MI6 explores the possibilities of Casino Royale's concept and how it may be viewed in the annals of the Bond canon.

Prequel, Reboot Or Retcon?
29th October 2006

Much has been written about the seeming "reboot" of the James Bond franchise as Daniel Craig is ushered in to the famous tuxedo in Casino Royale, a film that shows the birth of Bond as we know him today.

But why take the most successful film franchise back to the beginning? It's a popular trend in Hollywood these days, with the "Batman", "Superman" and "Spider-Man" franchises all revisiting the roots of their characters. But unlike the aforementioned super heroes, not a lot seemed wrong with 007 - from a financial perspective at least - "Die Another Day" was the franchise's biggest box office earner taking over $400 million globally.

"I'll tell ya, it's not something your partners at the studio relish — when you're coming off the biggest one ever and you tell them you're gonna break the mold," co-producer Michael G. Wilson said in a recent interview.

"But creatively, it's the right way to go. Who knows if it'll make as much money?"

"No space stations with lasers on them, at least not for a few years" - writer Neal Purvis on Casino Royale

Back To Basics
As has happened before in the Bond canon, the new film had to take a dramatic departure from its previous outing. Over the years since Bond first appeared on the big screen in 1962, the series has followed a cycle of the featured technology becoming ever more prevalent, sharply followed by a back-to-basics approach resetting the franchise. The three pinnacles of high technology in the series, “You Only Live Twice”, “Moonraker” and “Die Another Day”, were all succeeded by a down to earth adventure, and Daniel Craig’s debut outing as 007 in “Casino Royale” continues the cycle with a gritty thriller where Bond relies on his wits and charm rather than ejector seats, x-ray glasses or jetpacks. The much criticised invisible Aston Martin "Vanish" in "Die Another Day" was the point of no return for Wilson, who explained, "you tend to start drifting. We got a little too fantastical. We needed to re-engage the audience."


Like "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" and "For Your Eyes Only" before, "Casino Royale" brings Bond back to reality, with the opening sequence setting the concept for the whole film.

"To set the tone, we wanted to start with something visceral and dynamic, and it ended up being a foot chase over the tops of buildings," says co-writer Robert Wade. "It shows him as raw and explosive, rather than a smooth operator." So no invisible cars this time? "And no space stations with lasers on them," says Neal Purvis, Wade's writing partner. "At least not for a few years."

To bolster Bond’s return to his literary roots in an adaptation of Ian Fleming’s debut 007 novel, Academy-award winning screenwriter Paul Haggis (“Crash”, “Million Dollar Baby”) was brought in to polish the script and strengthen the relationships between the characters.

Media coverage dubbed the production “Bond Begins” when director Martin Campbell revealed the film would show 007 earning his licence to kill at the beginning of his MI6 career.

Evolution Of An Agent
For fans of the twenty official films to date, "Casino Royale" will offer explanations and backstory to some of 007's most famous trademarks: the Aston Martin DB5, the Vodka Martini, the double-o licence to kill, and the affairs with 'unobtainable' women.

So as not to confuse long term fans and irregular cinema-goers alike, the film will use well known tricks to tell Bond's backstory. "We have an opening sequence that is filmed in black and white, which is not to say this is old. It is just to say, 'go with us on this one. This is from the beginning,'" Craig explained. The character the audience will first meet in "Casino Royale" will not be the suave and smooth finished article though, as the film's story is as much about defeating terrorist financiers as it is about the development of Bond's character to the world's most famous secret agent we all know and love. Bond will be "a grittier, tougher, darker kind of guy", Wilson explained. Rest assured though, by the end of the two hours and twenty minute epic adventure, James Bond IS 007, using his own famous introduction and the twang of the theme music emphasising the arrival of the character.

Prequel, Reboot Or Retcon?
So who is correct? Is "Casino Royale" a prequel, reboot, or retcon? The former may be the most commonly accepted term used by the media coverage to date, as the story harks back to the beginning of Bond's career - but in modern times as opposed to the story's 1950's setting. Tabloids have latched on to the reboot concept due to the re-casting of 007 and the production's apparent amnesia of the previous twenty films.

The lesser known term "retcon" is perhaps the most apt description of what the film aims to achieve, though. Retcon - a fusion of two words "retroactive" and "continuity" is the adding of new information to "historical" material, or deliberately changing previously established facts in a work of serial fiction.

Retcons are common in comic books, especially those of large publishing houses because of the lengthy history of many series and the number of independent authors contributing to their development; this is the context in which the term was coined, and aptly describes the Bond canon that has involved countless writers, directors and actors over the past 44 years.


The return to the beginning of 007's career was a concept Wilson first offered up in 1987 when Timothy Dalton took over from Roger Moore, but then producer Cubby Broccoli vetoed the idea emphasising that the Bond films had to give the people what they expected, and a traditional outing - "The Living Daylights" - duly followed.

Now with the franchise facing a fresh start, whether a prequel, reboot or retcon, "it's the story we've always wanted to tell," Wilson said. "It's huge," said Craig about taking on the responsibility. "Of course there's concern, I'm only human. I want to get it right."

Produced by Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli (Eon Productions) and directed by Martin Campbell, CASINO ROYALE is scheduled for release on November 16, 2006 in the UK. Principal photography started on January 30th 2006, with locations in the UK, Czech Republic (Prague), Italy, and the Bahamas. It will be British actor Daniel Craig’s first outing as James Bond. He is the sixth actor to play the 007 role in the franchise.

The film also stars Judi Dench, Eva Green, Mads Mikkelsen, Jeffrey Wright, Giancarlo Giannini, Caterina Murino, Simon Abkarian, Tobias Menzies, Ivana Milicevic, Clemens Schik, Ludger Pistor, Claudio Santamaria and Isaach de Bankole.

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