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The Problem with Bond Villains… February 23, 2013

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Humor.
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A friend of mine was complaining about the latest James Bond movie, Skyfall.

He did not like the movie because the Bond and the MI-6 team did several things that he felt were… well… dumb.  Dumb to the point that they ruined the movie for him.  And, I had to admit that some of the items he listed had merit.

However, I still had to laugh as he didn’t seem to have any problem with the villain’s plan until I pointed out that the bad guy could have accomplished his goal, wrapped things up nicely, and gone off to live happily ever after in the first 30 minutes of the movie had he not been bat-shit insane.

And that is a major aspect aspect Bond Villains.  To get in the cross hairs of 007, you practically have to be certifiable.

I wrote a piece back in December, Travels with Commander Bond, which included some lists of some of my favorite aspects of the film series.  However, I felt one list was clearly missing, the list of my favorite Bond villains.

The problem was that, while the other lists sprang to mind pretty much fully formed, when I think of Bond villains, things get a bit confused.

Certainly some quips come to mind.  “I don’t expect you to talk Mr. Bond, I expect you to die!” is a favorite.

I speak English well! I learned it from a book!

I speak English well! I learned it from a book!

But then I start thinking about henchmen.  Rosa Klebb, Odd Job, Jaws, Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd… but they are just the hired help.  They aren’t running the show.  Then there are the various incarnations of Ernst Stavro Blofeld.  Does he count as one Bond villain, or is he a different villain in each movie?

Then there are the plots.

And here is where thinking too hard about Bond movies starts to fail you, because the schemes, when examined, can underwhelm.  Wikipedia has a nice list of Bond villains from the movies, what their plan was, and the result.  Simplifying the plans down to desired results, out of 23 films, I count the following motives:

Money – 14

Surprisingly, to me at least, this seems to be the most popular motive.  I suppose it shouldn’t be a surprise.  Twice it is in the name of drug cartels.  But a lot of the time… especially in the SPECTRE years… it seems to be an already fabulously wealthy organization spending a lot of time and money on a result that, even if successful, would have paid off less than just investing in US Government securities.  Max Zorin, for example, wants to destroy Silicon Valley in order to increase his company’s market share.  That is his business plan!  I suppose you have to go to some lengths to look evil relative to Bill Gates… though this pre-dated most Microsoft shenanigans… but still, couldn’t he have just lured away a few key execs?  He already had immense wealth.

Start a War – 3

Actually, starting a war comes up four times, but I am not counting Elliot Carver because he was trying to start a war merely to expand his media empire… so, really… money. And I am not sure I should count SPECTRE’s attempt in You Only Live Twice, since they are doing it for a third party.  But since they spent enough money to create a secret space program more advanced than either the US or USSR (whom they want fighting) and hid it in a dormant volcano, I have to imagine that the return on investment will be pretty poor.  And, of course, in none of these movies does the whole war scenario really seem like a good idea.

Revenge – 2

This is at least a raw, emotional motivator.  It just doesn’t come up very often.  SPECTRE wants revenge for the death of Dr. Julius No (After all, the R in SPECTRE stands for Revenge! It is part of their mission statement in a way that smart financial planning is not.) and Raoul Silva wants revenge because he simply isn’t as tough as James Bond.  Alex Trevelyan claims he wants revenge, but his revenge involves stealing a lot of money and covering his tracks, so I put him in the money column.

Utopia – 2

Kill all of humanity except for a chosen few, who will repopulate the world.  In one the chosen were going to hide under the sea, and in one they were going to hide in space.  This plot came up twice in the 1970s, back when we thought we were destroying the Earth (global cooling) and running out of resources.  I am glad we’re past that now.

Just Doing My Job – 1

In For Your Eyes Only, Aristotle Kristatos steals the ATAC device for the Soviet Union… because that is who he works for.  And when the plan fails, his boss doesn’t even seem that upset.  Maybe the most realistic plot ending ever in the world of James Bond.

Random Asshattery – 1

I am not sure it is ever fully explained WHY Dr. Julius No was messing with the US space program in Dr. No.  I guess SPECTRE was funding it, though it could have just been a hobby.  Or it might have been version 1.0 of SPECTRE space program.  It could have been meant to start a war eventually, or used for extortion.  But in the movie Dr. No just seems to enjoy pissing off NASA.

So the prime motivator for a Bond villain appears to be money, followed by, but not exclusive from, insanity.  After all, in Live and Let Die, Dr. Kanaga’s drug cartel plans were built around readings from a tarot deck.  Then there is how all these guys plan to kill Bond after they inevitably capture him during the course of the film.  Like that SNL skit said, when you capture Bond, don’t screw around, just shoot him and be done with it.

And don’t even get me started on the poor rank and file of these villains.  How do they recruit them?  And what entices people to work for these guys?  I have to think the death benefits for your family must be excellent, since these villains kill their own rank and file on a regular basis.  Their HR staff must be going crazy.

So, in the end, it is very hard for me to pick a favorite James Bond villain because they are all so bad at what they do.

