Bond is back.
Sorry, has that line been used? Hmmm.
007 has a new license to thrill.
This is not the first James Bond movie sporting the Casino Royale moniker. Back in 1967, the title was used for a comedy starring David Niven as the super-spy and Woody Allen as his son Jimmy Bond. The movie was a spoof, a satire of the nascent spy genre. It barely, if at all, used Ian Fleming’s book â€“ the first Bond book he wrote and the introduction to the character â€“ as a source of story points or anything like that. When I first saw it as a kid I didn’t know it was supposed to be a comedy and so was very confused and wound up hating the film. Once I understood it for what it was I realized it wasn’t a half-bad comedy but still, hardly a proper usage of the Casino Royale name.
This Casino Royale, though, is anything but comedy. Daniel Craig makes his first appearance as James Bond in the first Bond flick since Sony took over control of much of the MGM catalog and franchises. So here are the stumbling blocks in place in trying to market this latest entry:
â— Craig is blond, which irritated a good bit of the series’ fans and stirred up all sorts of coverage.
â— Craig is not a mainstream star. He has a good rep among cinephiles but not in the suburbs.
â— Continuity is going to be a bitch. Bond in Royale is new to the Double-0 program but we’ve already watched 20 Bond films that, even if they ignore the time-space continuum, at least keep the character going. Plus, Dame Judi Dench reprises her role as M. So she’s supposed to be shepherding Bond through his initiation even though we’ve seen her as Bond’s boss throughout the Peirce Brosnan-era films. Plus, the movie takes place in present day. Again with the continuum ignoring. All of this might is fine if you’re paying attention but might be a bit tough for the casual movie goer. Cinematical, in their Q&A with the film’s team, seems to be the only one that’s noticed this .
â— Pre-production was a mess. Peirce Brosnan seemed to not know whether he was in or out. P. Diddy said he wanted to be the first black Bond. Quentin Tarantino kept opening his yap that he was about to sign a deal to direct the next installment. In short, everyone kept talking about it but what they were saying was essentially useless.
â— The Broccolis are still in charge. The family oversees all the Bond films for reasons I’m not exactly clear on. They’re largely responsible for the critical mess that the franchise has become, filled with more and more eye-candy, both of the special effects and special sex varieties.
Now here’s the thing you should know going into this campaign review: I love the Bond character and the movies. I think they’re smart (even when they’re dumb) and just a lot of fun. Each movie, if not better than the previous ones, is at least pretty good and definitely worth the time I spent. Oh, and just because everyone does it, here’s my list of the best Bonds:
- Connery (Is this actually a discussion?)
- Brosnan (Seemed the most willing and able to make the character interesting)
- Dalton (Darker Bond and mostly weighed down by floundering scripts)
- Lazenby (Only this far down because he was in just one flick. Probably would be higher if he had more opportunities)
- Moore (The only Bond I want to punch for just being a smug, unfunny schmuck. I don’t like him)
The teaser poster was our first glimpse at Daniel Craig as Bond. It showed Craig in a tuxedo sitting at a casino table, very much a Bond setting, especially since Sean Connery in a tuxedo sitting at a casino table was our introduction to the cinematic(al) Bond in Dr. No. Except where Connery looked slightly bemused, Craig just looks pissed. That was followed by this one , which showed Bond ready for action with gun in hand and a supernova going off behind him. I think the biggest visual element here was actually Craig’s startlingly blue eye.
After that came this affront to visual stylists everywhere. I don’t even know where to start. It’s an odd shade of blue (maybe they were shooting for gun-metal grey but they failed), Craig’s head appears to be very badly Photoshopped and it’s just weird. I actually think it’s that extremely off kilter head that throws the entire thing off. It seems to be disjointed from the rest of his body and is bathed in sunlight that’s completely missing from the rest of the image. It actually gave me the chills.
Finally there’s this poster, which I’m assuming is the theatrical version. It takes the worst part of that previous one-sheet and adds a bunch of stills from the flick itself. They’re there just to remind us that, working down from the top: Bond goes on water, Bond is quite a ladies man and things blow up when Bond drives his cool car. Nice and insulting, if you ask me. We know this – you don’t have to remind us. Things go boom and superspy’s get laid. We got it. That’s a given and has been since
Both the teaser trailer and the theatrical one are pretty good, at least good at selling Casino Royale as a new Bond flick. Interestingly, both teasers open the same way â€“ not with the same footage but with the opening scenes presented in black and white. Actually it’s more of a brown and white. I’m not sure what they were going for here. There’s never been a black and white Bond flick so it’s not like they’re hearkening back to the franchise’s roots or anything. Just not sure why they made this particular decision.
The teaser is pretty effective at only presenting fleeting images of Craig as Bond at first before taking a turn and showing the movie as just another action-packed movie. Prior to that, though, there’s a good amount of explanation about how â€œDouble-0s don’t have a very long life expectancyâ€ and other such dialogue about how this is Bond’s debut in the British intelligence service. The trailer ends with a camera-zoom on Craig in a tuxedo sitting at a gaming table and looking imposing.
The theatrical version is more straightforward in terms of both setting up the plot as well as making no bones about how this is an action movie. Gone is much of the overall setup of how this is Bond’s first outing. It’s a tad less effective than the teaser at building anticipation, I think because it eschews so much of the character setup for story-explaining. There’s also a fight scene that takes place on a crane arm that looks just like one that took place in Goldeneye. Are they out of settings for confrontations to the extent that they’re cribbing from the franchise itself?
