André Millard

 

On his book Equipping James Bond: Guns, Gadgets, and Technological Enthusiasm

Cover Interview of July 24, 2019

The wide angle

The Bond franchise is the longest, and most profitable, film franchise in the history of motion pictures. Audiences accept the financial success of Bond’s films in much the same way that they expect him to triumph no matter how great the odds against him and how evil the plan of the megalomaniac he faces. Yet even the most enthusiastic Bond fan cannot deny that the formula has grown a little stale and that Bond has to compete with a variety of younger, hipper, and even better-equipped secret agents and super heroes. What can explain the enduring appeal of a character created in the 1940s and a film series that began in 1960?

Equipping James Bond seeks answers to this question in Bond’s relationship with technology.

Within the best-selling books and films is a narrative that sets one resourceful individual against the threat of dangerous technology in the hands of a criminal mastermind. Although Ian Fleming was a technological enthusiast who incorporated his love for sleek, powerful machines into Bond’s equipment, the anxiety of the Cold War and the threat of a thermo-nuclear holocaust tempered his enthusiasm for the new and the modern. The Cold-War fear of weapons of mass destruction in the hands of a single evil mastermind provided the inspiration for Fleming’s fiction and became the basic plot device of the films. So much so that Austin Powers’ satire of the James Bond had this response after Dr. Evil’s associates have rejected all his ideas for criminal enterprises: “Okay, we’ll do what we always do—hijack some nuclear weapons and hold the world hostage.” The Bond film franchise owes much of its success in its ability to articulate our fears about the threat of technology out of control.