Lesson: Innovate. Don’t be afraid to shake up the formula and deliver something new.
By the time Pierce Brosnan’s tenure with James Bond had come to an end in 2002’s Die Another Day, it was clear the franchise had run out of steam. There had been twenty Bond films across five different actors, and each, for the most part, attempted to conform to a rigid, outdated formula that was long past its prime.
If the 007 series was to remain relevant, it would have to reinvent itself, and that’s exactly what Martin Campbell, Daniel Craig, and the rest of an immensely talented cast and crew did with 2006’s Casino Royale. Instead of delivering the same tired, formulaic Bond flick audiences had seen twenty times before, they blew the lid off the franchise, completely resetting continuity, abandoning series staples like Q and Moneypenny, embracing modern technology, and delivering a story with real physical and emotional stakes.
It is difficult to remember, six years later, just how bold Casino Royale felt at the time. There was real controversy from stodgier James Bond fans resistant to change, especially where Craig was concerned. This was not the cool, suave, womanizing Bond of previous entries, but a vulnerable, damaged, ruthless killer, vastly more dangerous than the polished, laid-back spy of old.
This change in Bond’s character actually reflects a return to Ian Fleming’s source material, which had largely been ignored over the past four decades. Fleming’s Bond is Craig’s Bond – rough, brutal, and efficient – and Casino Royale is, by and large, a highly literal adaptation of Fleming’s first book. The film adds a much more detailed first act and expands upon the ending, but otherwise, this is Fleming’s Bond through and through.
To the world of film, though, this was innovative and invigorating. Casino Royale was not just a new kind of Bond film, but a new kind of action film, one that beautifully wove character, set pieces, and intelligent espionage into one extremely satisfying package. It was unafraid to make Bond dynamic, to give him a love interest – Eva Green’s fascinating Vesper Lynd – who truly mattered, or to actually consider the toll a life of violence takes on the human soul.
Casino Royale is a spectacular film, my personal favorite reboot of all time. Like Batman Begins, it succeeded partially on its firm and fresh interpretation of the property, but more importantly, it wowed audiences on strength of innovation. After twenty films, it offered Bond fans something truly new, a groundbreaking and surprising spy epic that restored Bond to the action icon throne. All reboots should learn from the film’s accomplishments. Leaving the comfort zone may be dangerous, but the creative rewards are vast.