The latest addition to the Bond franchise has one of the best beginnings and one of the worst endings of any Bond film. Fortunately the film doesn’t jump the shark till about three quarters of the way through, so it still offers plenty of bang for your buck.
What really struck me, however, were the opening credits by Daniel Kleinman, who is mostly known for making music videos. For the first time in history (I haven’t had time to re-watch all of the Bond opening credit sequences, but you can do so yourself here), naked silhouttes of women’s bodies aren’t used in the credits. Instead, we have animated sequences of men fighting with images of cards and roulette wheels. It is very effectively done, but I immediately thought: this is going to be a very gay movie, in a sadistic homo-erotic way. And I was right. [Warning: Spoilers after the jump.]
Writing in Slate, Dana Stevens describes one of the most sadistic and homo-erotic scene:
In a torture scene, Casino Royale’s blood-weeping villain Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen) visits great indignity upon James Bond’s manhood (though to judge from subsequent love scenes in the film, no lasting harm is done). As he readies his instruments, Le Chiffre compliments the naked and bound superspy on the physique he’s about to harm: “You’ve taken good care of your body. Such a waste.” The screening audience laughed aloud at this line, because Daniel Craig’s body is truly something to behold. He’s ripped without being the least bit muscle-bound and possessed of a coiled, catlike grace that’s atypical for an action star. Like Uma Thurman, he’s somehow athletic and delicate at the same time. Craig’s naked body, which is partly, if not fully, on view in virtually every movie he’s made, puts me in mind of a great couplet from Ogden Nash: “Should you behold a panther crouch/ Prepare to say ouch.”
Normally Bond films have a strictly male gaze, with plenty of time spent dwelling on the bodies of scantily clad women. There is some of that here, but it seems to be an afterthought. Queer Beacon (who carefully distinguishes between “gay” content and “homo-erotic” content, putting the film in the latter category) comments on one of the publicity stills for the film:
On a lot of Bond movies we do get to see James Bond shirtless, but the sexytime has always been clearly about the Bond girls, about objectifying them; this time, even though we have two hot Bond girls, the attention is clearly on Craig. And it should be. Seriously, you will get a boner with this one.
I think the film was meant for such an audience, although it is possible that there is emerging a new female gaze that is indistinguishable from the male gaze except for the subject, but somehow I doubt that women were the intended audience for such scenes. Which isn’t to say that there isn’t a fair amount put in for the ladies, especially a degree of psychological weakness and vulnerability, coupled with a certain infantilization and impetuousness. But in one of the best such scenes, when Bond is given a tailor-made suit, the woman’s gaze seems only to exist to assuage any uncomfortable male viewers as they watch Bond preening himself in the mirror.
It is also interesting that while most films include high-tech killing machines, the most high-tech gadget in this film is a self-applied defibrillator which Bond is unable to activate without the help of the female lead. (Of course, only the white woman is allowed to hold her own against Bond, the exotic Mediterranean woman is too sexual to be allowed any power. Hell, she doesn’t even get her sexual cravings satisfied … )
The film departs from the usual Bond formula in a myriad of other ways, there is no scene where the villain explains his evil plan — in fact, there is no plan to be reveled. And Bond doesn’t even say any of his famous lines. Again, from Slate:
Asked by a bartender if he prefers his martini shaken or stirred, Craig’s Bond snaps, “Do I look like I give a damn?”
Part of the explanation is that this is supposed to be the “first” Bond story, and his character is still emerging. As Kleinman says:
“By the end of this one, 007 is more like the Bond we all know and love,” says Kleinman, who is onboard to design the credit sequence for the next installment. “So I think those dancing girls may well come back again.”
Great, so we can we expect to see the misogynist Bond we know and love again in the next film? Maybe I prefer him gay …