Casino Royale – A Hero Recreated

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Continuing with the theme of film reboots established in the previous essay, I will give an in-depth look into the world of James Bond and his newly revamped character in the 2006 film “Casino Royale.” The 007 film franchise began in 1962 with “Dr. No.” Starring Sean Connery, the film generated a new following in the 1960’s with the advent of the spy genre. The success of the movie called for additional movies to be funded and after 40 years and 20 motion pictures, the tried and true formula that had made the series a hit (established with the 3rd film in the series “Goldfinger”) wore thin with viewers. The power players at MGM were at an impasse. They couldn’t possibly consider ending this long running mainstay in cinema history, but they couldn’t keep putting out the same thing. The decision was to start from scratch. Tell Bond’s store from the beginning, something audiences have not seen before. The studio brought in Martin Campbell, whom had directed the 1995 Bond film “GoldenEye,” to present the character as a newly minted Double-0 agent. A man who is rough around the edges, bursting with raw talent but has no refinement as to how to handle his assignments. Played with brutal perfection by Daniel Craig, who amazingly doesn’t appear to talk as much as the other Bond actors. The film also gives us something we have not seen since 1969’s “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.” Bond falls in love. It was quite refreshing to see Bond as a man who actually opens his heart and shows his vulnerabilities. To hear him speak to his lover Vesper Lynd, played by Eva Green shows that the film’s producer can create a character with depth and emotion and not just a string of one liners. “Casino Royale” received critical and commercial acclaim from critics and audiences worldwide. The long-running James Bond franchise was reborn for both its fans and for a new group of movie watchers who wish to see more development of this immensely popular cinematic character.

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The Reboot

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The story of Noah and the Ark is well-known to most people. God, weary of what his people had become, decides to send a flood to wipe out everything. God then commanded Noah, a loyal servant to gather two of every animal and to construct an ark to save himself and his family from the forthcoming flood.

While the film industry is nowhere near the point of total destruction, there can be some similarities made between the story of Noah and the new trend in filmmaking called the reboot. The term reboot, means to discard all previous continuity of a series and to begin with new ideas. Sometimes this can mean taking a character and placing him or her in a new or different scenario or it can mean taking a concept and stripping it down to the bare essence and building it into something new.

In 1989, the Tim Burton directed “Batman” hit the screens and with its newly presented version of the Dark Knight as an introverted, dark, brooding character made major box office success and even gained an Oscar win. Now the term reboot was not used, but this would have been considered one since it was meant to distance the character from the campy version of the 1960s television series. The success of the film generated a sequel, 1992’s “Batman Returns” Also directed by Burton. 1995 brought the exit of Tim Burton and the arrival of Joel Schumacher for the third film in the series “Batman Forever.” Schumacher brought to the franchise a more family friendly, light-heartedness that the previous two films did not have. While reception was mixed, the film was successful enough to warrant a third sequel, 1997’s “Batman & Robin.”

Widely considered one of the worst films in history, “Batman & Robin” took all of the concepts that were introduced in the last movie and increased it to the hundredth power. Dialogue that is campy, overt sexual references and obvious attempts to generate interest in selling children’s toys, it was the lowest grossing film in the series. The failure of the movie cause the studio heads at Warner Brothers to put the franchise on ice until further notice. Eight years later, the franchise would be reborn.

Warner Bros brought in Christopher Nolan, who had achieved fame with the success of his film “Memento” to direct the fifth film in the series. With careful research of the source material, Nolan took the character of Batman back to his roots and told the story from the beginning. The result, was “Batman Begins.” An origin story that would be a new series that had nothing to do with the first four films. A commercial and critical success, the film did more than recreate a classic comic book superhero, it gave the industry ideas.

The following year, MGM rebooted their most popular character, James Bond. Agent 007 had been on the silver screen since 1962 and the last film in the series to that point, 2002’s “Die Another Day,” had box office success but not the critical reception the studio was looking for. The decision, drop the series’ current themes and tell Bond’s story from the beginning. Under the direction of Martin Campbell, already a Bond director when he helmed 1995’s “GoldenEye” and new Bond actor Daniel Craig, the series began anew.

“Casino Royale” opens with Bond earning his Double-O status and his first mission for MI6. A modern adaptation of Ian Fleming’s first James Bond novel, this film presents the character not as the wise-cracking, debonair, ladies man with a licence to kill, but as a brutal yet vulnerable man. The film became the highest grossing film in the history of the series and breathed new life into a character who after 40 years on the screen had become stale.

Reboots have become quite common since the release of “Batman Begins” and “Casino Royale.” Studios are rebooting some of their more recent franchises such as “Spider-Man” and others after only one film, a la “The Incredible Hulk.” Reboots in film can be of great service. The biggest benefit would be that it can introduce new audiences to series that they previously had no desire in watching. When J.J. Abrams rebooted “Star Trek” in 2009 I remember telling my friends that it is a great movie regardless of whether or not you like Star Trek. The character development of Bond in “Casino Royale” was fantastic as it allows viewers to see a new side to this icon of the cinema who had thrilled viewers for decades. With reboots of Superman, Robocop and Conan the Barbarian on the way, Hollywood has perhaps figured out how to gain enormous acclaim for big budget studio pictures and perhaps even more so, can finally gain a film of this nature a Best Picture Oscar victory. Only time will tell.

Gravity – Review

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Directed By: Alfonso Cuarón
Produced By Alfonso Cuarón and David Heyman

Starring Sandra Bullock & George Clooney
Running Time: 90 minutes
Distributed by: Warner Bros. Pictures

Stanley Kubrick would have been proud.

In all the films about space, none I believe are more influential than Kubrick’s 1968 masterpiece “2001: A Space Odyssey.” I always felt that Kubrick at that time created the most realistic view of outer space for the audience. His meticulous attention to detail allowed him to put men on the moon before it was even a reality.

45 years later the next great space film is upon us.

Directed by Alfonso Cuarón, “Gravity” is a claustrophobic, atmospheric and any kind of -ic you can think of type of film. Like Kubrick’s film this is Science Fiction as opposed to Sci-Fi. The level of research that went into this movie had to be intensive. Almost something that the late Michael Crichton would write. A story like this screams of his style of putting the actual science into words for his readers.

Oh yea that’s right there is a story. And it’s very well written and tightly paced. Academy Award winners Sandra Bullock and George Clooney play Dr. Ryan Stone and Mission commander Matt Kowalsky who is on his final mission. While they are out on a spacewalk, debris from a satellite bombards their shuttle, Bullock’s rookie astronaut and Clooney’s veteran are stranded as the only two survivors and have lost all communication with earth. (At this time we would like to welcome back Ed Harris to the cosmos as the voice of Mission control)

What makes this film probably one of the more terrifying experiences ever is the pure isolation of space.