Nov 8 2012 1:00pm

Pay Attention 007! 7 Bond Gadgets Which Defy Reason and Practicality

7 Bond Gadgets Which Defy Reason and Practicality

While not a regular component of the original Fleming novels, the super-spy gadgets of James Bond have defined the long-running film series, for better or worse. Though certain Bond films go out of their way to tone down some of the crazy gizmos, there are still several of Q’s contraptions which are a bit confounding. There’s no denying the coolness of Bond’s Aston Martin, complete with an ejector seat, but the following seven devices are not only uncool, but totally silly, too.


7. Shark Gun Bullet/Magnetic Watch from Live and Let Die

Like many of 007’s gizmos, this one is set up as a Chekhov’s gun. If Q shows James Bond a complicated device, which seems overly specialized and has no real versatility or practicality, you can bet our boy will end up in a situation which requires that exact thing. Bond is the opposite of MacGyver in this way.  MacGyver can use any object to get out of any situation while Bond seems to seek out situations to accommodate his totally ridiculous objects. (The happy medium of this philosophy is Adam West’s Batman, who simply has a pill, spray, or article of clothing for every occasion.)

Now, though Q doesn’t appear in Live and Let Die, Roger Moore still obtains a Shark Gun with Shark Bullets, thereby making you think he’d need to use it later on a shark. How silly of you! Instead, in tandem with his magnetic watch, Bond inserts a Shark Bullet in some dude’s mouth which causes him to explode. I know, I know what you’re thinking: how could I, the viewer, have not seen this coming? Of course the magnetic watch was going to be used to retrieve the shark bullet all so it could be put in somebody’s mouth to make them blow up! Duh.


6. Whistle-Activated Keychain Bomb from The Living Daylights

To an eight-year-old, the idea of a bomb that’s activated by whistling seems awesome, and I’ll admit to being the correct age when I saw Timothy Dalton’s The Living Daylights. But truly, I feel like this would be super-tricky in real life. I mean, voice-recognition software is spotty enough now (how many times do we have to yell into the phone when trying to get tech support or try to talk to a real person about our phone bill?) To me, an even less exact science than talking is whistling. Most people can’t do it correctly, which I guess means there’s a low-probability of this bomb going off on accident. But why have a bomb that can go off on accident at all, particularly if it’s on your key chain? Bond is a globe-trotter, but he lives in Britain. What if someone accidentally whistles “God Save The Queen” when he’s going out for groceries? He’d be dead. This keychain is like a password that anyone can guess.


5. Remote Control Car from Tomorrow Never Dies

The advantage to James Bond being able to drive his BMW from the back seat seems to only be the ability to laugh to himself while gazing lovingly at the Ericson logo on his crummy 1998 cellphone. The potential of having a remote control car makes good sense. Batman made awesome use of it in Tim Burton’s Batman. In fact, the remote control car thing was so badass in Batman, we don’t even know he’s not in the car until the last second. But the advantage of Bond’s remote control car? Unclear. He’s in the back seat the whole time. Is this just a new way Bond can be a big jerk? Is he just doing the spy version of “I know you are, but what am I?”


4. Radioactive Pocket Lint from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

I suppose as a sort of “fuck you” to the gadget-heavy films which preceded it, Q prattles on briefly about weaponizing pocket lint to take down their enemies and/or track people. This kind of in-joke inside of Bond movies has continued throughout the franchise. Every once and awhile, the series seems to feel guilty about its over-reliance on complicated equipment. Sometimes that results in radiocative pocket lint, while more recently the new Q in Skyfall makes a crack about exploding pens, adding, “We don’t really go in for that sort of thing anymore.” This gadget-guilt began with the pocket lint.


3. Wrist-Dart Gun from Moonraker

The biggest crime of the wrist-dart gun in this Bond film is that it means Bond never gets to fire a laser gun! All his friends and foes from Drax to Dr. Holly Goodhead gets to shoot ray guns, but not Bond. Because he’s got the handy wrist-activated dart gun. What about this is cool? Like many of his other dumber gadgets, this one seems like it could go off by accident. Also, how is it not noticeable? Just because it’s under his sleeve? I suppose the big advantage is that it allows 007 the use of his digits while shooting people, but really, poison darts seem totally lame when laser pistols are around.


