Casino Royale is not your father's Bond movie. Oh, no. First of all –

Daniel. Craig. Naked. Oh, yes.

An unnamed source claims it was done to win over the female audience. Does this… could it actually mean someone has realized we'll go to see movies that give us what we want? In droves? And bring friends?

I'm hopeful. Even though Craig has said he wants to keep his clothes on in the next movie, I still plan to go to a theater and see it. I haven't been inside a theater since 2003, folks (something to do with assholes and cell phones). Daniel Craig's body may be a beautiful inducement to women viewers, but he's once you get to know the rest of him you won't care what he's wearing. His Bond is a fascinating blend of repulsive and sympathetic. But I also adore Roger Moore and his wry wit, yet I never made it all the way through any of his Bond movies before changing the channel. What's different about this one?

Some spoilers will follow beneath the MORE cut.

It's all about motives. Explain them, and you can write almost any sort of character believably. Ignore them, and we have to assume you assumed their behavior was just standard for their demographic.

For the old Bonds to make sense, you had to accept two precepts: that Bond was a sexist pig, and most women were just so wowwed by him despite this that they couldn't wait to sleep with him. Could it be we've actually made enough progress that neither of these precepts work anymore, even on a pure wanking fantasy level?

Craig's Bond isn't sexist, per se. For example, he doesn't doubt the capabilities of his female colleagues (his superior, M, played by Judi Dench and Vesper, played by Eva Green). He just isn't willing to get emotionally involved with a woman. While the old Bond was an extension of a misogynistic culture, the new one is a guy making conscious choices about how he relates to women - choices for which he alone is responsible. This movie is set in 2006 with a young Bond just beginning his career as a "double-0″ agent, eliminating the flimsy excuse of pre-feminism ignorance.

The revised "Bond Girl" also has motives of her own. Instead of being swept mindlessly off her feet by James because he's just that awesome, the wife of a bad guy expresses her concern that he's only sleeping with her to get to her husband. But because she's having fun and wants to hurt her husband, she doesn't mind. That is, until she tells James where her husband is and it becomes painfully obvious he's just looking for a way to cut and run after the bad guy. She spares him the trouble by quietly walking out on him while he's ordering room service.

Vesper is an agent from the British treasury with whom James falls madly in love despite himself. This is a reasonably well-explored emotional plot, and while one might assume the filmmakers included it "for the chicks, because they like mushy stuff", it's actually from the original novel*, in which James is planning to marry her just before she kills herself and he learns she was really a Russian double agent. In the movie, she's a British treasury agent - not a spy - who's extorted into helping the bad guys (terrorists, not Russians) because they're holding her boyfriend. It's a little complicated, but to summarize: she resists her growing attraction to James until she realizes that her boyfriend's life is forfeit anyway (at which point she makes another deal with another set of bad guys to save James' life and her own). Then she gives into her feelings for him and he quits MI6 to go sailing for a month with her. Eventually the bad guys catch up, and James discovers her betrayal.

Even knowing she's betrayed him and Britain, James goes to great lengths to save her life. When he realizes he's failed, he spends time he doesn't have cradling her body while the last of the bad guys gets away. Afterwards he coldly reports the incident over a cell phone to M, uttering the closing line of the novel: "The bitch is dead." M points out to him that Vesper made a deal to save his life and had to know it would eventually cost her her own. He doesn't reply, but we see his subtle physical reactions. This scene cements the disparity between his true feelings and what he lets the world see. If the filmmakers use it as carte blanche to return to the old Bond in sequels, expecting the audience to fanwank that he's just being an asshole because he's been hurt, poor dear, I'll be very put out. But they could just as easily use little reminders of it to paint a flawed hero.

Flawed hero? James Bond? Hell, I might even become a fan. And I can't tell you how surreal it is just to type those words. If we've actually come far enough that one of the most over the top male fantasy characters of all time has to be given substance to fit into a world where sexism is a choice rather than a default and the women who choose to be with him have their own reasons for doing so, then maybe we really have made some progress the anti-feminist backlash of the 90's can't undermine.

*I haven't read the original novel: all my comments on its content are surmised from remarks by people 'round the web who have read it. I believe I'm representing it accurately, but feel free to offer corrections or clarifications if you know better.

