The New James Bond: 00-Creepy?

The New James Bond: 00-Creepy?
Tuesday, November 14, 2006

And how would you like your Bond? Shaken ... or

The James Bond that hits theaters in this weekend's
"Casino Royale" offers a frightening new take on
England's most famous spy — this grim-faced character
played by Daniel Craig is as menacing as any classic
007 villain.

It's a radical change from his predecessor: the suave,
ladies-man assassin played by Pierce Brosnan, who
starred in four Bond films leading up to "Casino Royale."

"They're very obviously going back to what [Sean]
Connery did in 'Dr. No,' a look where he could easily be
the villain," said William Luhr, professor of English and
film at Saint Peter's College in New Jersey. "It's clear
this Bond is a very dangerous guy.
Sony Pictures took quite a risk with the sharp change.
Fans of the 007 franchise even set up a Web site,, to protest the new actor
and characterization.

"This next generation of Bond as an unfazed,
unremorseful killer is not your typical Bond, but it
works," said Paul Degarabedian, president of Exhibitor
Relations, a box office tracking company. "There's a
grittier, more realistic edge to it, and the movie's going
to be huge, maybe the best box office of the holiday

Basing the new Bond film on "Casino Royale," the first
book of Ian Fleming's James Bond series that was the
inspiration for the films, helps carry the message that
Craig's new character turns back the clock to Bond's
grisly, earliest espionage days — as though the other
films weren't even made.

Just as Connery's character in the first films in the '60s
depicted a menacing, merciless hero with a license to
kill, the first of Fleming's books depicts a shadowy,
threatening 007, not all that different from the villains
he struggles against and whose motives are sometimes
impossible to determine.

"The original novels were very gritty, with a very
sinister aspect to them, especially the first one," said
Christopher Sharrett, a professor of communications
and film studies at Seton Hall University in New Jersey.
"The Bond of 'Casino Royale' is a brutal figure, not just
a super-spy boy toy in a tux with a martini glass and
knowledge of fine cuisine."

The plot of the 1953 book "Casino Royale" also helps
bring an aspect of realism to audiences that have
become accustomed to Bond films filled with special
effects and villains trying to execute increasingly
cartoonish plots to take over the world.

In "Casino Royale," Bond is placed in a high-stakes
poker game with new villain Le Chiffre (Mads
Mikkelsen), who is trying to finance international

MI6 assigns the gorgeous Vesper Lynd (Eva Green) to
watch over Bond, and his romantic interest in her
grows out of his control. The smaller-scale plot draws
the Bond franchise back to its roots.

Along with the more realistic plot, the events in the
new film take on a dark, real-world tone.

"In the book 'Casino Royal,' there is a prolonged scene
at the end where he's captured by the villain and his
genitals are tortured for an hour," Sharrett said. "The
filmmakers have shortened this scene and kept it in to
some degree — but how they'll do this and maintain a
PG-13 rating will be interesting to see."

The image of this rugged, dark Bond is something the
film franchise has slowly, systematically moved away

"After Connery, James Bond became more of a high-
society man with George Lazenby, and played by Roger
Moore the character became even more suave, good-
looking, really sort of a model," Luhr said. "The Bond
played by Timothy Dalton you certainly wouldn't
describe as 'dangerous,' and then Pierce Brosnan was
maybe the prettiest of them all."

To go with a more dangerous 007, the filmmakers are
also playing up the more animalistic side of his

"Casino Royale" features a scene where Craig emerges
from the water wearing only a snugly fitting bathing
suit — leaving very little up to the imagination. The shot
is very similar to one in "Die Another Day" where Halle
Berry slowly comes up out of the water in a bikini,
which was sold everywhere as the face of the movie.
The Berry shot was a homage to Ursula Andress, who
acted out the same scene in "Dr. No."

"Connery displayed his body much more in the early
Bond films, with his shirt off, showing a rippled body,"
Luhr said. "It shows the filmmakers are showcasing the
animal in Bond much more than the man."

Still, many Bond fans offer a big "No, thank you" when
it comes to scoping out the new 007 in his skivvies.

"I think this new Bond is the ugliest Bond I've ever
seen," said New York-based lawyer and dedicated
James Bond fan Gloria Kui.

But it may have been important for Craig to show fans
everything he's got to offer. After all, he's got perhaps
the biggest shoes to fill in the entire American movie

"They've got to show him off a little so the audience
believes he can handle himself," Degarabedian said.
"They've got to show that this guy is mentally and
physically there — he's definitely got something to

Audiences remain hungry for more from the franchise
that has provided 22 films in 44 years, but only time
will tell whether Craig's raw character is the Bond
today's moviegoers want — and whether this new 007
will have a license to kill at the box office.