The Name's Bond
One of the things I'm most proud* of in my life is having seen every entry in the James Bond film franchise. Every entry that counts, that is (pretty much everyone accepts that "Never Say Never Again" doesn't count, since it wasn't made by the same folk behind the rest). One conclusion I've drawn from this achievement is that I've wasted approximately 34 hours and 17 minutes of my life**.
I'm of the opinions that A) Daniel Craig is the best James Bond there's been; B) Casino Royale is the best James Bond movie there's been; and C) with the "reboot" of the franchise, one shouldn't feel the need to watch any of those previously made. Now, let me say here and now there are some fun episodes/moments in the series. But overall, they pale in comparison to what Martin Campbell and associates did with Casino Royale.
I could give a lengthy discourse about Casino Royale's superiority, but instead let me point you to just one of the ways in which the film skyrockets far above and beyond its predecessors: the opening title sequence. Watch it first:
Okay, now that you've (likely) been wowed, let's dig deeper.
There are several things you can count to be included with every Bond film: crazy/awesome/sometimes stupid gadgets, gorgeous luxury cars, kitschy one-liners, (usually)beautiful women falling under Bond's charms, and title sequences straight out of an LSD trip.
Go to YouTube, type in "James Bond title sequence," and enjoy. Here, I saved you some time by doing the search for you.
Bizarre, yes? Not only do the songs themselves range from "cool" to "fun" to "bad" to "dumb" to "Shiva strike my ears from mine head should I ever hear that again;" nearly all the sequences feature women cavorting about in various states of exposure. Only two don't prominently display the female form: Dr. No, which is a epileptic-nightmare light fest, and You Only Live Twice, where Nancy Sinatra serenades bubbling volcanoes.
Every other one displays the ladies in one of three ways: 1) projecting words/images on a woman's body; 2) using colored lighting/paint/decorations to highlight the woman's body while strategically hiding all the naughty things; and 3) silhouettes. Silhouettes were particularly popular in the Roger Moore era; the title sequences in this case show the outline of a woman implied to be naked cavorting about in one of a dozen ways (swimming, dancing, gymnastics, jumping on a trampoline, etc).*** One could even describe them all as "shaky, but not stirring."****
Enter Casino Royale, where the title sequence is everything the others are not while still feeling like a James Bond movie opening. The animation is stunning, original, extremely creative and fun to watch; seriously, did you think the little playing card symbols were so versatile from a visuals point of view? And there are no stupid nearly-naked ladies/R-rated silhouettes to ruin it!
Then there's the song: wow. Chris Cornell wrote "You Know My Name," which to me is the best James Bond song ever. It not only fits the film and franchise, but is a great listen even outside the James Bond context. (Trivia: "You Know My Name" is the first Bond song to be performed by a male artist since a-ha sang "The Living Daylights." Yes, this a-ha.)
Again, this is just one piece of the puzzle that puts Casino Royale head and shoulders and chest and waist and legs and feet and a 65-story building above its competition. Let's watch the sequence again, just for fun and just because it owns:
Additional fun - Chris Cornell's music video for "You Know My Name"
* Not really
** The total run times for all Bond movies Sean Connery-Pierce Brosnan, minus ten minutes each for end credits.
*** Honestly, each title sequence is a lighting job away from softcore pornography. I get why filmmakers do it: James Bond is, after all, a womanizer who can't go ten minutes without bedding a secretary or informant or rival spy. But for me, it doesn't come off as sensual or enticing or even mildly titillating. It looks really dumb
**** See what I did there?