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I confess, I am a Bond fan. I spent countless summers glued to the couch, watching Bond movies from Dr. No to The Living Daylights on VCR.

When Pierce Brosnan finally dropped associations from being 007, it was a wild guess what the franchise had to offer next. We all know of travesties being done to movie franchises ever since George Clooney had nipples poking out of the Batsuit and Chris O’Donell was just so gay as Robin. Alicia Silverstone in a skin-tight Batgirl costume did not redeem the franchise’s doom. The man nipples, oh the humanity.

That was until Christian Bale got pooped out of nowhere with the franchise’s reboot – Batman Begins. Suddenly Batman became cool again. And everyone just loves movies with Morgan Freeman, or don’t we? (Well, Dreamcatcher was sort of okay.)

Now, for a Bond freak like me, after seeing how well the Batman reboot did for the franchise, hearing that Casino Royale would be the reboot for 007 had me in high hopes. I particularly am not fond of the Brosnan era, or any other eras save for the Connery movies (except the unofficial Never Say Never, that was a travesty). Die Another Day was the highest grossing of the franchise but Brosnan really had me yearning for Connery every time I watch Brosnan and his smug looks.

I just had my reservations with the new Bond guy Daniel Craig since the last time I really saw him was when he played Lara Croft’s douche bag of a token love interest in the first Tomb Raider movie.

*SPOILER ALERT*

So the big day came when Casino Royale finally hit Philippine shores. I went out yesterday with my girlfriend to finally watch it. And test if the Php 320 we paid was worth it.

From here on end, I’ll probably just get excerpts or point out peculiarities. If you want a synopsis, Wikipedia could handle that for you.

Story wise, it was tight. Nice plot turns to keep one interested for the duration. The “flashback” sequences on Bond’s pre-double-oh missions shot in black and white felt so retro. It gave a nice touch to those historical points in the Bond character.

The director (or scriptwriter or whoever’s idea this is) really tried to project the “New Bond” feel to it right from the start. James is still THE operator but not the dashing, debonair, smooth, suave, slicked-back hair and dinner jacket operator that fans of the franchise have been so accustomed to seeing. Now we see a James Bond who is ready to use brute force over finesse when push comes to shove.

The bathroom scene showing his first kill showed James getting down and dirty forcing to drown his bogey after a series of punches and kicks rather than a suave karate chop to a certain pressure point that would incapacitate his enemy.

The foot chase scene with him bulldozing his way through rather than matching the freerunning style of his prey gave him a more human-like character. Barelling through drywall was probably the best illustration of that brutish James Bond that the film portrayed. But hey, since he IS James Bond, more human means he’s like a demi-god of some sort.

No dazzling car chases or fanciful gadget cars either. I remember that Goldfinger Aston Martin with “hi-tech” changing plates and oil slick squirt guns. Only a compartment with a defibulator for this film’s AM. It’s just a shame to see that Aston Martin getting barrel-rolled to wreckage.

Daniel Craig came out to be refreshing rather than being the black sheep of the Bond persona. It was a good thing since his features are too Aryan (blond and blue-eyed) as opposed to Connery’s Welsh-y features (Jet black slick hair). His well-chiseled features complemented the brutish sort of oafish gearing towards practicality than looking smug and cool. Also, his not too of a strong face still gave him that sort-of suave look to him making it plausible for him to bed the Bond girl.

Sadly, one thing I miss from the old movies would be the naked lady silhouettes in the intro! (Sure, my girl will kill me if she gets to read this). Much of a disappointment since they really used to use naked women. In recent times they just used rotoscoped images substituted for silhouettes with perky nipples in Bond films circa Sean Connery. Instead, we get to have a rotoscoped Bond doing some action moves. This, I think set the mood for “Hey, this a really a new Bond you are looking at.”

A few, very minor glitches in my view though would be the few, wrinkly transitions after Vesper Lynd’s (Oh what a Bond girl name!) kidnapping and ball-crushing torture scene. Sure, some of the details serve as plot points for following Bond films (Whatever happened to Mathis?) but I think the film tried to tell too many details in those parts. They were too curt and somehow they stand out from all the other lengthy scenes. I noticed a great deal of people getting restless because of these scenes. I wasn’t but they sure stuck out quite a bit.

The ending was curt too but at least it drove back viewers into the James Bond experience with the line “The name’s Bond, James Bond.” A good enough ending for a reboot as it gives resolution to the episode’s plot line while it opens up the franchise for the following sequels (Much like that Joker card thing in Batman Begins).

So what did it do with the franchise? In my honest opinion, I think it gave Bond some oomph to him as a character. Sure, people may miss the suave and smooth operator and the dozens of Bond girls that he bangs in one movie (this one just had one) but this creates a Bond with more depth and character rather than just being that agent in dinner jackets and a nice smile. Let’s face it, even Spider-man had more character than James Bond prior to Casino Royale. The comedic approach to Bond in the films of lore have been preyed upon by the likes of Austin Powers and whatever that spy-kid move starring that kid from Malcolm in the Middle. So I believe that this is the new Bond that pushes the franchise to a better direction.

Five thumbs up for Casino Royale for the fresh take. I’d go the distance by claiming that James Bond is THE secret agent. Not Jason Bourne. Not Ethan Hunt. And definitely, not that kid from Malcolm in the Middle. And since I like Batman best among other masked/caped/Spandex-wearing heroes, Casino Royale is THE Batman Begins of the Bond franchise.

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