The one thing that both trailers do exceedingly well is presenting Craig’s Bond as no stranger to brutality. You can say what you want about who was the more suave Bond and such but Craig is the first one to play the character in a way that looks quite this ready to kick whatever ass is necessary. He just looks angry, like he’s always on the very edge of snapping and just wiping out everyone in the room. He looks dangerous, a characteristic that hasn’t always been part of Bond’s on-screen persona. It can’t be easy to bring something new to the character after four decades but Craig pulls it off.
Oh, and if you’re interested in seeing the trailers for all the previous Bond films, Cinematical has the hook-up thanks to a YouTube user with way too much time on his hands.
I’m so mad right now I could just spit. You know why? Because the entire site has an RSS feed available and I didn’t know about it. If you check out the FeedBurner feed you’ll see that not only have they been syndicating posts from their “Yarborough Blog” but also updates from the site itself. That means I could have been getting updates on the entire site as they went live and wasn’t. This is exactly the kind of thing I’ve been talking about so much and here it is under my nose the entire time and I missed it. Argh.
Honestly, though, this is only partly my fault. Should I have visited the official site more often? Yes. But there should have been some sort of mechanism in place to publicize this feed. Something. This is why there needs to be either 1) Corporate outreach to bloggers on things like this or 2) A company-wide feed that announces this kind of thing.
Enough ranting. Good on Sony for feeding the entire site. That’s an awesome move and one I definitely applaud. But next time tell someone about the darn thing.
Now onto looking at the actual content.
“Mission” is where you’ll find the information about the movie itself. Assignment is plot synopsis written in the form of a mission briefing. The nicest part is that the names of the characters in the write-up are linked and clicking on them displays a brief description and a couple of pictures. Those same descriptions and pics are available when you click the Operatives portion of the section. Nothing too exciting.
Moving on, the next section is “Dossier.” This is actually a really nice section that is presented as the formal report to M recommending Bond for service in the MI6. This works better than it probably should because the setting for this movie is Bond’s introduction as a super-spy. So if you keep that in mind this section is actually quite informative and entertaining as it dives into the personal and psychological background of the character.
You’ll find a photo gallery labeled as Freeze Frame, both trailers in Video Capture and some virtual set visits called 360 Views under the “Surveillance” section. The 360 Views offer a cool look at the Casino Royale itself.
There are some fun games in the “Basic Training” section. Card Shark is a target practice effort where you click your mouse to shoot a gun at playing cards that appear before you. Line of Sight has you move Bond around trying to avoid some bad guys. Not too complex, but fun. Next is M’s Assignment, which gives you a series of questions you answer in order to find out what kind of job you’re suited for in MI6. Finally there’s 180 Seconds. This is a driving game that lets you drive Bond’s Aston Martin around some curvy roads in an effort to get to the Casino Royale in less than three minutes. I’m kind of surprised they didn’t put the “Casino Royale Strategy Game” in this section but it’s got its own section. The front page of the site encourages you to register to get text-messaged hints and tips on the game. Also kind of hidden on the site is a Poker game
The “MI6 Declassified” section finally gets you some solid, non-fictional movie content. There’s a Synopsis, Cast List, Videos, Production Notes, News and more, including information on promotional Partner and a link to a dedicated Music site featuring Chris Cornell’s take on a Bond theme song. “Promotions” takes you to a page of contests that you can enter that are related to the movie.
All in all it’s a really nice official website. There’s lots to do and lots of information to be found and plays into the Bond mythos quite nicely.
Just like the last handful of entries in the Bond series, this one comes laden with a number of promotional deals and corporate tie-ins.
- Sony has a whole group of products it’s releasing branded with the Bond name. Those were advertised with this pretty bad online ad .
- Heineken is apparently Bond’s new beer of choice.
- When he’s not drinking that it will be Paterno Wines in his hand.
- Omega watches get a little help by appearing in front of a couple of the movie’s posters.
- Since Bond is a manly-man, the men’s portal AskMen has setup a microsite devoted to just how manly he is. (Thanks to James for the tip on this.)
There’s a whole list of such deals on the official site but these are the ones that popped onto my radar.
Everybody’s been ramping up the nostalgia factor too, with lists of every Bond theme song, clips of all the movie’s intros and such popping up all over the place. Fast Company even has a whole article on how Bond plays into the traditional sense of macho and how the character has become a brand that much be protected. Like I said before, a movie must be a brand experience.
The Casino Royale is a good one if you look at it as just another Bond flick. Unfortunately I think as a whole it falls short of achieving what I think is its most important goal, which is clearing up the continuity issue before people go to the theater. There’s a bit of that on the website and a bit in the trailers but not enough, I don’t think, to really make this a non-issue. I can completely see people coming out of the theater and telling their friends, â€œI was confused. It was like Bond didn’t know what he was doing. But Judi Dench was in there from the other movies. It was alright, I guess.â€ That was the main obstacle and they didn’t quite clear it.
That being said I think the individual elements were better than the whole they added up to. The trailers were very good, the posters were good except for that one and the website is a solid effort. I especially love the RSS-ification of the entire site and can’t tell you how much I wish I had discovered that before, like, just now.
It’s interesting, though, that what I’m reading this past week has Casino Royale running so neck-and-neck in the tracking numbers with the Warner Bros animated flick Happy Feet, about a group of dancing penguins. I think, unfortunately, that’s a sign of a weak campaign, or at least an indifferent public that needed to be convinced by a strong campaign, maybe one a bit stronger than this one is. Royale should have been blowing Happy Feet out of the water, not be going into the weekend with a toss-up as to which one will be number one for the weekend.
I think they could have created a stronger campaign had more of the focus been on the Bond mythology. If the idea that this was Bond’s first outing had been explored a bit more, that this was, as so often was written, a reboot of the franchise, I think they could have garnered more interest in seeing it. As it stands it’s a solid campaign that falls just short of fantastic.