Sure, the villain may have all the trappings of evil – the underground base in an extinct volcano, the satellite death ray, the cat – but it’s what you do with all this kit that matters.
Take Goldfinger for example. He’s not interested in ruling anyone. He simply enjoys collecting gold. It’s a harmless enough hobby for an elderly gentleman to pursue. OK, so he plans to commit mass murder in order to complete his scheme, but after that? A quiet retirement and a few rounds of golf.
The most villainous is probably the infamous Blofeld, leader of SPECTRE. There’s no doubting Blofeld’s evil pretentions. His passion for living in secluded mountaintop hide-outs, reachable only by cable car and his fondness for collecting nuclear warheads mark him out as a first rate psychopathic monster criminal. Yet in Thunderball his ambition is simply to hold the world to ransom, demanding $100 million of diamonds, and he tiresomely tries the same stunt again in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Only in You Only Live Twice is he starting to think bigger, attempting to trigger a war between NATO and the Soviet Union, which will leave him and his deadly piranha fish in charge of the smoking ruins that remain. WhaHaHa!
It’s really not the smartest plan ever, so it’s frankly a relief to discover that every fully-equipped subterranean volcano base comes with a handy self-destruct button so that we can move quickly on to the next plot. If it wasn’t for the girls, the soundtracks, the witty one-liners, the car chases, the exotic locations, the futuristic technology, the martinis and the stunts, we’d be starting to wonder whether these films are truly worthy of our attention.
Since Daniel Craig took over, the villains have become even meeker. In Casino Royale, “Le Chiffre” just wants to win back some money he lost from an unwise investment strategy. In Quantum of Solace, the bad guy is particularly modest. His greatest ambition is simply to run the water utility in an under-developed South American republic. And in Skyfall, the villain is motivated purely by revenge.
It’s strange, because there are plenty of examples of real-life people who really did want to rule the world – Adolf Hitler, Napoleon and the Pharaoh Ramses II. These guys generally had more workable plans than Blofeld, and Ramses II actually managed to fully implement his.
So I’m hoping that in the next Bond film, there will be a truly evil villain who genuinely wants to take over the entire world. An opponent worthy of Bond. Because, as we all know, only the British could foil such an evil plot.