Many classical James Bond elements return for Skyfall, not least of which was the return of Q (as played by Ben Whishaw), the impatient inventor who designs weapons and gadgets for MI6 spies to use in the field. In Skyfall, the gadgets aren’t too elaborate (Bond’s iconic Walther PPK is, like in Dr. No, considered a gadget unto itself), but it’s so refreshing to see them back in play after a two-film hiatus. We’re back on track, it seems, to have an array of awesome/ridiculous toys in future James Bond features. The Q scene, usually featuring long-time franchise friend Desmond Llewellyn, was always one of my favorite things about a James Bond movie.
Looking back over the films, one can easily reminisce about the various gadgets from the 23 James Bond movies we’ve had to date. 007 has had the opportunity to use some pretty awesome stuff over the years. Indeed, there was a scene in Die Another Day wherein Q (John Cleese in that film) took James on a tour of his storage locker wherein he kept all the gadgets that Bond had returned in one piece over the course of the franchise. The alligator submarine from Octopussy was seen clearly in the back, for instance. Many of Bond’s gadgets either didn’t survive the trip, or were too small to be seen in such an attic-like display (many gadgets were hidden in wristwatches, for example), but it was a fun visual tribute to the awesome toys that 007 got to use over the last 50 years.
Which gadgets were the best? A fun thing to ponder. Here’s what I think:
Flamethrower Perfume, from Moonraker
Technically, this was not one of Bond’s gadgets, but a weapon used by an American colleague named Dr. Goodhead (Lois Chiles). When James (Roger Moore) discovered that Dr. Goodhead had secretly been a spy, he playfully rummages through her gadgets and hidden weapons, revealing that her perfume bottle is secretly a flamethrower. We only get to see it demonstrated against a vanity mirror, but my imagination went wild, thinking up scenarios wherein Dr. Goodhead would scorch a guy in a public place, or set a driver on fire during a car chase. Moonraker is a goofy movie with laser guns in it, but I liked the flamethrower.
The Super Camera, from Licence to Kill
How Q came to conclusion that so many weapons ought to be hidden in a single camera is beyond me. James (Timothy Dalton) is issued a special camera. The camera had a gun hidden in it. Okay, I’m with you so far. It’s also an x-ray camera. I suppose that also makes sense, although one would think that making your observation tool also a weapon would be a little iffy. Then we also learn that the camera is also equipped with a laser gun. That’s either one toke over the line, or just plain awesome. One of the definitions of a good James Bond gadget is one we’d like to own and operate ourselves. I would love an x-ray camera with a laser gun in it.
The Inflatable Hamster Ball, from Diamonds are Forever and The World is Not Enough
What this gadget lacks in cool, it more than makes up for in fun. Yes, it was silly both times it was used, and neither Sean Connery nor Pierce Brosnan could make it seem suave; no one can step out of a giant inflatable hamster ball and into the bed of a minxy Russian spy woman. But you know what? That thing looks like so much dang fun. In Diamonds, the ball is a bizarre form of stealth, used to baffle Blofeld (Charles Gray). In World, it’s actually part of James’ clothing, and it puffs up around him. Either way it’s not sexy. Either way, I want to spend an entire afternoon just rolling around inside of one of those things. It’s like the MI6 version of an inflatable jumpy castle.
The Tricked-Out Attaché Case, from From Russia With Love
The second James Bond movie didn’t really have the iconic Q scene yet, as Q was not in a lab testing out various knickknacks, but James (Sean Connery) was presented with this simple yet amazing widget: It’s an attaché case, as one would see any handsome jet-setter using, only with secret weapons hidden in its folds. Not only does it have a special compartment for his gun, but when one hits the springs just right, a knife fires out of it sideways. A knife-shooter may not seem as impressive as some of the other gadgets on this list, but, man if it wasn’t used in a cool way; it was what eventually snagged the bad guy.
