Not quite the traditional Halloween movie this, yet somehow it’s still strangely appropriate for the second Daniel Craig-starring Bond film to come out on a date long associated with the dead. Because this is one film series that has well and truly risen from the ashes like some kind of latter-day Dracula. James Bond hasn’t been this cool for years – and to think that just two short years ago, as we awaited the release of Casino Royale with a mixture of hope and dread, many had written off the Bond franchise for good.
Looking back on them now, it’s easy to see why we all enjoyed the Pierce Brosnan Bond films at the time – well, bar the last one with that ridiculous invisible car and budget computer-generated attempt to make it look like our man was surfing down a massive tsunami, of course. Brosnan’s charming and likeable enough, and made a nice change from both Timothy Dalton’s grim, steely-eyed brutality and Roger Moore’s cheesy one-liners that we had all grown used to over the previous couple of decades. He was no Connery, but then who is? Yet somehow it still all went wrong along the way – the perennial Bond sense of humour again ended up being taken too far, the quest for ever more impressive stunts led to over-reliance on computer effects rather than the in-your-face action that the franchise became famous for. Even the villains were getting sillier than ever – which is saying something for a film series that’s featured giants with metal teeth and cackling, cat-stroking megalomaniacs.
Daniel Craig’s selection as Bond seems a superb choice now, but in the run-up to Casino
Royale’s release there were petitions aplenty to scrap the blonde Bond, to bring back Brosnan, haul in bigger names (Clive Owen being the fan favourite) – even to scrap the franchise altogether and let it die with what little dignity it had left now that Matt Damon’s Jason Bourne had stolen the title “coolest spy with the initials J.B.”. Craig was mocked relentlessly – first for turning up to meet the press wearing a decidedly un-Bond-like inflatable life jacket while crossing the Thames on a boat, then for injuring himself on set, then for that infamous photo of him emerging from the sea in tiny swimming trunks looking all the world like a male bimbo, and countless other bits of tabloid gossip all seemingly designed to undermine any chance the film had of doing well.
In the end, the massively reduced expectations only went to work in Casino Royale’s favour. So few people were expecting anything decent that even when the first positive reviews began to trickle in, many fans were still undecided about whether or not to go. It was only really once the word of mouth spread that Craig’s take on 007 began to be appreciated for what it is – a top-notch reinvention of the character that is at the same time one of the most faithful to have been seen on screen. Having been written off as a terrible choice, Craig has become most people’s favourite Bond after Connery – no mean feat for just one film.
And so this time around the expectations are immense. Casino Royale was so good that Quantum of Solace needs to do even better and try even harder – not least because it is the first direct sequel ever seen in the Bond franchise’s 46-year history. Can it live up to expectations? Will it be another Goldfinger or an Octopussy? Can Craig secure his status as one of the best Bonds, or will he end up a Lazenby? You’ll have to go see it to find out – and let’s face it, it’s a Bond film. You’re going to end up seeing it at some point, be it now or some random Bank Holiday weekend in 2037 or so. May as well see what you’re missing.