James 'Bland'? Not a Chance

After one glitzy premier and a critically acclaimed film, all the initial bad press seems to have been forgotten.

Daniel Craig, the much-maligned new James Bond, has proved more than tough enough to fill the superspy's shoes in "Casino Royale."

The movie debuts in the United States tomorrow, after an electronic hate campaign that seems to have failed. When it was announced that the little-known Craig would follow in the footsteps of the greats -- Sean Connery and Roger Moore -- many Bond fans expressed outrage.

The Web site www.danielcraigisnotbond.com was set up for the sole purpose of attacking Craig. Articles posted on the site had critics spearing the "Layer Cake" actor for being too short, too haggard and too blond.

They called him "James Bland" and the Web site called for nothing short of a "Casino Royale" boycott. But since the film's release in London, it's hard to find a truly bad review, even on the anti-Craig Web site.

About the worst review notbond.com could track down appeared in The Scotsman, where the critic described the movie as "emotionally stilted."

But even that reviewer praised Craig, saying he "confounds all the boycott-threatening bloggers with a meaty portrayal of the world's most conspicuous secret agent."

The Daily Record said Craig was an "arrogant, cold fish," but that could easily be taken as a compliment. Hardcore fans say that Craig's darker Bond is closer to Ian Fleming's original vision of his fictional character.

"Ian Fleming described Bond as tough, and Craig delivers that like none of his predecessors have in at least a generation," said Seattle Times pop culture writer Mark Rahner. "Fleming's Bond has black hair, but fans who complained about 'James Blond' never mentioned the color of Roger Moore's hair. Or the fact that Sean Connery didn't have any."

Human Bond

The revived Bond is what many reviewers describe as the "real" Bond.

In "Casino Royale," Bond bleeds, he falls in love, he is human. And contrary to those who initially branded Craig a miscast sissy, he is anything but. Craig is arguably the most physical Bond, and the cuts and bruises are real, as he performed many of his own stunts.

Craig plays Bond the way he was before he had all those gadgets, hair products and silk ties.

"Fans who derided Craig for everything from reportedly getting a tooth whacked during a fight scene to not being outwardly macho in real life, are going to be floored," Rahner said. "This is a James Bond they'll see and immediately think, 'I couldn't kick his ass.'"

And Craig's co-stars never had a doubt. Dame Judi Dench, who returns to the movie as the elegant "M," told AP television at the premiere, "He is a frightfully good actor and he was taking on a very important role and people were very, very critical and he had a job to do which he did supremely."

Co-star Jeffrey Wright chimed in, saying, "Everyone on the set realized that we have the right Bond. … I was very excited about the idea of politely stuffing it in the faces of all those naysayers."

Shortly after danielcraigisnotbond.com went online a group of Craig sympathizers and supporters created www.danielcraigisbond.com. And they appear to be having the last laugh. Craig's performance has exceeded even the pro-Craig camp's expectations. A recent posting reads: "OMG, Daniel Craig IS really James Bond!"

Daniel Craig may not be Sean Connery, but most critics agree that "Goldfinger" has nothing on this Goldilocks.