Sunday, December 10, 2006

The Verdict on Daniel Craig

Readers of this humble blog may remember that I recently ranked all the James Bond actors (with the exception of Lazenby because I thought it unfair to judge a man by one work alone). Ignoring my own rule, I ranked Daniel Craig fifth even before I saw Casino Royale. I am sorry and I was wrong.

Daniel Craig pulled off the impossible task of reviving the Bond franchise. Even though Brosnan's flicks were regularly pulling in gobs of money, the plots/gadgets/soul of the films were getting tired. Craig injected soul and humanity back into a series that was overly reliant on cheap puns ("cunning linguist"), expensive wardrobes/watches/cars, and formulaic storylines.

Craig and CR are incredibly enlightening and eye-opening in that I did not realize the sorry state of the franchise, as described in the last paragraph, until I watched the movie. It's like having Oreida frozen tater tots everyday and liking it, until one day you go to a nice French bistro and have the pommes frites. Yowsers! That's great shit! Alas, I can't believe I just compared Brosnan to frozen potatoes.

Three things about CR set it apart from all other Bond films, in a good way:
1. The lack of gadgets
2. Craig's rugged strongarm tactics
3. His below average looks

In Dr. No, we were introduced to Q and Q branch. Because CR preceded Dr. No chronologically, there were no gadgets. Rather than a liability, the lack of Q branch offerings added strength to the Bond character and the movie. No more relying on ridiculous props like Crocodile subs (Octopussy) or a beeping keychain (Living Daylights) to get out of jams. Craig had to use his wits, agility, and muscle instead. This added realism made fans admire the character more.

Along the same line, Craig is much more violent and uses his fists a lot more than his predecessors. Watching pretty boys like Moore and Brosnan punch evil henchmen elicited more chuckles than excitement. But in CR, Craig kicks the crap out of (and in turn has his ass kicked by) a number of men. Craig bleeds enough to keep a local blood bank in business for the next fiscal year. This realism sets it apart from the antiseptic world of Bond films past.

Though female fans may object, I think that Craig is not as handsome as prior Bonds (he is at least tied with the goofy looking Lazenby and the strange looking Dalton). However, I believe too much of Moore and Brosnan's character depended on the fact that they were good looking. That Craig can carry himself in a high falootin' casino with below average looks and an incompete knowledge of wines and spirits tells the audience that his character, self-confidence, and intelligence are strong enough to overcome his weaknesses.

I used the word "realism" in two of the three preceding paragraphs. Does that mean CR is a realistic film? Of course not. It is as steeped in fantasy as Moonraker. However, there are certainly enough realistic elements to make this a serious, deep, dark action film.

As I walked out of the movie, I panicked. Has someone finally replaced Roger Moore as my all-time favorite Bond actor? After much pondering, I've come to the conclusion that ranking actors is counterproductive and an impossible task. Each actor was perfect for his time. Connery exuded the confidence and cockiness of a sexist 1950s/early 60s world. Moore symbolized the frivolous, cheeky, don't-take-it-so-seriously attitude of the 70s and early 80s. Dalton represented a darker, confused era of AIDS and the drug epidemic. Finally, Brosnan personafied the iPod wielding, foodie metrosexual of the 90s and early 21st century.

In the end, the verdict on Craig is: The perfect Bond for the present.


1 comment:

Alan said...

The pommes frites line had me laughing out loud.

Craig is a good-looking dude, you're nuts.