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Some Ramblings - Casino Royale
By Srinivas Kanchibhotla

'Dark' is back, 'Brood' is in and riding on the two, Bond is definitely back. It has been an interesting turn around for super heroes and comic book heroes the last couple of years, particularly the ones that have been ruled out and written off from any serious competitions. The Batman franchise, that all has but laid to rest in peace by Joel Schumacher's interpretation of the Dark Knight, the Superman series, that has been long dead and gone after the Man of Steel has been reduced to fighting street thugs and carboard villans even in the climactic battles, seem to have found a new lease of life in the new revival series, riding on the very same dark and brooding elements. Batman, in the able hands of Christopher Nolan, went back to his roots, retooled his set and came back as how the original creators of the comic book hero envisioned him to be. Superman, in an equally interesting way, treaded the path of self discovery and somber introspection in the take by Bryan Singer. The problem with both the heroes right until the point of great downfall has been their very own image. As the stakes were raised with each outing in the many sequels following their very imaginative debuts, the plots started to move far from the base, dishing out outlandish, bizarre and sometimes out of the world stuff, all in the name of comic book tradition. And there came a point finally when, the heroes could not occupy their own domain without being caricatures of themselves (like, nipples on Bat suit in "Batman and Robin", flag-waving, chest-thumping sickening patriotism of Superman). Bond went close to that precipitous point before he was pulled back, Thank God, from taking the great fall.

With the standard formula of what has now become a genre unto itself, the Bond genre, involving bombs, babes, gizmos, super villains, spectacular stunts, exotic locales and witty one-liners, borrowed by every emerging gizmo-toting, gun-slinging, continent-hopping super hero, from Ethan Hunt of Mission:Impossible fame, Jason Bourne from the Bourne series and the latest addition, Dirk Pitt from the Clive Cussler books, the brand of Bond has become quite stale, jaded and outdated. And coming quite closely on the heels from the blind spot, Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery, spoofing the Bond series on everything from extremely sensual exotic women willing to bare everything at the drop of the literal hat, to megalomaniacal villains with their extremely elaborate and complex plans of conquering the world, sometimes bordering on ridiculousness, the identity of Bond begged to be redefined in the face of emerging competition. With Cold War safely tucked away in the old pages of history following the collapse of Kremlin, and old relics of Second World War a distant memory, and more importantly, with an already politically charged up environment that is too sensitive to go anywhere near where the real trouble is brewing, the Middle East, Bond has suffered from a lack of serious villain, who could match his wits, plans and conquests, and the results showed ever since Pierce Brosnan took over. Though Brosnan exuded the charm of Bond, he didn't have the benefit of being cast in a good movie, unlike his predecessors and therefore had to rely on smirks, winks, cheesy one-liners and mindless action sequences. As Bond was stumbling towards his inevitable doom for lack of any good plots, he found a new ray of hope from the most unusual quarters – Jason Bourne. True, indeed Bourne saved Bond, for he showed Bond that a super hero could still do all the exciting and super human things, including the flings, and yet make a good movie with an actual plot, without parodying himself.

In Casino Royale, Bond has certainly come a full circle. And the shot of a fully wet and extremely toned Bond emerging from the waters, paying rich homage to Ursula Andress' famous shot from the very first Bond outing "Dr.No", Bond went back to his roots and tried to discover himself. And what better place than where it began - Ian Fleming's first Bond adventure "Cason Royale". From pure thrills and pure adrenaline standpoint (both in terms of bombs and babes), Casino Royale appears very toned down and somewhat muted, compared to the other ones in the series (probably coming next to the other talking Bond movie, George Lazenby's Bond in "On Her Majesty's Secret Service"). But the tradeoff with character development and insight into his psyche is definitely the barter. Who is Bond, Why is Bond the way he is – cold hearted, detached, unemotional, unmoved, calculating and heartless killing machine, and yet, exhibiting the charm, guile and the suaveness to bed any beauty of his choice and his taking. In Christopher Nolan's "Batman Begins", Christian Bale, the Batman, utters a very important dialogue that is a cardinal commandment to his (and the rest of the super heroes) character - "As a person, I could be beaten, killed, but as a symbol, as a symbol, I could be feared". The new Bond takes this commandment to the heart. And the transition from the person to the symbol is what makes Casino Royale a very important movie in the whole of Bond franchise. This is an almost never seen before, behind the scenes footage, of the making of the man, who calls himself "The name is Bond, James Bond" and who take the "00" (his License to Kill) with the same kind of nonchalance as he wages his bets at the poker table.

This is what the franchise needed, this is what the doctor ordered, this is what is finally delivered. Daniel Craig epitomizes the new breed of Bond - a real Bond. He bleeds, he cuts, he grimaces, and he hurts. He cannot save himself, even if his life depended on it, and he cannot save the people close to his heart. In the way that Craig humanizes the almost robotic feel of the Bond characters, to make it appear that Bond is indeed human, and not just a Terminator like killing machine, Casino Royale quite rightly exploits (though in some melodramatic moments) the sentimental side of his human nature. It is amusing to note, that the same movie that had been chosen to spoof at the then newly emerging culture of spying, double-crossing during the late 60s, by, of all people, David Niven and Woody Allen, in their take on Casino Royale, serves as the right platform to relaunch Bond in a mould, that is more human and less machine. There is a hilarious one-liner when the bartender asks Bond what kind of martini does he like to have - shaken or stirred, right at a point when Bond seems to have  other things on his mind; and Bond irritatingly replies "Do I look like somebody who would give a damn", as against his other stock, standard, suave reply. It is quite apparent that a new Bond is born - one who is more interested in plot than just talk, one who cares about the talk than action, one who is interested in action than just stunts.

And when the final credits roll and the exciting theme of James Bond plays for the very first time in the entire movie, just as he says his signature line, again for the very first time, "The name is Bond, James Bond", it is amply evident and quite apparent, that the entire franchise is thoroughly shaken up, not just mildly stirred.

More Ramblings on films
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Superman Returns
The Da Vinci Code
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Rang De Basanti (Hindi)
Jai Chiranjeeva!
Munich (English)
Sarkar (Hindi)
Mangal Padey (Hindi)
Kaadhal (Tamil)
Anukokunda Oka Roju
Batman Begins (English)
Radha Gopalam
Mughal E Azam
Virumandi (Tamil)
Lakshya (Hindi)
Yuva (Hindi)
Kakha Kakha (Tamil)
Mr & Mrs Iyer
Nuvve Nuvve

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This article is written by Srinivas Kanchibhotla
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