Build up to Skyfall has reminded me of my memories of sitting in the cinema watching Casino Royale. Die Another Day had been a bitterly mediocre disappointment, but we were promised a clean break with Daniel Craig, expectations were high. MGM logo, no gun barrel, black and white scene, all very calm, considered. Some clever dialogue intercut with a flash back to earlier tense action. Wasn’t sure what I was seeing, certainly didn’t look and sound like Bond, but it was definitely intriguing. Suddenly the dialogue stops, a double agent neatly dispatched and the earlier action isn’t over. Bond has too put a bullet in his first victim to finish him off, as we cut to a new angle the end of the scene doubles as Craig’s first Bond gun-barrel. Cue the music and a massive smile from me, I’m in I think to myself. The first two or so minutes of Casino Royale show off everything which was great about the film, this was Bond the character and the franchise boiled now to its bare essentials, they’d use what was useful, what had a place. This all continued into the title sequence itself, the silhouetted dancing-girls had gone, the theme tune had a hard self-assured edge to it. A truly terrific first impression.
A few years later and I’m in the cinema again, awaiting the start of ‘Quantum of Solace’. I’ve stayed away from reviews, I try to do that with all films I know I’m definitely going to see. But the trailers look good and promise more of the same. No gun-barrel. We open with a car chase, cool, I like car chases, and it’s all a bit Bourne, I like Bourne. But something isn’t grabbing me. The chase ends and a single line that’s darkly humorous takes us into the title sequence. Accompanied by a slightly wayward theme song which always sounds like it’s about to come together and make sense, but before it does it ends. Back into an interrogation of the guy Bond caught up with at the end of Casino, cool, they are carrying straight on, trying something different, a direct sequel. After a surprise twist we are into another chase scene, this time on foot and it ends like Craig’s first bond kill does, he gets to his gun first, turns, shoots into camera, no gun-barrel. I’ve never heard it mentioned, but I’m certain that was the intent in the design of the scene, to start a new tradition, to gun-barrel from an action scene straight into the titles. In the cinema I’m certain that’s the intention but for some reason it’s not happened. That thought is the icing on my first impression, all the ingredients are here but they don’t seem to be fitting and blending together in the same way this time. Rest of the film matches that rather patchy first impression.
I’ve listened to Adele’s theme tune quite a bit, partly because I like it as a song, partly because it’s confidence reminds me of Casino’s theme tune, and while I know it’s stupid that’s got me hopeful that the opening minutes of Skyfall will be as confident as Casino’s were, because while Casino Royale quite possibly wasn’t as flawless as I describe or Quantum quite as hopeless, there really is nothing quite as enjoyable as a film grabbing you from the word go and not letting go until it’s done and sends you out the cinema with a smile, humming the theme tune and wondering when the next showing is.