Thursday, November 21, 2013

Top 5 Most/Least Realistic Bond Villain Schemes

One of the keys to a good James Bond film is having a believable, yet larger-than-life scheme for the villain. Here are my Top 5 most-believable larger-the-life schemes... and my Top 5 most ridiculous schemes.

Top 5 Most Believable Schemes

1. From Russia With Love: The idea of getting your hands on a decoder device from a defector from the enemy camp is classic spying. Adding the bit about using this as a trap to kill Bond and collect the device is the larger-than-life cherry on top. This is perhaps the most fitting scheme ever for a Bond film.

2. For Your Eyes Only: Again, the idea of spies going after important enemy technology is classic spying. Here they’ve added the idea of salvage, which is again very realistic. This is something you can imagine happening all the time, with the balance of power shifting with the outcomes.

3. Live and Let Die: First one’s free kid. Kananga’s plan is actually brilliant. He’s going to dump heroin on the market for free. All it will cost him is lost profit and a heavy fertilizer bill. But the benefits... oh, the benefits! This will drive out his competitors, solidifying his power as the drug dealer of choice in the US. Meanwhile, with heroin being free, he will hook tens of millions of newly-minted addicts. In effect, he will spur a junkie epidemic and then profit immensely from it. This is actually Google’s sales strategy for Android.

4. Thunderball: Although this plot has been copied repeatedly and greatly mocked by people who want to poke fun at the series, the reality is that if you could steal two nuclear bombs, you could hold the US hostage for a BUTTLOAD OF MONEY!!! The key is getting your hands on the bombs, which isn’t all that easy. But the method they use here is pretty ingenuous by substituting a visiting military observer who hijacks the flight.

5. Quantum of Solace: Controlling natural resources has always been a colonial game and to have a group of villains using their financial muscle, combined with threats of violence, to corner those markets and thereby control countries is actually highly credible. It’s also pretty dangerous if they start controlling enough things around the planet. This is basically the Soviet “client state” model privatized and done on the quiet.


Top 5 Least Believable

5. The Spy Who Loved Me: A nutjob billionaire wants to blow up the world so that the survivors will turn to him to rebuild the planet. Uh, yeah. Forget that he will have no ability to reach the survivors or to do any rebuilding. The problems here start with his plan to have a Russian submarine blow up New York and an American submarine blow up Moscow... and a British submarine hanging around so Bond can stage an escape. If two submarines each fire one missile, does it seem likely that the Russians and Americans will just start shooting wildly or is it more likely they have already discussed what to do when their missing subs suddenly turn up?

4. Diamonds Are Forever: Rather than just launching his own satellite into space, Blofeld engages in a Rube Goldberg scheme just to get NASA to launch his satellite for him: “Nah nah! Fooooled you!” That satellite then uses a “laser” which doesn’t exist to blow up targets he could never find to blackmail the world. It’s a good thing the CIA can’t find him hidden away in the hotel in which they know he’s hiding.

3. You Only Live Twice: I love the idea of stealing spaceships, but this just wasn’t possible. You can’t launch a space mission without the world knowing where you came from. Meeting something in orbit is a lot harder than it looks. And nothing in the 1960s was capable of landing again in a reusable shape.

2. Moonraker: So we build a secret space launch facility that we use to build a space station the size of an NFL stadium in space, which we somehow hide so no one can see either the launches or the station. And why do this? So we can drop five snow globes into the atmosphere to poison everyone on Earth. Uh huh. Never mind that 6,000 nuclear missiles fired at once wouldn’t wipe out humanity. Never mind that falling snow globes is not a delivery system for poison gas or that gas is notoriously impossible to use even at ground level, much less from high altitude. The logistics are just laughable... might as well be wishing humanity into the cornfield.

1. Die Another Day: Let’s see, the North Koreans, who struggle to build mud huts, build a satellite that emits more power than the Starship Enterprise, allowing them to send down a wall of flames a mile wide. Any why do this? So they can blow up some landmines they could blow up just as easily with a small artillery barrage. Whoever came up with this idea should be savagely beaten with the script.

Thoughts?

