The second series of James Bond films began in 2006 with the release of tonight's subject, Casino Royale.
Wait...did he say "second series"?
He certainly did. The first series of Bond films ended with Die Another Day, the twentieth entry. The consensus on that film seemed to be that it had -- like Moonraker before it -- gone much too far into the realm of science fiction; a return to the grounded approach to Bond was in order. It was a fair assessment, and the series had proven to be capable of recalibrating in that fashion with For Your Eyes Only two decades previously.
This time, though, the producers decided to not just tap the reset button, but to go to the breaker box and turn everything off. All the way off.
It is easy to overlook how risky a move this was. Whatever one's personal opinion of Die Another Day may be (and it is reviled by many Bond fans), it is impossible to deny that that movie had been a massive success. It was easily the biggest hit of the Pierce Brosnan era, which had begun in strong financial fashion with GoldenEye and then progressed steadily in the seven subsequent years. Under Brosnan, the series had returned to the heights that it had arguably lost from the mid-eighties to the mid-nineties; the series, and the character, were on top again. By all rules of common sense, the right move for Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson would have been to make a fifth movie with Brosnan, and then a sixth, and probably a seventh after that.
Instead, they sensed that complacency was at hand, and in order to prevent it from taking over and miring the series in hypothetical irrelevance, they decided to start the series over from the ground up. Brosnan was thanked for his service (one hopes) and shown the door. The clock was reset to zero, and -- the rights to Ian Fleming's first novel having finally been obtained -- the quasi origin story Casino Royale was undertaken.
Allow me to briefly address an idea which has found occasional support among alleged Bond fans: that "James Bond" is a codename, and that the agents played by Connery, Moore, Brosnan, etc. are in fact different men who use the codename in their careers. In this scenario, Daniel Craig is simply the newest such agent. (Two films later, Skyfall will make it a literal fact that Bond's birth name is Bond, by the way, but that won't happen for six years from tonight's vantage point.)
Bollocks to that. The credit reads "Daniel Craig as Ian Fleming's James Bond," and Fleming's Bond was just one man. The only element that makes the scenario tempting is that Casino Royale rehired Judi Dench as M. This is a different M being played by the same actor; there is no need to read more into it than that, nor is there cause to do so.
I mention all that because if you buy into the codename notion, then you might object to the idea that Casino Royale launched a second Bond series. Eventually, I will write a post that tackles the idea of Bond continuity head-on, but the short version is: if you are one of the codename believers, you are incorrect. If you object to that assertion on the ground that opinions cannot be incorrect, then allow me to assure you that it is not an opinion you are espousing; it is an incorrect assertion, based on a shallow and imprecise reading of the films specifically and the larger context of Bond generally. In other words: you are wrong. We won't have any of your bullshit around here.
And on that note of grumpiness, I think we are primed and ready to dive into the Daniel Craig era of Bond films.