Posts Tagged ‘Technology’

James Bond, Low-Tech Hero

November 26th, 2012 No comments


If ever there was a hero who relied on technology, James Bond was it. He was a super-agent always equipped with super weapons. Q was his trusty wingman, outfitting him with backpack rockets, exploding pens, exploding gum, an invisible car, a jacket that could turn into a huge cushion, etc…

The dynamic changed rather dramatically in the latest James Bond movie, Skyfall (though I believe technology has played a much lesser role in the James Bond franchise since the transition from Pierce Brosnan to Daniel Craig), where technology is used very heavily by the enemy while James Bond relies only on basic weaponry and even rudimentary tools to fight back.

I very much think this change has been influenced by the role technology plays in our lives. In the latter half of the 20th century, technology held great promise. Things like the person computer, the VCR, the microwave, and CDs made life more convenient and exciting. Technology was mostly a benign friend that was not overly scary.

It’s no surprise that audiences loved to see James Bond utilizing far-fetched gizmos to help him in his missions. The things he used didn’t seem real.

Our relationship with technology is changing. Technology is beginning to swallow us. We can pull up maps to anywhere on our phone, spy on the babysitter with a hidden teddy bear camera, even get parts of our DNA sequenced for less than $100.

Suddenly, the old tricks James Bond used are available to the masses. There’s probably an app for half of what Q has invented for him.

Technology has taken a decidedly darker turn as well. The hacking of data is now routine. So are cyber attacks. We’ve already witnessed government-sponsored cyber warfare. I think we’re all consciously or unconsciously aware that Google and Facebook probably know more about us than our closest friends.

In other words, technology is no longer a benign friend. Somewhere along the way it has morphed into something much more complex, both an amazing asset and a potential threat (not to mention a complete time suck).

Is it surprising then that the latest movie in the James Bond franchise powers down their hero in order to make him seem more heroic? The fear and ambivalence we feel about technology is borne out in how Silva uses it as an all-encompassing weapon to blow up the MI6 building, reveal the identities of MI6 agents, and hack into the MI6 network in order to release himself from captivity.

Suddenly we watch as 007, the hero who was defined by gizmos, fight against a technologically-emboldened villain in a decidedly low-tech way, as demonstrated in the final action scenes of the movie where Bond and his band of two booby trap an old house to fight a much technologically-superior force (who arrive in a fully-equipped helicopter).

The movie has a very nostalgic air. James receives only two basic tools from Q, a palm print gun and a tracker called a “radio”.

There is a very telling scene in the movie that seems to embody the overarching conflict of the movie, which is the old (James & M) vs. the new (our current world). James is set to meet Q at a museum. He sits down on a bench next to a lanky young man (with great hair) who looks to be a college sophomore. The kid pulls a reluctant Bond into conversation, explaining how the painting they are viewing makes him sad. The picture depicts an old warship being pulled to a scrapyard.

The symbolism may be a little overdone, but it does a good job of underlining the theme of the movie, as does the conversation between the kid and James when it is revealed that the sophomore is actually the newest rendition of Q – a geeky, wired brainac who sees James as that old warship that needs to get scraped. Of course when his own network gets hacked, he perhaps appreciates 007’s unique skill set. In the end, the two work together to try and track down Silva. However, it is James, with his booby-trapped mansion and the knife he throws into Silva’s back, that saves the day.

I think this is comforting notion for audiences. What Skyfall shows us is that when technology has saturated everything and threatens to destroy us all, our hero doesn’t rely on an exploding pen or a tracker (which are now cheaply available on Amazon); he fights the old-fashioned way, with his wits and his fists and the occasional martini, shaken not stirred.