Casino Royale, was more than just a reboot for the James Bond franchise, it broke a barrier no 007 movie had managed to breach before. Soon, the 25th Bond movie, No Time To Die, will arrive in theaters, finishing off a successful five-film run for Daniel Craig as Bond. And while things have been going well for the iconic franchise of late, back in 2005 the Bond movies had come dangerously close to killing themselves off. Pierce Brosnan’s final turn as the international super spy in Die Another Day was widely panned, and the Bond series was in need of reinvigoration.
Thankfully, production company Eon managed to get things back on track with Casino Royale – the 21st Bond movie and somewhat of a soft reboot for the series. The film introduced Daniel Craig’s rougher take on Bond, who gains his 007 status at the beginning of the movie. Casino Royale is still regarded as one of the best Bond films ever made, and managed to rescue the franchise at a crucial time.
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But the film did more than revitalise the Bond saga. In 2007 Casino Royale became the first of the Bond movies to be released in Chinese theaters. 470 prints of the movie were sent to more than 1,000 cinemas in major cities, the widest ever release for a foreign film in the country. Like he so often does in his films, Bond, or “Ling ling qi” as he’s referred to in the Chinese cut, went truly international when Sony Pictures China and the country’s officials deemed the film appropriate to release. At the time, the studio’s general manager Li Chow said: “This Bond is a new beginning. He is not fighting a country and Chinese officials did not request any cuts.” Essentially, the Communist Party of China was happy to release Casino Royale – which just arrived in a more violent extended cut on HBO MAX – because Bond was no longer fighting Communism.
Though pirated copies of the DVD had been available on the streets for some time, this was the first time in the Bond franchise’s then-45 year run that Chinese audiences could see Bond in theaters. But perhaps the most miraculous development was that Chinese censors made no cuts to the film, in what director Martin Campbell called at the time “some kind of achievement.” The only change made, according to reports, was Judi Dench’s line about missing the Cold War, which the actor claimed she had to re-dub so that her character, M, was instead missing the “old days.”
Such small changes are remarkable considering only a handful of foreign films made it through China’s rigorous censorship process prior to Casino Royale‘s release. The National Radio and Television Administration, then known as the State Administration of Radio, Film, and Television, had previously banned every Bond film. And while the Royale’s follow-up Skyfall was also allowed to open in China, it had numerous scenes cut. Even more astounding is the fact the agency has strict rules against a film promoting gambling — a central part of Casino Royale – which remains a contender for Craig’s best Bond film.
Such fastidious control of foreign media had been characteristic of China for decades prior to Casino Royale‘s debut. Anything deemed morally questionable or politically dangerous is either removed by the censors, or used as grounds for banning the film outright. This has led to numerous Hollywood movie censorship controversies in China. Prior to Casino Royale, Bond had remained somewhat of an anti-Cold War figure — at times a tool of the British government to suppress Communism. Come 2005, things had changed, and while Casino Royale‘s central scene clearly violated China’s rules about glorifying gambling, perhaps the country was just glad to see 007 turning his attention away from Communism and fighting villains from a range of ethnic backgrounds. That, and the fact the movie promised to be a huge box office success — a promise it fulfilled by bringing in $11,735,457 at the Chinese box office.
More: How James Bond’s Gun Barrel Opening Has Changed In Each Era
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- No Time to Die/James Bond 25 (2020)Release date: Nov 20, 2020
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