Posted on by Scott Delahunt

n 1953, a former British spy, on the eve of his wedding day, worked out his apprehension over his marriage by writing a story and, in the process, created one of the best known secret agents, James Bond. Ian Fleming's first novel, Casino Royale gained popularity, leading to twelve novels and two collections short stories. In 1954, Casino Royale was made into its first adaptation as a CBS TV movie featuring the agent "Jimmie Bond". Later, in 1962, Cubby Broccoli, working with Fleming, adapted Dr. No as a theatrical release starring Sean Connery.

With the success of Dr. No, other 007 novels were adapted. The follow up, From Russia With Love, also remained faithful to the original novel. The third movie, Goldfinger, kept close to the original until the titular villain's plans were revealed.   Goldfinger also marked the start of the success formula used in most of the 007 movies that followed, with car chases, gadgets, and beautiful women. Parodies, including the 1967 Casino Royale with Woody Allen, the 1966 Our Man Flint with James Coburn, and the 1997 Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery with Mike Myers came out, all inspired by the 007 movies.  As a franchise, 007 was only recently topped by Harry Potter in terms of revenue.

In 2006, the James Bond franchise received a reboot, going back to the beginning to show how Bond became 007 in Casino Royale. Daniel Craig took over the role of Bond and brought the spy back to his roots in the novels as a newly appointed 00 agent. The movie followed the plot of the original novel closely. The changes made were more to account for viewers' knowledge and for dramatic effect; for example, baccarat, a game that turns on the draw of a card, was replaced with Texas Hold'em poker, which had gained a large following through televised games.  Gone was the suave spy as portrayed by Roger Moore.  Craig's 007 was more a blunt instrument, leaving a swath of disruption in his first mission. Bond was more human, dealing with insecurities and inexperience while trying to penetrate Quantum (replacing SMERSH from the original novel).

The new Casino Royale counts as both a reboot of the 007 franchise and an adaptation of the original novel. The risks were that fans wouldn't accept Daniel Craig as Bond, that the reboot would feel like a step backward after decades of a sophisticated and experienced 007, that too many changes were made. Keeping close to the original story helped; with Casino Royale the first 007 novel, the expectations of Bond as a new 00 agent were kept reasonable. The movie still had elements from previous movies that worked; a car chase that ended in a record number of rolls, gambling in the high society of Monte Carlo, and the beautiful foil Vesper. Events from Casino Royale continued into the following movie, Quantum of Solace, showing both Bond's human side and his evolving into the 007 of previous movies.

Once again, having a production team that cared for the property beyond the revenue  generated helped. It would have been easy to use the title and created a plot out of random elements in the book, as had happened with Moonraker. Instead, EON continued its work in treating 007 with respect.

Next time, an adaptation finds its audience, in colour!


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  • The remade “Royale” ranks as one of my three favorite Bonds ever. It might even be the single finest film produced for the franchise, because they dropped all the sidelong winking at the audience, reduced the reliance on the silly gadgets (which were fun but a distraction), and took the material as seriously as they could without making it ludicrous.
    They also finally made good on their use of Dame Judi Dench, found a great villain in Mads Mikkelsen (another actor who’s done great work all over the place), and Daniel Craig made a better Bond than anyone would have expected, me included. I’d known him from “Layer Cake” and “Love is the Devil”, and on hearing he was being cast as Bond I thought “Yes, I can see that.”
    It’s a textbook example of how to get it right. But I’m also learning that’s something that happens very rarely, in part because all the stars (literal and figurative) really do have to be in alignment.

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