Sunday, November 19, 2006

Bond: Smart. Audience: Stupid.

No, I'm not talking about those who show up for a very popular movie, at a very popular day and time, in a very popular movie theater, in a heavily populated area, ten minutes after the movie starting time and wonder why they can't get six seats together anywhere but the front row. I'm talking about the dumbing down of James Bond. (Caution: spoilers ahead)

Don't get me wrong, Casino Royale was an enjoyable movie. The fights and stunts and chases are probably the best that any 007 movie has delivered. If you liked the Bourne movies you'll like this. And there are really humorous lines well placed throughout. But, here's the thing. A big part of the plot revolves around no limit hold 'em poker. Okay, it's popular. And it's a great game. But it's not the international high stakes James Bond game and it seemed highly out of place here. Worse, a character is shown continually explaining what's going on in the game to Bond's love-interest. This is of course a humiliating attempt to explain the game to the audience, so we can follow along. Worse still, at the end of a hand the dealer physically took the player's cards and the community cards used and set them aside for the camera, explaining that now HE has the high hand. It was all so ridiculous it made me cringe. Bond plays baccarat, and nobody in forty years felt compelled to explain to any audience how the hell you play baccarat.

Oh, don't get me started. Another absurdity revolving around the poker was the terrorist's "tell." MI6 sent Bond to play this high stakes game because he was the best player in the agency. And that high level of poker skill certainly paid off when Bond was keen enough to recognize the way, when the guy across from him was bluffing, he would RAISE HIS ENTIRE HAND TO THE SIDE OF HIS FACE AND COVER UP HIS BAD EYE WHICH TWITCHES UNCONTROLLABLY WHENEVER HE'S BLUFFING! Golly, I don't even think Jason Bourne could have picked up on that bit of subtlety, and he was in Rounders.

The makers of this movie got a lot right, in my opinion, but this poker nonsense was disappointing. The Bond franchise is smarter than that, and should assume that its audience is too.

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