Thursday, November 8, 2012

Shaken. Not Stirred -- Part 3 -- The Gadgets

Pretty omnipresent is the use of completely bonkers gadgets throughout the films to help in oddly specific situations. Q Branch has always supplied Bond with a varying degree of technology, again, ranging from the surprisingly useful (read as: lethal) and the unsurprisingly dangerous (read as: broadly useless). While Desmond Llewelyn as Q was always my favorite part of any classic Bond movie, it was quite refreshing to see a stripping down of gadgets and leaving Bond with the bare bones minimum to succeed in Skyfall. Product placement dominated much of the gadget-touting of the Brosnan-era, while some truly genre-bending nightmares led to some ridiculous cameos of gadgets early on. Some thankfully were not used on missions but instead were comically misused in the lab as Bond was briefed on his actual weaponry.

The 7 Best Gadgets...
7.) The Lotus Esprit - The Spy Who Loved Me, For Your Eyes Only
Its most memorable appearance was when it became a submarine in Spy Who Loved Me. Impossible, implausible, but also, endlessly cool.

6.) The Aston Martin V8 - The Living Daylights
Once again, an appropriate car for the mission, outfitted with spiked treads and outriggers to drive on ice and snow, perfect for a winter-based chase scene.

5.) The BMW 750 - Tomorrow Never Dies
Product placement notwithstanding, the cutting edge BMW is controlled through James Bond's mobile phone, making for some funny moments and an action sequence during the movie.

4.) "Killer Case" - From Russia With Love
One of the first truly spectacular gadgets, the Q Briefcase featured a rifle and ammunition, a concealed throwing knife, gold, and a booby-trapped bottle of tear gas, set to go off if the briefcase was tampered with.

3.) X-Ray Glasses - The World is Not Enough
How is Bond not issued with these on EVERY mission?

2.) The Exploding Pen - GoldenEye
Easily my absolute favorite gadget. Three clicks...4 huge explosion. "The pen really is mightier than the sword."

1.) The Aston Martin DB5 - Goldfinger, Thunderball, et al.
Perhaps the most famous mode of conveyance ever that's not some special vehicle (like the TARDIS, or the bed from Bedknobs and Broomsticks) it has appeared several times over the years, most recently in Skyfall, much to the delight of the entire audience that saw it with me.
Rotating license plate (don't remember why that's cool), machine guns in the headlights, bulletproof rear plate, and the ejector passenger seat. The fact that it is the definitive Bond car even 50 years later speaks to its staying power.

...And the 5 Worst
5.) The Rolex Submariner - Live and Let Die
The Moore years were pretty gadget-laden (with the exception of For Your Eyes Only, an attempt to show Moore could pull off a grittier Bond, though by then it was definitely too late) and while the Submariner's armaments are useful, I found them to be pushing the limits of suspension of disbelief. In the same movie, the Submariner is a mini buzzsaw and an electromagnet. I find no reason both those things can exist on the same gadget and still tell time.

4.) The Ski Pole Gun - The Spy Who Loved Me
Some people will list this as their favorite James Bond gadget, I do not. I find it cumbersome and utterly useless outside of a snow situation and though Bond seems to find himself in many of these, he seems to do just as fine with just a Cello case (see: Living Daylights).

3.) The Crocodile Submarine - Octopussy
One of the most infinitely laughable gadgets ever, Bond was given a submarine disguised (badly) as a crocodile for infiltration. By this point in the run, everyone had once again given up.

2.) The Whistle Keychain - The Living Daylights
At first the keychain, introduced by Q, seems to have potential. It's the scene where it is actually used that shows exactly how pointless it is. Activated by whistling Hail Brittania, the keychain releases knockout gas. Cool, you think. An easy getaway, a method of incapacitating multiple opponents in no time, with a seemingly innocuous piece of technology that almost anyone would be carrying. But when you see the scene in the movie, you'll know what I mean. First, Bond has to get his captors to hold the keychain. He has to whistle a couple times to activate it, which arouses no suspicion in the guards who are now in possession of it. Then it only knocks them out for about two seconds, just barely enough time for Bond to run over and knock them out and one of the guards has enough time to almost fully recover and ruin the whole damn thing.

1.) The Scuba Suit with a Duck on Top - Goldfinger
Even Bond laughs at the suit at first, only to use it successfully later, but the question is why? It's simply a joke for the audience and nothing else. Why put a duck as part of a disguise for a scuba suit? Why not just dive more deeply underwater? Or not? You're underwater, who's going to see you? I believe the scene also takes place at night, so why would you want to draw attention to yourself by being something visible when you would otherwise be invisible? Ugh.