The TV Wristwatch, from Octopussy
In this case, the James Bond gadget was prescient. Like Dick Tracy’s two-way wrist radio, James Bond was given a wristwatch that could not only make calls back to MI6, but also had a little TV screen on it, as to make eye contact with his call. Eventually, the real world would catch up, and now all phones have cameras in them, and people can make video calls from anywhere, just like James Bond (Roger Moore) was doing back in the 1980s. The only thing James Bond didn’t anticipate was that people wouldn’t wear telephones on their wrists. I say that, as a society, we need to get on that. Wear your phones on your wrists. You owe it to James Bond.
The Cell Phone Taser, from Tomorrow Never Dies
I’m surprised this one hasn’t been made into an actual consumer-grade weapon yet, given the ubiquity of mobile phones. You’d think any woman living in a dangerous neighborhood would want one. James (Pierce Brosnan) is given a mobile phone with a pair of extending spikes that can electrocute an attacker. And that’s it. It’s a taser hidden in a working cell phone. Think how useful that would be in an emergency. Not only could you fend off a mugger, but perhaps you could program the phone to summon the police when the taser is used. If it’s got GPS, they could find you immediately. This gadget is coming soon. Mark my words.
X-Ray Glasses, from A View to a Kill
Bond (Moore again) goes to a mysterious fancy dress ball, and wishes to know more about the mysterious clientele therein, including the wicked Grace Jones, and the bonkers Christopher Walken. He slips on a pair of shades which don’t really look that great on him, but allow him to see through sheer surfaces. Of course one of the first things he checks out is a woman’s underwear, but he also uses it for actual spy work. If you were like me, then you once actually ordered X-Ray Spex from the back of a magazine, only to be upset about how little they X-rayed. James Bond finally let us live out our fantasy of X-Ray Spex that actually worked.
Personal Planes, from Die Another Day
Die Another Day is easily the worst of the James Bond movies, which is a pity, as it features the best James Bond. (Pierce Brosnan is the best. No argument.) I guess the filmmakers didn’t know what to do with James Bond in the year immediately following the World Trade Center incident. Their response was to torture Bond on camera (ouch), and then severely switch gears into one of the most cartoonish entries in the series. The gadgets matched the goofiness, and the film had an invisible car. A gadget I liked, though, was a tiny personal jet plane that you rode like a broomstick. True, it invokes images of The Penguin from the 1966 Batman film, but, again, it looks like it would be fun to use.
The Jetpack, from Thunderball
James (Sean Connery) beats up a guy in a dress and has to flee a mansion. What better way to do that than to run up on the roof, don a jetpack that is conveniently waiting for you up there, and take off? I will say little about this because we all know why it’s cool. Because it’s a jetpack. That is all.
Little Nellie, from You Only Live Twice
Little Nellie was the nickname given to a personal gyrocopter that James used to spy on a secret enemy’s hideout in the film that was ostensibly supposed to be Connery’s last (even though he went on to make one more canonical Bond film, and one non-canonical Bond film). Lightweight, durable, and able to be folded up into a small space, this gyrocopter looks like one of the ideal ways to travel. It’s quiet, and I imagine soaring around with such ease would be a peaceful experience. If they were cheap enough and small enough, no truck flatbed would be without one. In a traffic jam, you can just whip out Little Nellie and fly the rest of the way home. Leave the truck to the thieves and cops. You don’t need it anymore.
The Underwater Car, from The Spy Who Loved Me
James Bond movies are replete with underwater scenes, so it only follows that James (Roger Moore) should be given a submarine at some point. In The Spy Who Loved Me, he revealed his submarine in the coolest possible way: he drove his car into the ocean, flipped a few switches, and the car transformed into a full-functional underwater vehicle. I’m not sure if this gadget counts as a car or a gadget, but either way, I want one. I live by the ocean, so you can be sure I’d drive that thing around the fishes on a regular basis. I’d do it before breakfast each morning. And, seeing as it’s one of James’ cars, it probably has a dispenser for tea and donuts in it. That’s the best breakfast ever.