2. Bag-Pipe Guns in The World is Not Enough

In numerous movies, Bond does a walkthrough of Q’s laboratory, sampling weapons and devices which Q is testing. The total silliness of most of these are hard to truly rate. In Moonraker, there’s a confounding western scene which comes out of nowhere, complete with Bond wearing Clint Eastwood garb from The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, featuring a dummy of a sombrero-ed sleeping man who turns into a machine gun. But, The World is Not Enough might be the silliest, as a set of bagpipes is revealed to also be a machine gun. Disguising machine guns as other objects is interesting, but it begs the question of usefulness. How much more conspicuous are a set of bagpipes than a regular gun? “Oh don’t mind my bagpipes, I bring them everywhere.”


1. Invisible Car from Die Another Day

I suppose I’m a bit of a hypocrite to LOVE the underwater car from The Spy Who Loved Me but simultaneously outright hate the invisible car from Die Another Day. I think the biggest problem with the invisible car is it looks super-fake and doesn’t seem to serve any kind of real usefulness. The problem with most dumb gadgets is they seem to have been invented because Q read the script. But, the invisible car is worse because it’s more like telling the audience: THIS IS A JAMES BOND MOVIE. But really, all an invisible car succeeds at doing is telling the audience that this Bond movie is more a like an Austin Powers movie now. Of Die Another Day’s numerous low points, the invisible car was a nail that almost put James Bond in an underwater/remote-control/invisible coffin forever.


All agents: sound off below. Favorite gadgets? Least favorite gadgets? Favorite Q or Bond pun? Tell me all about them.

Ryan Britt is a staff writer for His favorite Bond/Q exchange is from Goldeneye. Q shows Bond a belt. “I am familiar with that device, Q.”

1. wingracer
It's been a while since I have seen the movie so I could be wrong but didn't the keychain bomb have to be armed by pressing a button first? That would eliminate the potential for accidental explosions.
Joris Meijer
2. jtmeijer
The exploding pen from Goldeneye is worse than most of these. A disaster waiting to happen.
3. Theo16
"that can off on accident"

Are you trying to say "that can go off by accident"?
5. TommyO
Little Nelly! She Rocked!
Chris Thomson
6. cTANK
I did like Bond's line about the handwriting being on the wall, referring to the pen. And for the briefest of moments I thought Q's lunch really may have been an exploding sandwich, because why not?
Sean Arthur
7. wsean
Ha, first thing I thought of was the invisible car.

I might also include the rocket cigarettes from You Only Live Twice.
8. Rancho Unicorno
While I am a little bothered that From Russia was used as the image above the fold, I can't totally agree with you about the lint. It's been a while since u watched OHMSS, but I thought the lint was just for detection, not as an offensive weapon. If so, that makes it a very intelligent decision - nobody worries about pocket lint when looking for homing beacons. As long as the isotope can be detected from a reasonable range, is there a more secure way to track him (outside of an implant)?
9. XenaCatolica
re: Little Nell(y)

I was shocked to see a real one in the Air Force Museum in Ohio a few years ago; the info. there said two were made not long before the movie. I've seen sturdier looking children's bikes. A great museum, btw, with free admission.
10. XenaCatolica
re: Little Nell(y)

I was shocked to see a real one in the Air Force Museum in Ohio a few years ago; the info. there said two were made not long before the movie. I've seen sturdier looking children's bikes. A great museum, btw, with free admission.
Brian R
11. Mayhem
The greatest gadget was always the little underwater breathing device from Thunderball. It was so well filmed, the studios were soon contacted by quite a number of special forces organisations who wanted to know where they could obtain one.
Marc Gioglio
12. Fuzzix
The feeling I always get from the lab is that it is a think tank. They are tasked to come up with solutions to problems no one ever thought of and get field agents to test them out and see if they are worthwhile. 007 knows his mission, knows where he will be, and what is likely to happen (if he does his homework, and he usually does) and knows which gadgets he would like to use. It is not wildly impractical gadgets for their own sake, but wildly impractical ideas (like, I don't know, going to the moon or something) that Q and the lab represent. They are the new pioneers. Bond is just the guinea pig (and he knows it). Just my opinion though.
Jenny Thrash
13. Sihaya
#6: "To me, an even less exact science than talking is whistling."

You could whistle into phone to dial a BBS without too much practice, and that was long before Living Daylights came out. Whistling to just turn something on or off would be a breeze. You're right that someone was more likely to accidentally set it off than to fail to do so.

