I've been a Bond fan since before I was really allowed to watch them. Mom and Dad had a TV set in their bedroom we were allowed to use, and I'd sit in front of it and watch as speedboats jumped over alligators and murphy beds containing Bond flopped into the wall and were pummeled by machine guns (and yet he survived) and magnetic watches unzipped pretty ladies' dresses. Since the films at that point came with the broadcast TV warning that "some content may not be appropriate for younger viewers," I would flip immediately if I heard mom or dad coming up the steps. They were illicit, and that was part of it, but they were roaring good fun and you just knew one way or the other, James Bond was going to Take Care of Business in a way no one else could possibly do.
I even read most of the Ian Fleming books; I still have them with their paperback candy-colored covers sitting on my shelf with other crime fiction. They were different than the movies; a little dryer and less flashy, more about the gadgets and less about how often Mr. Bond was getting his rocks off. But they were still pretty good. They gave me an interesting early literature impression: In most action stories, women, or significant others (though mostly women), and kids, were just obstacles in the way of Taking Care of Business. If you were attached, or had procreated, there was a bloody good chance one of them would either get in the way (by finding out what you were doing, or being kidnapped) or get killed (thus screwing with you mentally for at least 20 pages) and basically were a waste of time. The great thing about Bond stories was the women were just temporary, whether they were helping out by stuffing a cassette tape in their bikini bottoms (that may have just been the movies) or by trying to squeeze you to death with their massively muscular thighs (clearly not a bad way to go, in the Bond universe). I'm not saying it wasn't a misogynistic take, or that it wasn't a very healthy way to view significant others (aka women) in books or in film, but it was true. Those tropes have been so overused as to become boring, and they felt like a waste of space in my getting to the good stuff — the story.
I think it's one of the reasons why today I still find David Mamet to be one of my favorite storytellers. He doesn't even bother with women most of the time. The guys are just getting their story on, and screwing things up all on their own. I've long wished a writer would come along and do what Mamet does for men, with women. Just women, having their own stories, doing their own thing, sans men — and sans all of that boring crap which has become trope and tripe: Abuse, worrying about getting married/having kids, menopause, superficial looks. How wretched would "Glengarry Glen Ross" have been if it was all about saleswomen? But how good could it be if someone decided to write a "Glengarry" for women — without all the crap attendant in most Oprariffic stories?
So, I'm digressing. Bond is competent. He gets the job done. And I love competent in a person. But what I really meant to bring it all back to Mr. Daniel Craig.
I know he's blond. I know he's not suave in the sense of Pierce Bosnan in the James Bond role. But what I do like about him in the part is that he's not pretty, he doesn't seem quiet so polished. I liked Brosnan, I loved Connery, I tolerated Lazenby (because he had a good story), I resigned myself to Moore, and I slept through Dalton. Craig is the first actor in my lifetime of watching Bond releases in real time where he doesn't come with a lot of trappings ahead of time, where he looks like a real person (a real, very sexy, person) and where he looks like he could be a killer. He's arresting. He made "Munich" for me; as a blonde, blue-eyed Jew I loved that he was playing a blond, blue-eyed Jew. (He also has a Jewish connection in "Fateless," as a U.S. soldier who's part of a force to free the concentration camp survivors.) And then, of course, he was perfection in "Layer Cake," a flawed film that's nonetheless marvelous.
It stunned me how vociferous the opposition was to his being cast in the role of Bond. Whole websites went up to claim he couldn't possibly be Bond. Rumor campaigns impugning his manhood by noting he didn't know how to shoot a gun, or his character wasn't going to drive an Aston Martin, or such. I was even cringing when a story came out about Judy Dench, his co-star as M (though since this film takes place pre-Connery Bond, and she played M in just the Brosnan films, means her appearance in "Royale" presents a Mobius strip of creativity that's already hurting my head) noting that his, uh, little Danielbeast was actually "a monster." Not that we care about size or anything. But fortunately, other sites have been more adoring, and this one is just for James Bond stuff in general. Fantastic.
I'm glad the reviews are solid. I'm looking forward to this with great expectation. For some reason, for many years now, Bond films all come out right around my birthday. This one is released Nov. 17; I'll be seeing it a few days earlier in some kind of press screening (if I'm lucky). I might go to both. One year, my friend Lynda bought me a smoking jacket for my birthday and we all went together to see what must have been the first Brosnan film. I wore it. If I could find the damn thing, I'd wear it again.
Good luck, Mr. Craig. You won't need it, but I'll be cheering.