i’m going to save my revisit to “Dr. Strangelove” for another time. in preparation for what’s likely to be the biggest summer movie this year, i’ve decided to post my review of “The Dark Knight” in two parts. the first part is a primer for where i’m coming from, including my reluctance to dig remakes and revamps. also, i wanted to get in some rant time on “Casino Royale,” a movie that i think is the best of the recent franchise reboots. who knows? you might draw some connections between our new Bond and the caped crusader. on July 18th, i’ll post the actual review, along with a special treat. so, let’s get on with this.
i’m usually not a fan of series reboots. most of the time, they end up being retreads of the first installment with bigger guns, better gadgets, 100 times more CGI and a watered-down story. sure, it’s a funny joke to take a beloved character and see how he or she’s been doing for the last 20 years. but, that joke is topical during the trailers and TV spots; not necessarily by the time you plant your booty in a theater seat.
in the case of “The Pink Panther,” which like many crowd-pleasing hallmarks of the Baby Boomer generation, has been made into a vehicle geared towards families and children specifically, the joke is on them. it’s cringe-worthy to see Steve Martin try to be clever as a French imbecile when it’s so apparent the comic material isn’t there. has it even been there since Peter Sellers died? i’m looking at you Roberto Benigni!
ditto on the “Vacation” movies with Chevy Chase…or Chevy Chase movies altogether. take a formerly great comedian whose portrayal of cool jerks has been ripped off by everyone including Jason Lee’s picture-perfect copy in “Mallrats,” add a little cocaine addiction, and you got a man whose career downfall can be directly correlated with the end of the 1980s. since then, he’s been in the saccharin garbage his generation used to despise: “Cops and Robbersons,” “Man of the House” with JTT, and, of course, my personal favorite, “The Karate Dog.” just kidding, what the fuck is that movie?
same with Eddie Murphy. as Dan pointed out on several occasions, Eddie hasn’t been the same since he picked up that transvestite and got all “Nutty Professor”‘ed.
and Robert De Niro. (sorry Amanda) the list goes on…
…where was i? oh yeah. add to this equation Hollywood’s need to slap a PG-13 on anything that a “fan boy” might like, be interested in, or get attracted to through the inclusion of a hot babe, a sci-fi Han-Solo-type, or a video game tie-in. what results is watered-down stories, characters that don’t age well (Indiana Jones), and lame romps of stupid in-jokes and who-cares plot development, disguised in CGI and yet another action set piece with bullet time & wire-fu in it. worst offender of this revamping for a new generation: “Die Hard 4,” which suffers from all of the above, including “The Kid”‘s Bruce Willis. he’s a struggling actor, people, but i’m sure he’s gonna make it. i just wish he’d be more “Die Hard”/”Planet Terror”/”Sin City” Bruce Willis, but that’s just me.
my point being it’s a bad time to be living through the revamping of classic series.
or is it?
for all the shit Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli got after the quitting/firing of Pierce Brosnan as James Bond, “Casino Royale” is something of an anomaly. of course, it had an excellent script from Paul Haggis and it had “Goldeneye” director Martin Campbell helming it, so maybe the credit’s due to them. but, for the first time since “License to Kill” (another maligned Bond movie which i really enjoy these days), the story was not just about the suave and debonair lady-punker. it was about a hood, a thug, an impoverished orphan PLAYING that man of the world. sure, Bond has class and a love for the finer things in life, but it’s made quite clear that it is a façade. he proceeds the way he does because he’s playing spy on a grand stage of affluence; particularly in the presence of surrogate mother, M. fellow orphan Vesper Lynd spends the whole movie breaking Bond down to the essence of a good man.
by the time Bond says, “I have no armour left. You’ve stripped it from me. Whatever is left of me – whatever is left of me – whatever I am – I’m yours,” that’s the real Bond. someone who can be himself and not have to be courageous, bloodthirsty, patriotic, egotistical, or clever to hide his shameful past and lower income roots. what’s similar here with Daniel Craig in “Casino Royale” and Timothy Dalton in “License to Kill” is the interest in breaking the character down to bare motivations; with Craig being a homicidal thug who pleasures in capturing and eventually killing international villains, and Dalton showing the dark revenge side to Bond, willing to leave the service “to go get those bastards.”
and to think, people wanted martinis, girls, guns, and gadgets…hell, don’t forget about those snappy one-liners (fuck you, “Die Another Day”). “Casino Royale,” for all its faults of being too long, too convoluted, and too “everything-and-the-kitchen-sink,” is revamping a series done right. who wants to return to installments like the ones Roger Moore did? (Moore, again, in my opinion, wasn’t a bad Bond per say, but he had some of the worst movies in the series. But nothing as bad as “Diamonds are Forever.”)
the interesting thing is that “Casino Royale,” even with a PG-13 rating, managed to be mature, well thought out, and deal with issues about the folklore and mythology of James Bond without coddling to younger theater goers. we have a realistic spy in Bond now, no doubt influenced by the success of the Bourne trilogy.
what’s important here is that we see Bond unpolished, really as a homicidal thug. just look at the opening scene or how he kills the man on the airport tarmac. he pleasures in it. much like bloody heroes who are really only at home with solving problems with violence (John McClane, John Rambo, John Matrix), at this point in Bond’s life, he doesn’t see himself as questioned, flawed, anti-anything but bad guys. Daniel Craig’s Bond is the vengeful arm of the state, but he’ll use it for his personal agenda. he’s the international vigilante.
and that, dear readers, brings us to why i know we’re all here.
hmm, a vengeful vigilante who is trying to do right to become more human…and become more human in how he does right? where “Casino Royale” explored it with Bond, the origins of Bruce Wayne have a similar breed. moreover, we’re talking about Batman! get familiar. next week, “The Dark Knight” returns…
- Quick reactions. Saw “Hellboy II” tonight. Pretty good, but wreaks of being overlong. Could’ve been 3 action set pieces shorter. Could’ve been less “Men in Black” at the agency. Del Toro’s imagination, though, saves the movie. It’s “Pan’s Labyrinth” meets “Hellboy.” And I love those wonderful toys and machines. Grade: B
- If you’re looking for an excellent Del Toro movie, check out “Cronos.” It’s a modern vampire tale and i think a good start if you’re trying to get into his Spanish language films.
- Keep that discussion of Bond’s folklore and mythic status in mind. We might see some similarities next week with Batty.