It is almost like they are put up there simply to make James Bond look good…

Oh…

Yeah…

Well, without them, we wouldn’t have had the Austin Powers series.

Roll on Dr. Evil.  Your plots are not half as mad as they could be.

Travels with Commander Bond December 16, 2012

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment.
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23 comments

50 years worth of travels in about three weeks time.

As a household, my wife and I are James Bond fans.

I would not say we are excessively so however.  We do not own any sort of memorabilia.  Any affinity towards martinis tends to center around the cosmopolitan. And while I do own a tuxedo, any resemblance between myself and Bond is a matter of coincidence and poor eyesight.

And we don't smoke...

And I don’t smoke…

But we do like the movies.  So we ran out to see Skyfall on the opening weekend, daughter in tow.  The reviews had been quite favorable.

However, a couple of reviews said that Skyfall was the “best Bond ever,” an opinion which put that skeptical look on my face. The movie was certainly, to my mind, the best of the Daniel Craig outings.  But the BEST Bond ever?  That was something that needed some thought.  And some research.

So we decided to watch  all the Bond films.  In order.  Again.

We’ve done it before.

We may not have memorabilia, but we do have all the movies on DVD.  MGM put out a three-part boxed set around 2000 that included all of the Bond movies up to that point, a run that encompassed Dr. No to Tomorrow Never Dies and five of the six Bond actors from the official, EON-produced films. (Never Say Never Again and the 1967 Casino Royale do not enter into this discussion.)  We have purchased all of the subsequent films on DVD or Blu-Ray since then.

And so we set out on a three week journey with a plan to watch one of the movies every night.  In addition, we also watched supplemental material included with each of the movies.  One of the nice things about the set is that MGM produced a “making of” documentary for each of the movies up through License to Kill that covers the trials of making the movie, the stunts, and some of the politics and justifications around what went on.

These documentaries run anywhere from 25 to 45 minutes each, and since rare is the Bond movie that runs under two hours, we were committing ourselves to quite a nightly camp on the couch.

But we made it.

What follows after the cut are some observations and lists based on the experience.  If James Bond isn’t your thing, you can safely go elsewhere.

(more…)

A World of Warcraft Movie May Still Be On… July 18, 2012

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Blizzard, entertainment, World of Warcraft.
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News came out that Sam Raimi will not be directing the World of Warcraft movie.

(Though I thought it was just a movie based on the wider Warcraft IP.  But you cannot say “Warcraft” in the media without pre-pending “World of” I suppose.  And WoW is certainly the most popular form of the Warcraft IP.)

Anyway, the glint of positive in this for those who want the movie to come to fruition… and I count myself among them, even if I suspect it will be comically bad, because we need comically bad movies… came in the reason for Raimi’s departure/removal from the project.  They key quote from Crave Online:

Actually, they don’t have me directing World of Warcraft anymore because when I took the Oz job, they had to move on to another director. They had to start making it.

Emphasis is mine.

He is off to make Oz: The Great and Powerful, but production had to go on.  They had to start making it.

So we might yet see if a Warcraft movie can do for WoW what two Dungeons & Dragons movies did for D&D!  Too bad that chances of a Bruce Campbell role in the movie just went down.  Still, there is plenty of space for epic casting.

Bonus Item: The Fear the Boot podcast watched and talked about both D&D movies in one episode, if you have never seen them but want to hear about them from people who are passionate about role playing games.  You can find the episode here.

 

Driving Music for the Criminally Reckless July 14, 2011

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Need for Speed World.
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Or how the soundtrack for TRON Legacy became irrevocably associated with Need For Speed: World in my brain.

I like the movie TRON Legacy.

I felt Legacy delivered about the same level of cool visual imagery, excitement, and goofy pseudo-technical nonsense as the original movie did back in 1982.  While no instant classic, it was fun to watch for many reasons.

One of those reasons...

One of the main breaks with the old movie was the sound track.  Daft Punk‘s musical accompaniment was so good, and so integral to the movie that my mind barely registered that is was, or could even exist as, a separate thing.

Until I saw it on iTunes for seven dollars, which was a price point I could not resist.

Another Disney soundtrack in my collection

Jeff Bridges says about 20 words on the second track of album, but otherwise it is nothing but the music of Daft Punk.  For seven dollars it was a deal.  It has been a long time since the default price for an album was that low.

And, as timing would have it, I got the album just before I decided to download and Need for Speed: World.

I got into the game, started the album up in iTunes, and started playing.

And it was amazing.

It was like the magical sound track.  Whatever came on seemed to fit in with whatever I was doing at that moment.  If I was in a police chase or in a race or smashing through downtown or just sweeping through the hills, the music seemed just right.  It was more like the soundtrack for the game than the movie.

It's eerie, but don't worry about it... I'll drive

And now, of course, the game and the soundtrack are linked in my brain.  I cannot play one without thinking of the other.

Which isn’t a bad thing.

Have you ever had a strong musical association like that?