29 comments:

Tennessee Jed said...

I definitely liked Red Grant, Rosa Klebs, Kronstein, and Blofeld. Classic villains and very believable. I thin Hugo Drax would have been believable if they had stuck to the book, but they didn't so he isn't. The guy in Skyfall might make my list of least believable. You can't be a tough guy and still be enough of a computer hacking nerd to be credible. I thought LeChiffre's character was pretty realistic also.

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, I liked LeChiffre's character and it's pretty realistic. It just isn't really threatening, so it's hard to put on the list.

Agreed about From Russia With Love, very real, very cool story.

Backthrow said...

FRWL's scheme is tops.

TSWLM's thing with the sub-gobbling supertanker would've worked nicely, if rather than using it to trigger WWIII, it had been utilized for some sort of modern piracy/hijacking scheme, for ransom and/or extortion purposes.

AndrewPrice said...

Backthrow, I like the sub stealing idea itself, despite the implausibility of the device used to stop the subs, but as you note, what he plans to do with it just doesn't work. It feels like nonsense.

Tennessee Jed said...

trying to murderBond by gunfire, then poison, and finally pounding his scrotum to pudding may not be very threatening in your view .......

tryanmax said...

Wow, it's only the sheer ridiculousness of the bottom 5 that keeps On Her Majesty's Secret Service off the list. I suppose hypnotic brainwashing seemed more plausible at the time, but what a ridiculous method of distributing a biological agent! Seriously, just hire some thugs, give them all briefcases, set them loose. Tell them they're setting off regular bombs if you're worried about them getting skittish.

shawn said...

Good list Andrew, I would have to agree.

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, That's par for the course for lawyers. ;-P

In all seriousness, I meant "threatening to King/Queen and country."

AndrewPrice said...

Thanks Shawn! There are some other possibles, but I thought these were best.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, Yeah. I think the idea itself in OHMSS is a good one, but his delivery system is extreme Rube Goldberian. But then we are talking about Blofeld, who doesn't seem to have both oars in the water.

Backthrow said...

Besides, who wants to see Bond romance a bunch of thugs to crack the scheme? Well, there was Irma Blunt... but Bond was set-up, man!

AndrewPrice said...

I don't know... Bond kind of had that look in his eye like, "That's one hot apparatchik!"

John Jameson said...

I can't resist raining on Skyfall again :)
The flip side to the incredible stupidity of MI6 is: how could Silva possibly imagine his harebrained scheme had any chance of success? It relies upon MI6 doing everything he predicts. They have to capture him without suspicion, hold him in the MI6 building, plug in his laptop to the security system, at precisely the opportune moment for him to escape, with only Bond in chase, who notices him slip into a side tunnel of the underground so that he can launch his master weapon: the commuter tube-train gun. His scheme is right up there with the one in Flightplan. (Okay, maybe quite that bad: see paulpensom's hilarious review at http://www.imdb.com/user/ur8283330/)

Then, to cap it all, in the A-Team sequence at the end, he sends in his ground forces first, before trying the simpler device of blowing the building to bits from a heavily armed helicopter. What a moron!

AndrewPrice said...

John, Flightplan was a mess. And I agree, Silva's plan relies entirely on the good guys doing exactly what he wants them to do. That's a bad plan.

John Jameson said...

It sure is. In Silva's defence, he has inside knowledge of MI6 and utter contempt for it, so perhaps he is delusional and lucky. However, he might as well be in direct contact with the scriptwriters: "I wanna be a Bond villain and here's how; indulge me". That's lazy writing.

AndrewPrice said...

That is lazy writing. And I'm amazed how often I see that in films where the story only works if the good guy or bad guy does exactly what the plot calls for... the slightest deviation and the whole story falls apart.

I know some writers explain this away by saying, "It could have happened differently, but this is how it happened and since it's possible, then it's ok." But that misses the point. The problem isn't the way it happened, the problem is that the characters depended on it happening that way.

ScottDS said...

