Full-Length Review of Casino Royale:
The 20th Bond installation of Die Another Day was more of a celebration that the franchise had lasted 40 years and 20 pictures than it was a look to the future of the Bond franchise. Die Another Day was somewhat self-referential (the imdb trivia section claims DAD there are references to each of the first 19 films) and maybe that reminded us of how sick of the old James Bond we were getting. I generally love James Bond pictures because I watch them as I would genre films. The formula is always the same: gadgets, girls, Q, Moneypenny, M, exotic locations, the villains, extravagant world domination plans and accompanying control centers. With each picture, the fun is in watching and comparing exactly how each film navigates its way through each of the checkpoints.
I have loved watching all of this except there's always one element of the series I have never quite cared for and that is Bond himself. I am sick of how Bond never bleeds, never gets dealt a bad hand in poker, how he'll compromise the mission to sleep with a girl, and how when a room full of soldiers fires at him, the bullets happen to miss. I'm also sick of how M forgives him at the end of the mission (especially Licence to Kill but also On Her Majesty's Secret Service).
In this Bond film, some of the old parts I love seeing are not here: Moneypenny, the villainous girl, and especially Q. Bonds toys don't really look like Q's gadgets, they just look like those high-end gizmos you find in your sky mall catalogue. At the same time, it's refreshing to see Bond bleed, Bond lose a hand of cards, and Bond actually fall in love. I'm not sure which version of Bond I like better, but maybe it was the right time for a change. It also helps that James Bond is played by an Oscar-caliber actor (he hasn't won an Oscar yet, but he could easily win one in between James Bond films, he got buzz for Munich and Infamous and was also in Road to Perdition) who could go way above and beyond Bond if need be. Pierce Brosnam never seemed to be more than an action hero, and his best roles outside of Bond, After the Sunset and Matador, are notable only because they parody his action hero type.
On another note, I also can't say I like to see franchises reset from point zero, because that's a kind of invalidating of what's come before it. Much of the press released since Casino Royale was released is saying things like "This is the first Bond film since Connery played the part since I enjoyed," when I happen to think that Moore, Dalton and Brosnam each had at least one good film (Live and Let Die is my favorite in the series), and I'm also willing to bet that many of those reviewers gave at least a few good reviews somewhere between Live and Let Die and Die Another Day. Goldeneye, Live and Let Die, and Spy Who Loved Me (although I personally hate it) are all generally regarded as successes.