I saw Casino Royale for the third or fourth time tonight. What a great, great film. I’m an old school Bond fan, and I’ll state without qualification that if I had to pick one Bond film to take to a desert island with me, it’d be Casino Royale.
But it’s also an interesting study on technology, not because of what it includes, but because of what it doesn’t.
The film is almost devoid of gadgets. Or is it? There’s a big emphasis on mobile technology — mobile phones and text messaging play big parts in the plot. Are these gadgets? Well, not really. I just bought a new Sanyo Katana the other day, and it’ll do the same thing that Bond’s phone did.
Besides a little radio gadget injected into Bond’s arm, Casino Royale has no gee-whiz gadget the likes of which Bond has relied on for decades. There’s not even a gadget-master — John Cleese is nowhere to be found.
And here’s why, I think: we have gadgets all around us. It’s getting harder and harder to impress people with gadgets because we live with them everyday.
Historically, “gadget” in the James Bond sense means “small.” Something cool, in a little package — littler than we expect. But if you look at the last five or six years, this is what electronics companies have been doing anyway — shrinking stuff. Our mobile electronics are so small at this point that they’d likely just get harder to use if they went any further.
When I worked on Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang back when The World is Not Enough came out, we talked Hewlett-Packard into giving us a Jornada like the one in the film to give away in a contest. It was an amazing little thing — a computer you could put in the palm of your hand. Of course, eight years later, this is downright boring.
There’s no escaping that our sense of wonder about gadgets has been permanently dulled. We’ve become so used to things getting smaller, faster, and sexier, that Bond just isn’t going to impress us anymore.
(And it’s probably for the best — the gadgets in the Bond films were getting out of hand. In his last film, he drove an invisible car for cripes sake. An invisible car. Please.)
Think about it: what is the next frontier for James Bond and his gadgets? What would impress us? What haven’t we seen? Phones are probably about the smallest they’re going to get, and would a smaller one impress you? Your phone also has more processing power than you likely ever use — you’d feel like James Bond yourself if you just learned how to use every feature your phone had.
Face it: the allure of Bond gadgets is gone. We killed it. We slew it on the altar of Gizmodo. He’s just going to have to get by on his looks and the occasional witty line.