The new James Bond movie Casino Royale released last November was announced as a blockbuster and as the topic of numerous debates about the James Bond film evolution. I will here present what I personally think of the film and the result of a discussion in a Visual Culture course that I followed at the Radboud University of Nijmegen.
It appears clearly that the 007 genre is at a turn. But is this renewal well in tune with the time? Let me first mention that we can assign a part of the novelty to the special story of Casino Royale, i.e. the pre-history of the character of James Bond. He learns all that will make of him the well-known 007. As an example, Vesper, the woman Bond will fall in love with, teaches him how to dress properly. It is obviously the first time that he wears a tailed dinner Jacket. Casino Royale is the story of the creation of the character. It is difficult to know how far the story influences the novelty of the movie.
A major change however is the look of the camera. For the first time, the female characters are not eroticised as much as the male character, i.e. James Bond. The erotic gaze does not need a woman this time. Watch the movie once more with this idea and you will be surprised how many times you see Bond (Daniel Craig) nearly naked, whereas the women are very often dressed. Also, you see him two times coming out of the sea with a naked wet body, a very erotic symbol. Please mention that I am speaking of eroticism at a purely technical level, referring to the gaze of the camera. You may find Daniel Craig beautiful or not, he is nevertheless made beautiful by the camera's eye. He represents the new masculine ideal, among other things by his hairless chest (take a look at the advertisements showing a male body, it will always be hairless, in opposition to, say, thirty years ago), completely opposite to a Sean Connery's chest. I also want you to notice that it is not because Craig is eroticised that he loses his masculinity - and this is a very new phenomenon in post-modern visual culture. James Bond is a cyborg, a body able to endure more, to run faster, to jump higher... But at the same time he is very vulnerable, i.e. he spends some time in a hospital and he falls in love. This is this combination of eroticised and still masculine body, and this association of invincibility and vulnerability that makes this James Bond completely new but in tune with the time.
I would like to add some further personal remarks: first, the film is for me a bit too long, the private discussions between Vesper and Bond seem superfluous to me. Also, it is not necessary that he repeats that he only has one ball left; I do not want to know that about James Bond. Thirdly, I understand though regret the absence of gadgets. Next, Daniel Craig plays very well (he walks and has some of the style of Sean Connery) but I still think he does not perfectly fit in this role. Finally, what I mostly miss in this film is the British touch; I found the film too American.
As a conclusion, Casino Royale is a great action movie, and as a James Bond film it announces a turn in the genre, although it can be caused by the story - the origin of James Bond. Therefore I am very impatient to see the next one.
A James Bond fan