Many of us probably adopted an air of skepticism when they hired Daniel “James Blonde” Craig for the lead role. Either he was going to be another Dalton or heaven forbid, a Lazenby, in the role. It was a risk the producers were taking and we wanted to see though. Now that the movie has impressed most of us (including one die-hard Brosnan fan, my wife), we can’t wait for the DVD. Last week I found myself looking forward to the 2-Disk Widescreen edition, wondering what the nice extras were going to be. You can Discover More about that here in this article.
The main disk itself was done in Widescreen, which is great for larger TV’s and preserves the screen aspect of the feature. I’ve always found pan-and-scan to lose a certain dimension of the cinematography, so that was quite pleasing. The main menu is done very simply in bleak black-and-white, in stark contrast to the Brosnan DVD’s that sport sleek, shiny, 3D computer animations. In Casino Royale, there aren’t even any special features in the main disk (don’t worry, they are on Disk 2). From the very beginning, we are being reminded to have different expectations.
Curious about what else I could get out of Disk 1 as I enjoyed the movie, I switched the subtitles and audio settings around. The subtitles are in yellow, not the traditional white. I have long preferred the yellow font, because, in fullscreen features, white letters seem to vanish into the background, making them hard to read. Even though the subtitles were in the black part of the letterbox view and not obscuring the action, the subtitles were still easier to see. The dubbing was also impressive; while I don’t speak all the languages they offer on their audio choices, it was obvious much care was devoted to getting voice actors that sound very close to the English dialogue, to the point that you wonder if Craig and the rest of the cast learned to speak fluent Spanish.
Disk 2, if you have a few hours, is a treat. It offers three main featurette goodies:
(1) Daniel Craig’s challenge as a newcomer: Producers, fellow performers, and press are thrown into the mix, and are challenged to give the world public the new Bond image. This revisits the popular atmosphere of doubtfulness about a replacement Bond when Brosnan’s movies were doing quite well. This is a contrast to the Goldeneye DVD, where documentary featurette was focused on the evolution of the character (not the actor) while upholding its tradition, and taking him to new places.
This segues into a neat bit of the history of the Bond character, as envisioned by creator Ian Fleming, in the first of his novels. Did you know that Casino Royale was actually first released as a TV play in the sixties, with the main character renamed Jimmy Bond?
(2) Special effects in Casino Royale: This gives deeper insight into the stunt design and execution in the movie. In an age of computer-enhanced visuals, replacements and green screens, the gamble was to deliberately do with as little of the newfangled technology as they can safely get away with. This by far is my favorite section of the entire disk, and I found myself cursing and whooping every few minutes. (This is me watching: “Holy ^$@%*# they really (^ amp;*% blew it up! That has got to be the craziest one! No wait, wait! This one! Did that guy really jump off the crane? These guys are out of their #* amp;^*^ minds!”. ) There is just something, a wonderfully solid feel, a substantial heft in a well-executed stunt that computers still cannot capture. Yet.
(3) Women of Bond: Not a novel idea. The theme of seeking out former Bond girls has been done more than once, I believe. As beautiful and interesting all of them were, I didn’t expect it to offer anything new outside of “what-it-was-like” questions. But it was a great job by the host, and each one of the interviewees had great stories about being selected for their respective parts, and what they are doing today. Fron Ursula Andres to Halle Berry, you are taken on a long (this is the lengthiest of the featurettes, divided into sections) journey into the world of the Bond girl, before, during and after the movie.
The bottom line is, if you are even a little bit of a Bond fan, you will be fascinated by the featurettes they have to offer in Disk 2 of Casino Royale. If anything, pick up a copy for the Special Features Disk. The layout is clean and simple, bordering on sparse, just like the movie: No fancy complicated gadgets, just Bond-entertainment, in its most pure and powerful form.-