I've watched each of the twenty-one films in the James Bond series, in chronological order, over the last nine months. Thus I can say with authority that Casino Royale is hands-down the best movie in over a score of otherwise boorish action flicks, and Daniel Craig is easily the most dynamic, nuanced, intriguing, vulnerable, and skilled actor to portray the titular double-O. And guess what? He's sexier than all the five previous bonds. Guess what number two? He makes Sean Connery look like a flabby, balding, slimy, antiquated, meat-headed Neanderthal in comparison.
After viewing about fifty hours of Bond flicks, I've grown to appreciate exactly how misogynistic the first twenty (and, to a lesser extent, the twenty-first) movies are in their portrayal of women, men, and sex. Women are passive objects, men are violent saviors, and sex exists for male pleasure (or as a way to wrangle top-secret information from naive women). You know, the usual afflictions of any popular cultural output largely informed by male priviledge.
/Commence plot spoilers/ But Casino Royale paints a slightly different picture, much to some viewers' shagrin. Bond seems more interested in playing good poker than bedding a good partner. He only definitively sleeps with one woman, Vesper, whom he eventually falls in love with, and who is clearly the secret agent's intellectual equal. Rather than spending 150 minutes rescuing Vesper from improbable situations, Bond proves to actually be quite bad at rescuing anyone, including himself. If Vesper is a damsel in distress, she can't count on James being her knight in shining armor. Eva Green's character even enjoys the distinction of nearly double-crossing Bond, and only failed deliberately. One disturbing element of the movie, though, was in complying with the theme that the only good woman is a dead woman; the underlying violence toward women is a little hard to swallow, but necessary for the future of the Bond franchise. Far be it from me to choose between a married James Bond and the production of more 007 movies. /Conclude plot spoilers/
Casino Royale critics having been falling back on the "Sean Connery is the quintessential Bond" argument when defaming Daniel Craig. Maybe this is because Connery helped sculpt Bond's anti-woman demanor over the course of his six films as the character, and the other fourteen pre-Craig* movies took that misogyny and ran with it, thus establishing Bond as necesssarily an anti-woman character. Connery is the definitive Bond specifically because Bond is the asshole Connery made him into. Daniel Craig does not portray a misogynist douchebag version of Bond, so he inherently cannot be what we expect of 007. To which I say, thank goodness.
But why listen to my analysis? Let's let Craig and Sean speak for themselves. Yes, the two men's Bonds aren't clones of the actors behind the tuxedo, but the actors' personal beliefs certainly shine through. Here, Sean Connery explains that it's okay to slap a woman if she's talking too much.** (Not only is that sexist, tasteless, and morally wrong, it's also illegal. Jesus.) Daniel Craig on the other hand, as if to prove how un-Sean Connery he can be, welcomes the idea of having James engage in a gay-themed scene in an upcoming Bond movie. How far in advance can I buy my tickets?
* Or B.C., as I like to say.
** For some reason the anti-feminist propogandists have fooled dullards into thinking that feminists should think that slapping women is acceptable because hitting men is also acceptable and, hey, you wouldn't want women and men to receive unequal treatment! There are so many things wrong with that argument that I'll have to address them in a later post.