I've only seen Die Another Day once or twice in its entirety and every time you mention it, I always have the same reaction: "That was the plot?!?!" :-)

I was thinking about these movies and how, in order to follow the plot, you actually need to pay attention to what's going on, otherwise the films are nothing more than fancy travelogues and you're left wondering, "Wait, how did we get here? We were in another country in the last scene."

Some films do this better than others. As an example, with the last da Vinci Code movie, you could literally set your watch to how often Hanks and Co. were off to some other location. "Oh, it's been 10 minutes... back to the car!"

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, I've noticed that too in some films. They seem to country hop for no other reason than to get a fresh setting every so often. I'm not averse to that, but you really should have a genuine purpose in it. I see The Living Daylights that way -- they keep hopping from country to country for no real reason whatsoever. And making the decision even worse, they don't even manage to get the travelogue feel working. It just ends up feeling confused.

Kit said...

First, I don't care, I love Skyfall. Most gorgeously shot Bond movie ever.

One thing I like about Dark Knight is how they covered their tracks. The bombs in the Gotham PD were a back-up plan by the Joker.
SPOILERS AHEAD!

In the big chase scene involving HArvey Dent there were 3 likely outcomes:
(1) Harvey Dent is killed during the chase which means Gotham's white night is dead.
(2) Batman kills the Joker, which means Batman breaks his one rule.
(3) Joker is arrested and Harvey Dent is "rescued". We saw how that turned out.

AndrewPrice said...

Kit, Your love of Skyfall is noted. :)

The Joker was interesting because his entire plot really was just to cause chaos. He was psychotic and that kind of made sense.

John Jameson said...

''Dark Knight'' and ''Skyfall'' both had gorgeous cinematography. One had an engaging plot and a compelling villain; the other, erm, didn't.

Dave Olson said...

As I've said before, the main plot of Octopussy is brilliantly Machiavellian: Blow up a nuke at the center of an American airbase in (then) West Germany. Let the outcry force the Yanks out of not just Germany but all of Western Europe. Then the USSR rolls across the continent all the way to Gibraltar in a Russian version of a Blitzkrieg, stretching the Rodina from sea to shining sea, as it were. It sounds ludicrous now, but this was released in 1983 when the Cold War was at its absolute iciest, with Reagan declaring the Soviets to be an "Evil Empire" and the Soviets themselves being led by a succession of ever more doddering and enfeebled hardliners.

License to Kill didn't have a particularly good plot, smuggling cocaine into the US and Asia by mixing it in gasoline. I've never snorted the booger sugar, but I imagine that even the most ardent coke head would notice that there was something foul in his stash.

ScottDS said...

John -

Agreed! Skyfall was shot by the great Roger Deakins, one of the best cinematographers working today.

AndrewPrice said...

John, Agreed. Both were beautiful films. That does count for a lot.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, Agreed about Deakins. He did great work for the Coens.

AndrewPrice said...

Dave, The Russian threat in Octopussy was an excellent one. Though, I think all the surrounding issues were rather weak.

I totally agree about License to Kill. Not only does the whole plot seem kind of silly, but yeah, I have to wonder if the coke heads wouldn't notice?

shawn said...

I enjoyed Skyfall but quite frankly I felt I had seen it before thanks to Goldeneye. Also, it's Craig's third Bond movie and they were treating him as if it was time to put him out to pasture when Casino Royale had him as a new agent.

John Jameson said...

Shawn, you identified two other things I don't like about Skyfall: Goldeneye did the rogue agent plot better, and they confused the timeline. There was a certain amount of 50th birthday self-indulgence, with the "you thought what came before actually came after" idea to reintroduce Moneypenny and a more classical M (a male Whitehall figure rather than a female Cheltenham one). This could be an excuse for a lot of remakes in the future, so it will be interesting to see what happens!

Koshcat said...

I have no problems with the list.

I recently saw and liked Skyfall even with some of the contrived plot elements. The last three movies are clearly a reboot. Without throwing in your face, they give you the background stories that make up who Bond is. Why does he have a flirtatious relationship with Moneypenny. Why is he both suave and misogynist in how he treats women. Why does MI6 rely on Bond when he isn't a ninja; he's at that point in his career where he must rely more on brains than brawn to get what he needs.

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