The supervillains of Bond

November 13, 2008

A few days ago some coworkers and I were talking about the new James Bond flick that’s hitting the theatres, Quantum of Solace, and, unsurprisingly, one colleague served up the cliched “who’s your favourite Bond” question for everyone to discuss.

But to me, the more interesting question has always been, who’s the best of (or worst of, as the case may be) the Bond villains? (not to be confused with henchman, mind you) After all, there are only, what, six actors who, as Bond, have played variations on the same character, but there’s a whole stable of supervillains who, down through the years, have touted a wide range of wacky schemes to accomplish everything from a simple stranglehold on an industry to total world domination. Their personalities, their goals, the methods to their madness, even the henchmen and honies they choose all offer more fodder for discussion than any tribalistic defense of one Bond over another ever could.

Now, just a few days later, the CBC site has a feature with some picks for the best in certain categories of villainy.

So who’s your pick for the baddest of the bad in the Bondiverse? Would you nominate that grand architect of disaster Blofeld, or Scaramanga with his golden gun, or Max Zorin – giggling with disbelief as he plunges from his blimp crashed atop the Golden Gate Bridge as his plot to flood Silicon Valley is spoiled? Someone else?

For me, it’s a question of goals – those who pursue supremecy in practical to somewhat practical ends, versus the grand, completely bugfuck, total domination seekers.

From the pool of somewhat practical villains, it’s gotta be Auric Goldfinger. The aim: to pull off the biggest heist in history, knocking over Fort Knox to get some gold. A lot of it. Why go to all the trouble of concoting schemes to blackmail the world into submission when you can simply steal the means to buy whatever you want? Certainly, with his neo-Sidney Greenstreet bulk, education and finery, Goldfinger’s got more style than other pragmatic Bond villians like the Licence to Kill drug dealer Franz Sanchez, dirty in his brutality but ultimately pretty short on vision. Goldfinger’s only real failing as a villain of his class was his utter lack of practicality in his signature method of killing-to-send-a-message: coating people in gold paint. Isn’t the whole point to save the gold?

When it comes to sheer over-the-top megalomaniacal nutbars bent on world domination, I think Hugo Drax takes the cake. Here’s a guy who’s so completely determined to have it all that he’s not even interested in the usual routine of developing a super weapon to blackmail the world onto its knees. Nope. Blackmail’s too much effort and people are too imperfect anyway. Somebody would always mess up the perfect design. In Moonraker, Drax goes from zero to total genocide in less than two hours – wipe the planet clean of all humanity, no exceptions anywhere, then descend from his space station with his cadre of loyal and perfect human specimans (oh yeah, and Jaws and his goofy-lookin’ girlfriend tagging along) and remake things according to his plan (which may or may not involve the less-than perfect aforementioned henchman and his squeeze). Never mind the fact that Drax was a pasty-looking spud of a man who, for all his talk of perfection, couldn’t seem to fathom the concept of building some kind of asthetic into his space station, which basically looked like a fist-full of pretzel sticks. For all the viciousness of the other dream-of-world-domination supervillains in the Bond series, for all of their iron-fisted enforcment methods and contrived schemes, Drax is probably the most frightening for the Nazi-esque nature of his dream. Sure, the others might wipe out a city or three, and Stromberg, in The Spy Who Loved Me, is probably the runner-up with his aim of provoking a nuclear war and ruling over the reminants from beneath the waves, but Drax is far more insidious with his gaggle of ubermensch and cold talk of perfect humanity. Certainly, Drax is the baddest of the bad, tops on the list of Bond villains to hate and the one whose demise at the hands of 007 tends to give the most satisfaction.

One comment

  1. I generally didn’t like the cartoonish, Dr. Evil-style villains. My favourite is probably Goldfinger – whose plot was slightly more clever than heisting Ft. Knox, if you recall; he planned to detonate a nuclear bomb inside the facility to contaminate it and raise the value of his existing gold stock. Had the greatest henchman, too.

    Runner-up for me would be Aristotle Kristatos, from For Your Eyes Only. His callous execution of one of his own henchman for no good reason is my favourite in film history next to Vader’s in Ep. IV.

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