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November 22, 2006

Comments

David Van Domelen

Yeah, I learned Baccarat from the Casino Royale novel, and was also disappointed by the Texas Hold'Em replacement. I think there were a few hands without an all-in, but we only saw half an hour or less out of a multi-day game, so it's gonna be high on the theatrics.

Still, for all the dragging at the end and excessive camera shake in most of the fight scenes, it was worth it all just for the construction site chase.

Kevin

I doubt that SPECTRE will be back...I'm not sure what the legal status of Kevin McClory is - he may still own the rights to Thunderball and hence, Blofeld and SPECTRE. If he does, they might not be able to use them.
However, since Sony now owns MGM, and McClory had a deal with Sony not so long ago, they might be able to work something out. Wouldn't hold your breath, though.:)

Marc

Yeah, it's the Sony deal that gives me hope. I'd like to reclaim Blofeld from Mike Myers...

Charles Hatfield

Re: Blofeld, I think Myers has driven a stake through his heart. Let bygones be bygones, I say.

Kevin

Well, he'd probably not look like Donald Pleasance's Blofeld. And I don't know...the Austin Powers movies might have been popular, but I'm not sure they've stuck in people's heads that much (especially the second and third)
Personally, I'd hope they go with the best Blofeld - Charles Gray from Diamonds Are Forever!
.....
Okay, just kidding :)

Marc

Yeah, Blofeld is more than just the surface trappings of the cat and the Nehru jacket--he was never better than when he was a faceless mystery figure, and the anonymity of Le Chiffre's backers makes me think that approach can still work and work well in a modern Bond movie.

Blofeld and SPECTRE are inseparably part of The Bond Plot, the one with exotic heists and nuclear blackmail. It's as central to the franchise as the violence and women and consumer accessories and you can't really do Bond without it. Even Myers got that right... so did Goldeneye, until they replaced the nuclear countdown with a you're-nothing-but-a-common-thief shtick swiped line for line from Die Hard. I'd love to see The Plot given a serious modern treatment, but I'd also love to see it done with its original and best antagonists.

Matt Brady

Poker vs. baccarat: I think the creators of CR pulled a genius move by substituting a massively popular (for some reason) national pastime (my 8 and 9 year old nephews are always trying to get me to play "holdem") for the impenetrable original. Sure, it's a change from the source, but the Bond franchise is far from its glory days of leading the curve. The last few movies have seen the series struggling to even find the curve. By inserting a game that people are not only familiar with, but know the ins and outs of, they made a change that has people following the action closely rather than scratching their heads. I gotta say, when I watched the original Casino Royale, I had no clue what was going on during the baccarat scene(s?). Of course, I couldn't really follow the rest of that movie either, but that's beside the point. I think poker fits in with the rest of the movie too; we can identify with this Bond more than some of the others (especially the last couple of Brosnans). He feels pain. He makes mistakes. Poker is another area in which the average audience member can identify; he's playing a game everybody knows and most like, rather than an obscure one we can only guess at the workings of.

Marc

we can identify with this Bond more than some of the others...Poker is another area in which the average audience member can identify

I wanted to say that this misses what made Bond work in the first place--that we were supposed to aspire to be him, not already see him in the mirror. But that's not entirely true.

Fleming's James Bond, as Kevin has noted elsewhere, is always playing golf or bridge or some other game. He's always jetting around the world on business travel and staying at the finest hotels and ordering gourmet meals prepared to asinine specifications--I hope the man's a good tipper because he'd be an annoying as fuck customer. There was always a strong element of audience identification and audience flattery, for an audience of the mid-century middle-aged managerial class. It's not hard to squint at Bond and pretend that his fight against global communism isn't so different from your fight to secure that new detergent account for the agency, and maybe bang your secretary while you're at it. (Bond remains resolutely chaste with his, but hey, you're not meeting any sexy lesbian stunt pilots at AdCon '64.)

The difference between then and now is that the opportunities for identification have opened up a bit. You don't have to aspire to be a particular class to see yourself reflected in our heroes, and that's a good thing. Unfortunately, it's not an entirely good thing because that desire to open the gates has been perverted to support something much worse.

This speaks to a larger problem that Casino Royale, for all its other virtures, symptomizes: our culture's false populism, its strictly superficial enmity to anything that smacks of hierarchy or elitism, in everything from movies to politics to economics. I wasn't at all surprised the movie replaced baccarat with Texas hold 'em--besides its greater familiarity, the choice of Texas hold 'em flatters the modern audience for our tastes (James Bond is playing our game!) while actually pandering to us by declining to show us anything we don't already know. And after four solid years of berating Europe for being effete and decadent and elitist since they were insufficiently enthusiastic about our little Iraq adventure, isn't baccarat too damned Continental for our newer, tougher Bond? How about a game with Texas right there in the name?

The funniest thing, though, is that Casino Royale stages its Texas hold 'em game in a lovely Eastern European city and hotel. The movie wants the cultured European settings of the classic Bond stories; it just doesn't want the culture that comes with them. It's the worst possible combination of envy and anti-elitism, a dumbed-down snobbery.

What a perfect toast--raise your vodka martinis, prepared any damn way you like--To the Bush years!

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