I’ve decided to slowly read all the James Bond novels, then rewatch the film, review the two.
The first James Bond novel is “Casino Royale,” while there are numerous films based on this novel, I’m going to focus on the Daniel Craig one. The novel isn’t very good. It’s a quick read, that’s certainly positive, however the negatives are great in this book, such as numerous chapters devoted to informing the reader how to play baccarat, something that’s never interested me. To the point that when I think of baccarat, I think of the scene in A Hard Day’s Night where Paul’s grandfather steal’s Ringo’s casino invite.
The book’s portrayal of women… well Vesper… the only woman, aside from a brief mention of Moneypenny, is ridiculously patronizing. Worse still, the character of Vesper is so one dimensional and serves no purpose in the plot, other than to be the traditional damsel in distress. Passages such as these show how little Fleming cares to include women in his macho fantasy.
She kept on patching up the edifice of her deceit until Bond wanted to spank her and tell her to relax and tell the truth.
Or even better:
“Now in order to tell the difference between good and evil, we have manufactured two images representing the extremes – representing the deepest black and the purest white – and we call them God and the Devil. But in doing sober have cheated a bit. God is a clear image, you can see every hair on His beard. But the Devil. What does he look like?” Bond looked triumphantly at Mathis.
Mathis laughed ironically.
Worse still, this macho hero, James Bond is a wizard at the casino table, and supposedly one of the world’s best spies, but he gets himself kidnapped pretty easily. There’s a quick car chase which gets his car destroyed and him kidnapped by the Soviets. There he’s only saved from torture and death by pure luck. Then the book carries on for way too long as it follows his recovery. We have chapters dedicated to his hospital stay with no apparent reason. We learn he’s been a dick to Vesper this whole time and won’t let her see him… why she cares, I don’t know, but he continues to treat her like garbage for no real reason. Then she takes him on a romantic getaway.
Bond goes to the beach, Bond swims, Bond gets naked. Bond comes back to the hotel. Bond and Vesper eat. Vesper mothers Bond. Bond is a dick. Bond wakes up the next morning. Bond goes to the beach. Bond goes skinny dipping. He decides he’s going to propose. Bond catches Vesper making a phone call. Their relationship ends. A stranger comes to the hotel. Vesper thinks the stranger is after them. Bond doesn’t believe her. He leaves. She continues to fuck him… you know for Queen and country1. Stiff upper lip! The stranger comes back. She panics. He tells her he was going to propose. Bow chicka bow wow. She kills herself. Bond calls her a “bitch.” The end.
I didn’t realize the film follows the story of the book so closely. While the film starts quite a bit before the book, giving the viewer much more information about Le Chiffre, the main antagonist, the book delved into this weak plot to gamble him bankrupt, and suddenly he wouldn’t give a shit, and surrender himself… what? Well, that’s in the film, too. The difference being that while the book is dry and boring, the film is exciting and interesting. They were able to tell the story in a manner that really sold the film. It’s still a weak story, but it’s presented in a “flash boom bang” way that keeps you interested.
While the book goes to pains to trap Bond by stopping the chase, getting out of the car, dispatching a carpet of nails from the trunk and watching his car speed over it. In the film, you’re in the middle of a high speed chase, then you see in Bond’s car’s headlights is Vesper tied up and gagged in the middle of the road. You see Bond’s car flying off the road and toppling. It’s little things like that which make it so much more worthwhile.
In addition in the book there’s a much better and convincing reason for Vesper’s death than the book. The line “the bitch is dead” still seems uncomfortable and forced, as if his love is suddenly gone. In the book I never believed Bond loved her, but in the movie they actually seem to have a connection. Also, Bond isn’t a dick. Sure he’s a mechanical killer, but he genuinely cares about Vesper as you can see when he comforts Vesper.
Next time: Live and Let Die
- Yes, I actually looked up the publication date of the book (1953) and the start of Elizabeth II’s reign (1952) to make sure it wasn’t for King and country. [↩]