Why Casino Royale is better than Skyfall
I loved Skyfall.
I’ve seen a lot of these articles written lately, in argument that either Casino Royale or Skyfall is a better film, that rely on bashing whichever they think is inferior in comparisons with their favorite. I’m not going to do that. Skyfall was an incredible film with incredibly shot action sequences, sharp dialogue, amazing introspection into the lives and history of our favorite characters, and one of best, most sinister, most entertaining Bond villains ever.
But Casino Royale is better, and here’s why.
Bond is back
When fans of series look back at the moment that saved the franchise, Casino Royale will be the crowning achievement that allowed Bond to transition to today’s smarter movie goer. Gone is the cheesy dialogue, the crazy gadgets, the silly set-pieces (who thought parasailing on a glacier was a good idea, ever)? Skyfall’s new (and brilliantly acted) Q even mocks the exploding pen from Goldeneye to cement the franchise’s evolution. Bond now delivers style WITH substance, and we can thank Casino Royale for that.
A new Bond. A darker, more gritty story. A tame (but complex) villain. And a reboot that finds a newbie Bond making his first kill. This highlighted conversations as much as it did action sequences, and established a more realistic tone to the film universe. Bond was running out of steam fast, and we have Casino Royale and Daniel Craig to thank for its resurgence.
An evolution of character
Poor Pierce Brosnan; it wasn’t his fault he’ll go down as one of the more cheesy, underdeveloped 007’s in the franchise’s history. The writing they were feeding the man was downright terrible, turning our beloved Bond into a caricature of a character.
Casino Royale gets things back on track by starting at the core of the series. Not the villains, or the Bond girls, or even the plot; rather, Bond himself. By tackling Bond’s first true love, and the tragedy that follows, we cut to the core of why Bond is the way he is, and what led to the degradation of his soul. He is forced to endure torture that leads him to establish a relationship based on something other than sex. We his mindset change from a man in love to a shell who can no longer trust anyone. And, better yet, we see it in one fully realized, focused film. What’s great about Casino Royale is the developers knew the story they wanted to tell, and no scene is wasted during the film’s 2 hour plus run time to tell it. Which leads me to my next point.
The classic, brutal, black and white opening. The thrilling parkour chase. The talk on the train. The fight in the stairwell. A moment in the shower. Defibrillating in the car. Dodging Vesper in the street. The torture. The final sequence in the elevator. And a handful of others I’m sure I’m missing. Casino Royale is a film completely constructed of dynamic, poignant, memorable scenes that leave an impact on the viewer and, more importantly, shed light on the characters. Even something as innocuous as the parkour scene reveals important characteristics of this new Bond — his brutality, his perseverance, and his intelligence. He lacks both the finesse and athleticism of his target, and yet still manages to track him down. This is the Bond we were missing out on. If you prefer the karate chop Bond from yesteryear, then there’s nothing I can do for you.
Again, I’ll say, Skyfall is an amazing film, and one that manages to look forward as well as it gives nods to the past and acknowledges its age. We see Bond in a light that we never have before, and yet a new generation of adventures is established by the film’s end. I’ll even admit that, from a technical angle, the film might even be better constructed. But if we’re taking into account importance, both for the character and the franchise, Casino Royale is the superior film in every way, and paved the way for the exploits of this new Bond.
At the end of the day, both films are exceptional, and people tend to forget how much better Quantum of Solace was than the previous generation of Bond films (I’m looking at you, Die Another Day). Let’s hope that we can continue to have these debates of which Bond film was better far into the future, as Daniel Craig’s Bond continues to solidify itself as one of the best, most iconic film series ever.