Casino Royale was a reboot, plain and simple, stripping Bond back to his most basic elements and discarding much of the old Bond baggage. It found a balance between the suave superspy, laden with gadgets and perfect hair, and the rough-and-tumble kineticism of The Bourne Series. Quantum Of Solace swung too far in the new direction, and Skyfall makes a brilliant correction... but in doing so, swerves perilously close to the old ways. The best thing about Casino Royale was its minimalism: not just because it's an Origins Episode, but in how it approached Bond. All it contains is M, a tuxedo and Vesper. The scope is very personal, but this strengthens the film, and the next two Craig films keep that focus. (It should be pointed out that I think Quantum is underrated. We rightly decried the Jitter Cam, but everything else about it is pretty solid.) Daniel Craig plays Bond solitary, nasty, brutish and short, putting an edge on the character that works well in our Darker And Edgier zeitgeist. The villains are genuinely sinister, striking the right balance between groundedness and eccentricity; Bardem's Raoul Silva is unquestionably the best of the lot. Skyfall being the 50th-anniversary milestone, callbacks and shout-outs were inevitable, and we get a new Moneypenny, Q and (thanks to Judi Dench's retirement) M. They are all played well and interestingly, which bodes well for the future, because—believe or not—I believe the franchise now rests on their shoulders, not Bond's. The strength of the Craig movies is their lack of mythos—their willingness to let Bond operate without being laden down by gadgetry and tradition and characters who are little more than Continuity Gags. And these characters aren't continuity gags: they are active and plot-relevant, and make the film better by their inclusion. It's the right direction to go. Craig has shown us that Bond can learn new tricks; he has 007 in exciting directions. If Q, Moneypenny and M are allowed to do the same, the franchise is safe for (God willing) 50 years more. If they don't, Bond's 24th outing may well be his last. But either way, it's the end of an era. This film is the Genre Killer for Tuxedo And Martini; all that remains to be seen is whether the franchise itself catches on.
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