Is new Bond movie antitech?

Don't let the scientific-sounding title mislead you. Quantum of Solace will leave tech lovers groaning in their seats. It's cutting-edge tech is off the mark.

Among the many other problems with the latest James Bond film Quantum of Solace, I was particularly struck with its seemingly careless stance on technology.

The latest Bond flick does get those bloody stares right. But what happened to the cutting-edge gadgets? Sony Pictures

While I know they're just movies, the Bond franchise films--like Ian Fleming's novels--have always been geopolitical snapshots of the time in which they were made.

According to this movie, the British are pinning their hopes on skillful driving and fisticuffs to get the job done, while those dabbling in high-tech solutions to solve world problems are off-the-mark.

As in Casino Royale, there is no Q. Apparently, in this Bond's world, MI6 does not arm its agents with insight and tools from teams of high-tech experts. The few gadgets used are pitifully unimaginative. ( CNET News readers wrote in better gadget ideas. )

In Quantum of Solace, Bond has a cell phone he can use to call MI6 and give the name of a potential villain he's met. MI6 can look up the name and send a photo of the guy to Bond's cell phone to confirm it's the same guy. Guess what? I, too, can call a friend, have them look up a name, background, and photo; and have the info sent to my cell phone. So can millions of teenagers.

Bond's cell phone also has an advanced form of face recognition. He snaps a photo, and it can be analyzed within seconds to identify who the subject is. OK, that's pretty cool, but nothing groundbreaking.

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M has a touch-screen interface computer table. She can use it to look at multiple photos and files that she can change the size of or toss to the side of the screen. Was this even supposed to be high-tech, or was it just product placement for Microsoft's Surface computer ? I'm pretty sure Judi Dench could do this in real-life with any number of touch-screen gadgets .

Moving on from gadgets, let's talk villains.

It's progress that the Bond films have stopped ethnic targeting, when it comes to bad guys. It was interesting to darkly insinuate that with the United States and China scrambling to control the world's oil supplies, the British may get in bed with unsavory characters to keep itself afloat. And the idea that water is the next hot commodity certainly reflects the predictions many have been making.

But what is the message in making the film's main villain a green-technology entrepreneur? And before you ask, let me assure you that there is no good green-tech entrepreneur acting as a foil. All of the green-tech representatives the villain associates with in a party scene, and throughout the film, are cast in a shadow of suspicion.

Worse yet, the film knocks hydrogen and hydrogen fuel cells as a viable alternative-energy source. While there are many things to consider in evaluating hydrogen as a potential alternative fuel, the manner in which this film does it is just plain silly.

The villains markedly discuss how the high-tech hotel they're staying in runs on hydrogen fuel cells. One comments on having problems with them and refers to "stability" issues.

Eventually, (spoiler alert) one of the hundreds of hydrogen tanks in the hotel---curiously, the hotel was designed to put a hydrogen tank in each individual hotel room---explodes from a crossfire of bullets. This was not a plausible depressurization and explosion into pieces of a hydrogen fuel cell tank that's somehow been punctured. This was a giant fireball explosion the size of a house. It, of course, sends off a chain reaction of gigantic proportions.

As the scene played out, I could hear the groans from thousands of scientists and engineers as they watched years of effort to educate the public--and temper its association of hydrogen with the Hindenburg disaster--go up in flames in just a few minutes of Hollywood magic.

Ironically, many of those groaners probably work for one of the movie's leading sponsors.

Ford, which features its Ka car in a product placement ad throughout Quantum of Solace, is a large proponent of hydrogen fuel. Ford's CEO Alan Mullaly has long been highlighting the company's interest in hybrid electric-hydrogen fuel vehicles. Ford's been testing city buses with 6.8-liter V10 engines that have been converted to run on hydrogen fuel . And, most recently, the hydrogen fuel cell Ford Focus has been making the media rounds.

Given that, the movie's thoughtless hydrogen stance is even more bizarre than having Bond and a sidekick stop the film to do a Gordon's Gin product placement that includes giving the movie audience a drink recipe.

About the author

In a software-driven world, it's easy to forget about the nuts and bolts. Whether it's cars, robots, personal gadgetry or industrial machines, Candace Lombardi examines the moving parts that keep our world rotating. A journalist who divides her time between the United States and the United Kingdom, Lombardi has written about technology for the sites of The New York Times, CNET, USA Today, MSN, ZDNet, Silicon.com, and GameSpot. She is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not a current employee of CNET.

 

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