Casino Royale DVD Review

CASINO ROYALE was released on DVD this week in four different versions: a two-disc widescreen edition, a two-disc full screen edition, a Blu-Ray edition, and UMD for PSP. Although the Amazon.Com listings for the first two describes the DVDs as "special editions," there is no such designation on the actual box art. This is appropriate: although the widescreen and full screen DVDs contain a few nice features, they fall somewhat short of being truly "special." (To note the obvious, there is no audio commentary.)

The menu divides the film into twenty-eight chapter stops, which are laid out like cards on a gaming table. Unfortunately, you cannot skip directly ahead to the later chapters; you have to step through them in groups of four.

As is too often the case these days, the disc automatically starts by showing trailers for unrelated coming attractions; fortunately, you can skip through these with the chapter advance button or use the menu button to go immediately to the main menu.

Disc Two also contains the coming attractions trailers, but they are separated as a "bonus feature" and do not play automatically. The actual bonus features consist of "Becoming Bond," "James Bond for Real," "Bond Girls Are Forever," and a music video of Chris Cornell performing the theme song, "You Know My Name."

"Becoming Bond" takes a look at the creative process behind casting a new actor as Bond and updating the character for the 21st century. It consists mostly of interviews with producers Michael Wilson and Barbara Broccoli, director Martin Campbell, screenwriters Neal Purvis and Rupert Wade and Paul Haggis, and of course Daniel Craig, intercut with some behind-the-scenes footage and clips from the film.

Since there is no audio commentary on Disc One, this featurette has to fill in all the background details about turning CAISNO ROYALE into a film. It does an adequate job addressing the negative fan reaction that first erupted in response to Craig's casting. However, it also perpetuates the myth that Ian Fleming's novel features a young, untested Bond who comes of age during the novel, when in fact the coming-of-age story exists only in the film. Yes, Bond is younger in the CASINO ROYALE novel, but that's only because it's the first book; the book's character is at least in his 30s, and there is little if any suggestion that he lacks experience.

"James Bond for Real" examines the film's attempt to stay true to the tradition of great stunt work in the 007 films, relying on live-action instead of computer-generated imagery. This featurette is a bit slow and bogged down in details until the end when it addresses the world-record-breaking roll of the Aston Martin. The crash is so spectacular in the film that even casual viewers will enjoy learning how it was achieved.

"Bond Girls Are Forever" features actress Maryam D'abo (LICENSE TO KILL) interviewing a bevy of other actress who starred in 007 movies, both before and after her. This feature seems to have been produced not for the DVD but for television (it includes several breaks where commercials can be inserted), and it is easily the high-light of CASINO ROYALE's second disc. Of course, it is impossible to do complete justice to the topic, and several notable Bond girls are skipped over with barely a mention (most obviously, Diana Rigg's Tracy Bond, the woman Bond married in ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE). However, there are so many entertaining interviews (Ursula Andress, Honor Blackman, Maud Adams, Lois Chiles, Carey Lowell, Michelle Yeoh, Halle Berry, and more) that it would be churlish to complain.

One amusing note is the consistent tone struck by many of the actresses: almost everyone insists that her character (unlike the previous girls, who are assumed to be bimbos) was actually a strong woman and a worthy match for Bond. Only Maryam D'abo (who played a cellist) admits to being more or less a helpless damsel in distress.

Finally, the music video portrays singer Chris Cornell (who co-wrote the song with the film's composer David Arnold) lip-synching and acting out some short vignettes that parallel clips from the film. The impression given is that Cornell is imagining himself as bond, in pursuit of an enigmatic brunette. The video is a nice showcase for the best Bond theme song in years (one the captures the full-blooded glory of classics like "Goldfinger"), but on the DVD it is almost a tad redundant: the film's opening credits, under which the song plays, are essentially a music video in and of themselves. Still, this is a good excuse to listen to the song again.

 

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