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 Tor.com. His favorite Bond/Q exchange is from Goldeneye. Q shows Bond a belt. “I am familiar with that device, Q.”