What Would You Have?
One of the many parts of the classic James Bond movies that I miss are the gadgets. I always looked forward to Q giving Bond the latest devices that would help 007 kill the bad guys or escape from danger. My favorite may have been the laser wristwatch, but there were so many. I wanted all of them.
Devices and objects can be some of the best fantasy elements of moviegoing, especially as a kid but even going into adulthood. A few years ago I wrote a column asking people what movie characters they would like to be and, continuing along those lines, I have asked myself what from any movie would I most like to have in my real life?
To make this task more manageable, I established a few ground rules:
Some of these I picked for their usefulness, some because they were funny, and some because they were just plain cool. With that out of the way, here we go:
10. Tie Between My Dinner with Andre Action Figures and The Remains of the Day Lunchbox from Waiting for Guffman: These come as almost an afterthought at the very end of Guffman. After the play bombs, the cast and crew go their separate ways. Corky (Christopher Guest), the director, opens a movie memorabilia shop in New York. Some of his prized attractions are the My Dinner with Andre action figures. For full disclosure, I have never seen My Dinner with Andre, but I am aware that the whole movie is two people talking to each other over dinner. As Corky points out, with the action figures you could have the two characters talk about how they picked the restaurant, or anything you wanted to. Fun for hours. Then there’s The Remains of the Day lunchbox. I had a Star Wars lunchbox as a kid, but would have much preferred to celebrate a movie about a repressed English butler. As Corky said, “Kids don't like eating at school, but if they have a Remains of the Day lunchbox they're a lot happier.”
9. Oddjob’s Hat from Goldfinger: As I mentioned, I could compile a whole list with Bond gadgets, and it was too difficult to pick just one. So I went in another direction and selected one of the best Bond villain weapons. For those who may not recall, Oddjob’s bowler hat had a rim with a razor-sharp blade. One of the great “Wow” scenes in Goldfinger is Oddjob throwing his hat and decapitating a statue. Now if I had one, I wouldn’t want to hurt anyone. My plan would be just to use it as a demonstration and then everything else would work itself out. My throwing skills leave much to be desired, so I would have to put in much practice, but for that it would be worth it.
8. The Amp That Goes to “11" from This is Spinal Tap: Granted, I don’t actually play any instruments, so I would have no real use for this. That doesn’t matter because the whole idea is that, as Spinal Tap lead guitarist Nigel Tufnel said, “It’s one louder.” Sure, you could just make all the settings louder and have 10 stay the maximum. But again, “these go to 11."
7. The Maltese Falcon from The Maltese Falcon: Some of you may recall an earlier column about my search for the black bird. I was unsuccessful. Then again, so was everyone in the movie because the falcon was a fake. But it sure did look good and who wouldn’t want it after Bogey called it “the stuff that dreams are made of?”
6. The Briefcase from Pulp Fiction: I don’t know what’s in the briefcase, but I want it. Maybe it’s money. Maybe it’s gold. Maybe it’s the soul of Marcellus Wallace. It sure seems valuable, based on what Jules (Samuel L. Jackson) and Vincent (John Travolta) go through to get it back for Marcellus. Quentin Tarantino said that he has his own view about the contents, but likes the fact that everyone has their own ideas. That’s the whole appeal. What you or I imagine is in there is infinitely more exciting than what could be shown on screen.
5. The Flux Capacitor from Back to the Future: Maybe I’m cheating here, because one of my ground rules was no vehicles. Technically, though, the DeLorean was the vehicle. The flux capacitor was what enabled the DeLorean to time travel. Conceivably it could do that with any car, as long as you had some plutonium for power. But how hard could that be? In today’s economy, I’m sure you could get some plutonium on the cheap.
4. The Invisibility Cloak from the Harry Potter Movies: There have been plenty of other tools for invisibility in movies, but many of them have serious drawbacks. The potion in The Invisible Man causes madness. The ring in The Lord of the Rings trilogy makes the wearer power-hungry and paranoid over time. The potion in Alice could wear off at any time, which could make for some quite embarrassing situations. Only the cloak makes sense, as you can use it as you will and it does not warp you mentally. The benefits of invisibility are too numerous to mention, so to have that power without any repercussions makes the cloak an easy choice.
3. A Universal Translator from the Star Trek Movies: Many of the seemingly futuristic gadgets from Star Trek have been overtaken by real life, such as the communicator and, to some extent, the tricorder. A transporter would be great but you can’t carry one. A universal translator would be a godsend for people who are awful with languages. Especially for people with a significant other from a foreign country (Israel, for example) whose relatives mostly don’t speak English. Sure, that completely hypothetical person could bear down, focus, and put in the time and effort to learn a language. But this device would make things so much easier.
2. A Neuralizer from Men in Black: When Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) introduced the Neuralizer, a device that could make people lose their memory over a specifically defined time, I knew I had to have one. Everyone at work has, for countless times, wished they could take back something they said or did. It can’t just be me. And I know every guy has those moments with their wife or girlfriend, or hell, even on a date, where even while they are saying something they know that it is incredibly stupid and may have horrible consequences. Once that guy is done, he desperately wishes he could rewind and start over, but he can’t. Unless, of course, he had a neuralizer. Hey, after some awful experiences someone might want to use it on himself (maybe even after reading this column).
1. A Light Saber from the Star Wars Movies: No contest; nothing else comes close. It looks cool, it sounds cool, and can cut through anything. My words pale, though, next to Obi Wan Kenobi’s: “This is the weapon of a Jedi Knight. Not as clumsy or random as a blaster; an elegant weapon for a more civilized age.” So you can be cool, you can kick ass, and be civilized? It’s all one could hope for. There have been many laser guns in Star Wars and other sci-fi movies, but the light saber is unique. Any kid who saw Star Wars pretended to play with a light saber. Some grew out of it, and some people (again, no one I know personally) still pretend an umbrella is a light saber when no one is looking. It could have some practical uses too. It would come in handy for some household repairs and it would be great at parties. I have wanted a light saber since I was four years old, I haven’t stopped hoping for one, and I never will.
December 1, 2009