I’m not objective when it comes to James Bond. [[[Dr. No]]] was the first “grown-up” movie I ever saw, and I’ve been writing about 007 in magazines and my books ever since.
Nor am I particularly dispassionate about [[[Casino Royale]]]. The New York premiere at the great Zeigfeld Theater was the best experience I’ve had in cinemas for the last few decades — and it was there that I ate humble pie because, to my shame, I had been dead set against Daniel Craig in the role prior to that (I had been rooting for runner-up Henry Cavill, and anyone who’s seen him as “Charles Brandon” in the second season of Showtime’s [[[The Tudors]]] can see why).
The only thing I wasn’t a big fan of was the original, cautious, DVD release that didn’t even include an audio commentary. Naturally, everyone knew that a big special edition would eventually appear, and, following record-breaking grosses and a Blu-ray release that really put the medium on the map, this is it.
The film remains exceptional but quibbliable (some nitpick at the central, drawn-out poker game, while I cavil [if you’ll excuse the expression] at the dispassionate off-screen dispatching of the main henchmen, to be hastily replaced by some generic thugs for 007 to slaughter at the climax).
The three-DVD status of this Special Edition (tomorrow) is also questionable, since the second disc only contains the extras found on the original release, promoted to their own disc apparently to make way for the previously absent audio commentaries. Even the DVD menus aren’t particularly distinguished.
However, the approximately nine hours of new Special Features made it worth the wait. Having done forty good, bad, or ugly audio commentaries myself, I know a great one when I hear it, and Casino Royale now has two. The first, with director Martin Campbell and producer Michael Wilson, is packed with illuminating info (including that the opening was inspired by The Ipcress File and the finale by Don’t Look Now), but the second is even better.