Popular Science magazine has posted a list of their top 15 Bond gadgets. Some are a little questionable…is the Walther PPK really a gadget? They also include the Aston Martin DB5, which they mistakenly call “DBS”—the DBS is, of course, the brand-new Aston Martin that appeared in CR ’06, not the original that appeared in GF.
Archive for January, 2007
CBn has two articles up right now on Bond 22.
Second, a nice little interview with screenwriters Neil Purvis and Robert Wade, who have been working on the Bond 22 script since before CR opened in November.
The idea is for the movie to start shooting at the beginning of next year. It would be nice to have the draft next week (laughing). The sooner the better. It’s not an easy thing to do, because the bar was raised with the last picture, so we have to raise our game again.
I’m shocked. Diana Rigg was excellent in the early Avengers, still good after Emma Peel was toned down to suit US tastes and far better than numbers 2-5 in this list, yet “she leaves this fan behind”???
Won’t not understanding Diana Rigg put people off the Ultimate Fan Book? It’s moved it down my list a bit…
In my experience, every Bond fan has some off-beat opinions. I don’t know a single fan who doesn’t harbor a secret (or not-so-secret) love for a movie that is generally regarded as bad. My “secret” love is Diamonds Are Forever, but I know fans who’ll swear up and down that AVTAK is underrated.
Here’s what I’ve found: If you take a big enough sampling of Bond fans, and ask them for a top five/bottom five, every single movie will appear on both lists. In fact, this robust variety is a big part of what inspired me to write the book in the first place.
In the “Survey Says…” sections of each chapter, I place my personal ratings next to surveyed fan ratings so that you can see where I’m off the beaten track (as in this case). BUT I always respect and validate fan opinion—as I do here, ranking Rigg #1 even though she’s not a personal favorite. And I don’t think it’s bragging to say I have real expertise in fan opinions; I’ve read the details of dozens of surveys and spoken with many, many fans.
No fan likes to feel that they’re being dissed by some author. I hate reading a book that says that my beloved Kara Milovy is a terrible Bond girl. So I structure The Ultimate James Bond Fan Book in a way that includes every fan; you love Rigg, I explain why, and then say hey, she’s not my favorite. Most fans don’t like Kara, I explain why, and then say why I love her. I hope that every fan can see himself in the book because of this structure. The reviews have been pretty favorable in that regard.
Green also mentioned she was happy not to appear nude in Casino Royale, saying: ‘I’ve been nude in a film before (The Dreamers) and found it very troubling, so I was quite glad not to be in this film. In [Casino Royale] shower scene—you remember?—they wanted me to strip down to my panties. We had a good fight about that. I used to go to Daniel and ask for his support.’
I think this is so interesting because it is one of the most affecting moments of the film, and to me, part of what made it work was that she was fully clothed. The fact that she went into the shower fully clothed, well that said so much about her mental state, whereas if she’d been nude it would have had less of an impact. Think about it; you go into the shower and then become upset and cry, well, that’s happened to lots of people. But you’re so upset you can’t even get it together to remove your evening gown? That’s a whole ‘nother level.
Of course, having seen The Dreamers, it wouldn’t have occured to me that Eva Green might have refused a nude scene. But how interesting that a scene they wanted to do nude turned out better because she drew that line.
5. Xenia Zaragevna Onatopp (Famke Janssen)
Few villains, male or female, manage over-the-top with any real style. Most Bond villains, modeling themselves after Dr. No, the original, keep a cool and formal exterior. Excess can become ridiculous, as when Christopher Walken, playing A View To a Kill’s Max Zorin, giggles after failing to kill Bond. Giggling has never impressed me as very villainous.
Bond bad girls tend to be as cool as the bad boys. Fiona Volpe was dignified, always on top of the situation. Elektra King was at first tragic; when she later transformed into a villain, she held a hard edge, and when she slipped into traditional villainous dramatics, “Pretty thing. Did you have her, too?” she loses control of her performance.
But there is one villainess who turns over-the-top into high art, and makes you regret her inevitable demise. GoldenEye’s Xenia Onatopp is as delightful as she is maniacal, as exciting as she is evil. Famke Janssen really lets herself go in the part; she isn’t afraid of overacting, but she doesn’t play her character like a cliché. I love little touches of the portrayal, like the cigar-smoking, and how she scowls with anger when she loses at chemin-de-fer. It is so like a villain to stay cool, perhaps to threaten Bond, but to maintain a demeanor that suggests that only inferiors lose their temper. Xenia isn’t about the cool demeanor, or world conquest, or being a loyal member of the Janus organization.
She’s in it for the sensation, for the thrill. She hates Bond, but when she realizes he’s going to ram the train, her eyes light with excitement and pleasure; she is aroused by the danger, and aroused by the man who dares it.
…her extreme portrayal is marked by an extreme character trait — one that wouldn’t have existed in a Bond movie before the 1990s. Xenia achieves orgasm when killing (apparently, only when killing, although that is hard to judge). In action movies, we quickly become inured to violence and death. It is hard to grasp the true tragedy of murder when it is depicted in spectacular cinematic fashion. When Xenia pants with excitement while slaughtering the computer technicians of Severnaya, we are horrified.
This is different, this isn’t just a random death in a Bond film. This is pleasure of the most evil sort. GoldenEye is exceptionally good at reminding us that death is terribly costly; when Natalya grieves for her friends in the aftermath of the slaughter, we are moved, and it is one of the few occasions in Bond movie history where a main character is given time to mourn. Both the movie and the character drive home the idea that murder is not merely a cinematic game, and yet allow the audience to enjoy the visceral thrill of watching extravagant evil.
Xenia embodies the very concept that killing is fun, that it is sexy; that for her it is sex. By stating this disturbing concept outright, by relishing and then destroying it, GoldenEye gives us one of the movies’ most memorable characters. Xenia is both a fan favorite and a personal favorite of mine. She tends to come out as number one on “bad girl” surveys among younger fans, but she is also popular among fans like me, who were around in the Connery era. She is a little lower on general Bond girl surveys, where bad and good characters are mixed, but she remains near the top.
(Bond girls 4, 3, 2, and 1 below the fold.)
In my everlasting quest to belie the idea that Bond Girls are nothing but eye candy, I am offering a list of Bond Girl occupations and pursuits.
- Honey Ryder: Self-taught naturalist
- Sylvia Trench: Gambler, golfer, and all-around sportswoman
- Tanya Romanova: Soviet agent
- Pussy Galore: Pilot, airshow owner/manager
- Patricia Fearing: Physical therapist
- Aki and Kissy: Japanese secret agents
- Contessa Tracy DiVicenzo: Gambler, skiier, skater, and poetry fan