#5: It was obvious that sitting in the back seat of the remote control car was useless, but I don't know quite how it's jerky. And honestly, if I was frickin' controlling my car by remote while sitting in the back seat, I'd be grinning like a loon, too.

#4: I thought that we don't talk about the Lazenby film. It's like kicking a lame puppy.

#3: Maybe Doctor Evil said it best, "Frickin' laser beams!" I dunno. Is it just written in stone that only the bad guys use lasers in a Bond film?

#2: I disinclude anything that was clearly included just for humor. That was the job of the machine gun bagpipes, and they performed it well.

#1: Oh, I thought the shark bullet really belonged in this position, but I get it.

Okay. My favorite gadget is still the jetpack in Thunderball, and not for any logical reasons involving plot elements. It's a jetpack, man, and it really exists! One of the most cleverly used gadgets was a Murphy bed in You Only Live Twice. It was just a motorized Murphy bed. It was hilarious for all the right reasons, and it moved the plot forward. I'll be thinking of it when I watch James Bond fake die this time.
Jeremy Clegg
14. Cleggster

Best gadget ever. I want a laser watch. When is a laser watch NOT usefull.

But really, for the most part I am a fan of the gadgets. They have been a part of Bond praticaly since day one. I admit, I did not like the invisible car. But the earlier ones were always cool. And gave you a little sci-fi with your spy movie. Though they did get sillier as the series went on. Seemingly brought up just for the one scene written for them. Moonraker anyone?

And if your going to spend $8000 on a watch, it better have a frigging laser in it.
Jenny Thrash
15. Sihaya
Cleggster, I can't believe that I forgot that James Bond may, in fact, use a laser beam. And I can't believe I forgot such an obvious one. But it may be part of the watch rule - Bond's watches hide any sort of devices, as long as they're wildly anachronistic. Back in the day this allowed for digital devices that did anything. But since people today DO wear digital devices that do anything, the only anachronism left to Bond is his current preference for plain analogue timekeeprs.
16. James Carl Henderson
It is funny that you should list the invisible car from Die Another Day, because Mercedes actually went out and built one.

Sure, it's not as slick as Bond's but they don't have Q working for them either.
17. Jenny C.
The most preposterous gadget I can remember is a grappling hook belt buckle in I think it was "Tomorrow Never Dies". It's the sort of kid's toy you can clearly see should have a range of about two feet with its spring-loaded dart, store a length of rope similar to that, attach to any surface as long as it's velcro and snap under a weight of more than 40 pounds, but in Bond's hands it turns him into frickin Spider-man. (For one wall-scaling scene.)

But if we're going for gadgets with preposterously specialized uses, how about the sonic window-breaker ring from (there's no end to your sins "Die Another Day"? It's not that it's a revolutionary new way to effortlessly shatter glass, known for its shatter resistance. What the ring is is a way to inconspiciously shatter glass without alerting people who are pointing guns at you that you're about to shatter glass. It was really only ever going to be useful when Bond's caught and made to stand on all fours and needs to break the glass floor under him to get out of the line of fire. And even then he had to be sneaky about turning the ring backwards before he could use it.
alastair chadwin
18. a-j
For sheer 'Gosh, lucky I had that' gadgets, my favourite is the aston martin in The Living Daylights. Bond has been ordered to go to Tangiers but for complex reasons goes via Czechoslovakia (oh, go and watch the film if you're that bothered) where he then finds himself being chased by the police. Oh, and his car has just been 'winterised'. Gosh, that was lucky.
My favourite? The Aston Martin DB5. Obvious, but no real choice.

SPOILER ALERT for Colonel Sun novel

Kingsley Amis, author and big Bond fan, loathed the gadgets in the films. So when he was commissioned to write a new Bond novel (Colonel Sun) he has 007 given a pile of gadgets which he proceeds to completely forget he has.
If you can get hold of them, Kingsley Amis' The James Bond Dossier is an excellent critical account of the novels written from a fan's viewpoint while in Colonel Sun (written under the pseudonym Robert Markham) he entertainingly deals with the aspects of the books and films that irritate him.
Cynthia Ahmar
19. tenkuu
Sorry, but I totally disagree about the invisible car. Loved the way it was used.
20. ChuckEye
No mention of the superfluous nipple in "Man with the Golden Gun"?

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