the ones with female silhouettes.

Daniel Craig’s entry into the James Bond franchise promised an exciting era of Bond films that broke the boring age-old rules of 007 movies and gave the audience something new and refreshing to look forward to.

It is disappointing, however, to see how the Bond films post-Casino Royale broke that promise. The slow reversal from the promise of a new James Bond to the habit of sticking to the old and clichéd rulebook of making a Bond film was never more evident than in Spectre.

It’s almost as if the filmmakers were trying to make the film predictable and clichéd. Every person you think is the bad guy in the movie will turn out to be the bad guy. Even though Craig is still convincing as Bond, there is nothing in the movie which allows him to present Bond in a new light.

In Spectre, Bond is a man who relies on buttons in his watch to trigger an explosion, a fast car armed with flamethrowers and ejection seat, a pistol effective enough to take on a helicopter, a conveniently-placed net or a soft sofa at the end of a steep fall and even sheer, dumb luck to overcome obstacles.

When Bond does try to display emotion, it is done in a cringe-inducing clichéd and melo-dramatic manner. There is a scene in which Madeline Swann, the Bond girl, tells a trapped Bond that she loves him. Let’s just say that the events which follow that statement in the movie will remind you of a bad 1990s Bollywood romantic movie.

Speaking of the Bond girl, her role in the movie has been reduced to a pretty damsel in distress. The talent of other actors in the movie like Christoph Waltz (the Bond villain), Ralph Fiennes (M), Ben Whishaw (Q), Andrew Scott (C), Naomie Harris (Moneypenny) and Monica Bellucci (Lucia Sciarra) is wasted as they are given roles which are hollow and one-dimensional.

Also, the fact that Spectre, the third movie after Casino Royale, still keeps making references to Craig’s first Bond film is not very encouraging and makes us miss Casino Royale all the more.

But the disappointment of Spectre is not really unexpected. The downfall of the blonde Bond films began after Casino Royale and was seen in Quantum of Solace and even in Skyfall, which mostly got positive reviews. Quantum of Solace, the disappointing sequel to Casino Royale, had a weak plot and an even weaker and unoriginal Bond villain. In the words of film critic Roger Ebert, “What is Dominic's (the Bond villian’s) demented scheme to control the globe? As a start, the fiend desires to corner the water supply of ... Bolivia. Ohooo! Nooo!”

Craig’s talent was again wasted by depicting a Bond who, for a man out to avenge the death of a loved one, rarely displays any of that torment, darkness or even intensity which was present in Casino Royale.

Skyfall, of course, did have a gripping first half and a great performance by Javier Bardem. It had some strong personal references to James Bond’s dark past and was arguably the most visually appealing Bond film.

But it had a second half which fell flat. Perhaps nothing describes the problem with the second half of Skyfall better than these lines from The Telegraph: “Let's first admit that Javier Bardem has three great scenes in Skyfall, before the film decides that Silva, his magnificently creepy-camp villain, wants nothing more than to chase Judi Dench up to the Highlands and bombard Bond’s ancestral pile with a Merlin helicopter. This is his masterplan?”

Bérénice Marlohe, the Bond girl in Skyfall, had a role even more meaningless and stereotypical than that of Léa Seydoux in Spectre. “Then there’s the problem of the Bond girl who serves as much purpose in the movie as that ‘Smoking causes cancer’ ads serve at the beginning of it – she doesn’t,” a Firstpost review of Skyfall had said.

As for Skyfall’s originality, even a positive review of Skyfall had pointed out how the Bond villain had a character quite similar to that of The Joker from The Dark Knight.

The unfortunate habit of sticking to the old rules and unoriginal content which have been used over and over again, which Quantum of Solace and Skyfall couldn’t escape from, really gripped Spectre. The latest Bond film marks the completion of the journey back to films like Die Another Day, which offer the audience nothing new.

If there is anything we should learn from the era of Daniel Craig Bond movies, it’s the fact that James Bond films need to evolve with time to properly utilise the immense talent of actors like Daniel Craig.

Updated Date: Nov 23, 2015 07:21:34 IST