I watched Casino Royale over the weekend and whilst I enjoyed the film immensely (and found Daniel Craig a great addition to the pantheon), I couldn't help feel that it wasn't on-brand.
Many of the ingredients we've come to expect of the 007 series were missing and the film played like any other superior action flick of the last few years (think Bourne Identity), with plenty of beautifully choreographed high-speed chases and set-piece battles.
But where was the evil maniac, thirsting for world domination from his fantastic island headquarters? Where were the gadgets? Why deny us the classic 007 music until the very end?
Whilst there appeared to be some effort to take us back to the very beginning, when Bond became Bond, I doubt very much that the franchise would have survived forty years on such conscientious storytelling. So what if Bond had become faintly (or not-so-faintly) ridiculous! So what if its producer Barbara Broccoli felt that "maybe things had got a little too fantastical"!
A great part of the appeal of 007 James Brand lies in that fantasy. Its owners shouldn't be lulled into believing that they can get away with playing all grown-up and earnest with the Bond legacy simply because the drawing-power of the brand continues to fill cinemas worldwide.
If Casino Royale is followed by another in the same vein, then I suspect the brand will find itself on a slippery slope and will require more than a suave, smooth-talking agent with a license to kill to rescue it.