‘No Mr Bond, I expect you to get a Ph.D!’

Written by

Andrew Millar


February 16, 2007

When I get tired of this Merry-Go-Round called advertising, I’m going back to uni. I’ve got it in mind to write a Ph.D thesis.

I’ve even got the title picked out. ‘The ultimate death of the James Bond villian and its message for the society de jour in the following year’.

Let me explain. (You better, I hear you say.)

The new James Bond movie is one of the best. It’s all there. The only trouble is there is no dinky monorail. In every other Bond Movie there is this little rail that runs around inside the evil villain’s lair. It wobbles a bit because villains spend most of their budget on their end of the world plans and leave little to make a really good monorail. And in any case, it gets destroyed in the last reel anyway. So there is not much point in developing one along the lines of a Hummer.

I missed the monorail.

But everything else was there. Violence. Cars. Suave hero. Women. Product placement. Villain and villain’s death.

I’ve always found Bond films whacking great fun. Fleming only wrote 16 or so books during the late 50s and 60s. And these have been adapted into 21 films (22 if you count ‘Never Say Never Again’ which was unofficial), using a simple formula to keep them relevant – take the collective paranoia of the last 18 months; so far we’ve had Russia, China, Korea, assorted terrorists capturing nuclear weapons, rogue megalomanics from our side, organised drug lords and media moguls trying to rule the world. This is all part of developing a plot based on the irrational fears and conspiracy theories we all harbor.

For example, Tomorrow Never Dies, delivers a jab at Gates and Microsoft. When Carver inquires about his new computer software:

Carver: “Mr Jones are we ready to release our new software?”
Jones: “Yes sir, as requested, it’s full of bugs. Which means people will be forced to upgrade for years.”
Carver: “Outstanding.”

Were these lines written to pander to conspiracy theorists?

Add a bit of the latest technology and you’ve got a potentially popular film.

What these films deliver is a crusader willing to go to battle against the carefully constructed and replayed collective angst of the last year and a half.

This makes the death of the villian – the kernel of hope – very important.

For a start he has to die. He can’t live on. (Although Blofeld seemed to.) We have to see the lone man struggle with evil and triumph. Bond is like Frodo with gadgets. So, for this to work for us powerless people in the audience, there has to be a message. There has to be a meaning in the villain’s demise.

A subtle and secret message of hope for us all for the future. A bit like the da Vinci Code, only with guns and garrotes not… ( I can’t finish this sentence because I have not seen the film or read the book. Yes I am the one.)

To understand what I’m talking about let’s look at the death of a few Bond nasties…

Auric Goldfinger dies by being sucked through a small hole in an aeroplane thus reassuring us that those who ‘live by the sword, die by the sword’. Or big bullies end up small men in the end. (Who was bullying America at the time? Did Goldfinger look like Kruschev by accident?)

Ernst Stavro Blofeld eventually dies as Bond picks him up on the skid of a helicopter and dumps him down a disused smoke stack in the opening scenes of You Only Live Twice. The suggestion here is that evil people are afforded no dignity in death as their schemes will inevitably backfire on them.

Mr Big in Live and Let Die explodes after being forced to swallow a compressed air pellet. Perhaps the message here was about African Americans being seen to becoming inflated in their importance. (See this against white America’s attitudes during the time it was released.)

Probably one of the best villains of them all, Fransisco Scaramanga was know plainly as The Man With The Golden Gun. His dream was to monopolize solar power. He foolishly challenges Bond to a duel in the dark, and of course loses.
This leaves us with the bright message that evil will always take on more than they can control. Evil will destroy itself in the end.

So what of the latest film? Here the villain is despatched in a simple brute fight. No tricks. No Q toys. No double cross. No slip-and-fall into his own evil device. No ironic twist.

He dies from a nail through his eye. Fired from a nail gun in a degenerating buiding restoration project in Venice.

What is interesting is that it is a plain and simple fight. Good against evil. Bare fist. No referee. An honest fight, perhaps. A ‘mano et mano’ contest. But what I find interesting is that it is a humble nail gun that wins the day. Are they trying to tell us that at the end the way to defeat terrorists and those that support them is through hard work? Simple honest ‘shoulder to the grindstone’ hard work. Don’t rely on science. Don’t rely on technology. Don’t put your faith in the belief that evil will trip itself up.

Just put your faith in your own energy and skill. That is where victory will come from.
It seems to me to be a good notion to take forward into the coming ‘Year of the Pig’.
Hard work wins.

Now if I could just work out the significance of the collapsing old Europe symbol at the end I’d be on my way to a double doctorate.

Andrew Millar
Creative Director (PhD pending)

PS. (Added 1 May 2007)

I found this quote from Leo Burnett: “In a world where nobody seems to know what’s going to happen next, the only thing to do to keep from going completely nuts from frustration is plain old-fashioned work.”