    9 Responses to “Casino Royale: The making of a new Bond?”
  1. scarlett Says:
    Didn't have a lot of sympathy when he said he wasn't comfortable with the amount of nudity he did - although maybe that's at least one man who now appreciates that being treated like a hunk of meat to be drooled over can actually be quite degrading :8
  2. Reb Says:
    Ah ha! I had wondered when I saw the movie (my boyfriend LOVED it, I wasn't nearly as impressed) whether or not the scene where Bond emerges, dripping and glistening from the ocean, was intended to entice female viewers. I don't "get" Craig, really, but appreciated the effort. I also thought it was interesting that when you see Bond being tortured--in a fairly sexual way, no less--all you got of Vesper was screaming. (We later know she *wasn't* tortured at all, due to the deal, but until that revelation, I was really surprised by the reversal from the usual trope.)

    I still wasn't cool with the whole, "Oh, the girl he slept with was tortured just for seeing him and being married to the wrong guy, and now we casually dispose of her dead body" thing.

    (I also had no idea wtf was going on by the end, so I'm glad you clarified. I was genuinely rooting for Vesper to be an actually villain, stealing the money of her own volition, and to get out alive; I didn't figure it was going to happen, but I maintain it would have been awesome.)

  3. BetaCandy Says:
    Scarlett: I have sympathy for him on that count. I just want women actors to have the same chance to do more than just nudity and eye candy.

    Reb: Well, what happened to the wife of the bad guy didn't bother me because it was presented as James' fault, collateral damage to a civilian that never should've happened and isn't what MI6 wants from its agents. To me, that took the trope, dissected it and reminded us why it's such a shitty trope. Maybe I'm being too forgiving, but the closeup on her dead staring face combined with M's dressing down of James kind of worked for me.

    The Bond torture scene is, BTW, straight out of the 1953 novel. I originally included something about the lack of implied rape, but the article was running long. I really like that even though it was implied she was tortured, there was no indication whatsoever she was raped. Le Chiffre told James if he yielded soon enough she "might even still be in one piece", which actually suggests other forms of torture to me. (I'm not positive she wasn't tortured by Le Chffre's men before Mr. White's men showed up - was Le Chiffre just using an ally to trap Bond, or did he believe she'd betrayed him? More than a few things were lost in translation from the novel to the movie. I may write a second article picking apart some of the negatives.)

    All in all it wasn't the greatest movie I've seen, but it did flip some tropes - big time - and it wasn't completely devoid of characterization and the fight scenes were all real stunts instead of CGI, and that's about all I ask from an action movie. :D

  4. SunlessNick Says:
    For example, he doesn't doubt the capabilities of his female colleagues (his superior, M, played by Judi Dench

    This is particularly cool at the point where she tells him what will happen if he finishes the sentence about that leter - the impression I got was that Bond was hiding it well, but intimidated.

  5. BetaCandy Says:
    I'll second that, Nick. He was pushing his boundaries with an authority figure, and she pushed back.

    And - litmus test - I felt it played exactly as it would have with a male M (as the character originally was in the novels and older films).

  6. scarlett Says:
    Scarlett: I have sympathy for him on that count. I just want women actors to have the same chance to do more than just nudity and eye candy.

    Let me rephrase that. I definitely had sympathy for him - as I would anyone who did something they felt was degrading - but it was tempered with a little 'yeah, now you know how a lot of women feel'.

  7. BetaCandy Says:
    Yeah, Scarlett, that's true. I could swear I remember Ewan MacGregor saying something to the effect that if female actors are required to get naked, he thought the males should have to do it too. He of course has never been particularly shy about that. :D

    Also worth mentioning: there were no real sex scenes in CR. Just implied ones. And no naked women at all. According to some things I've read, they shot some very naked sex scenes, but if so those didn't make the cut.

  8. scarlett Says:
    Hmmm, that reminds me of something Jackie Collins once wrote, that the difference between soft and hard porn is that in hard, the men are erquired to get taken too :p
  9. scarlett Says:
    Oh, and I forgot to add:

    Mmmmm, Ewan McGregror...

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