Cinema and the Gadget

The magnetic watch, false fingerprints, the bagpipe flamethrower, jet packs, exploding cigarette packs…

With the 007 franchise currently rolling out itʼs 23rd instalment in cinemas worldwide, we are all salivating over the next masterful gadget in Mr Bondʼs arsenal.

Itʼs no secret that the silver screenʼs most beloved secret agent is big business, and vying for a sneaky feature or inclusion are numerous brands that will throw elbows to get their product alongside our hero.

What soft drink would James reach for after saving the world? Does he use hair products to style his locks and if so would he choose wax, mousse or hairspray? When unwinding around the luxury spread, does our beloved agent prefer Netflix or Spotify? Well, to the corporate cheese we say:

ʻTo hell with all that product placement… letʼs see the gadgets!ʼ

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This week Le Bonbon UK takes a deviceful leap through the recent history of cinema and itʼs colourful array of gizmos and contraptions. Whether sleek and nifty, or outright ludicrous and impractical, when discussing gadgets in film there have certainly been some corkers.

In 2002, Steven Spielbergʼs bullet-paced science fiction thriller Minority Report had everyone wishing they could access data, check their inbox or stalk their exʼs Facebook account via the movement of their hands. Those sensory ʻMotion Controlsʼ utilised by Tom Cruise and his futuristic Pre-Crime squad proved so innovative that it was simply a matter of time before tech-companies were catching on.

Then, of course there are those gadgets we want so bad, but sadly donʼt seem likely to be on the shelves any time soon. The 1997 film adaptation of the comic book series Men In Black was where most of us were first introduced to that metallic, memory-wiping thingamajig in the shape of a sexual- aid, The Neuralyzer.

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Just imagine for a second the utter bliss if we could erase that Paul McCartney, Rihanna and Kanye West collabo from our collective minds?

But whatʼs a list of gadgets in film without the nonsensical and the utterly preposterous? The outlandish and the odd?

It would be wrong to omit the 1999 Japanese horror film Wild Zero and itʼs killer guitar plectrums and zombie-slaying electric guitars. Or who could forget that shark repellant aerosol spray in the 1966 Batman: The Movie?

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Superbikes, electric guitars and zombie invasions. Takeuchi Tetsuro’s 1999 Wild Zero.

When it comes down to it however, no other decade rivals the 80ʼs for quirky inventions and idiosyncratic toys.

From self-tying high tops and hover boards in Back To The Future 2, to domestic droids and wise-cracking robots in Short Circuit, Batteries Not Included and Rocky IV.

Transport seemed so much cooler in Blade Runner, with flying cars; and like Douglas Quaid in Total Recall, most of us would hail a robot-driven taxi in a second over an Uber. That is of course if we couldn’t teleport ourselves to our destination like Seth Brundle attempted in The Fly.

Oh, the fun to be had if we could rock up to the next seance or haunted house with Peter Venkmanʼs proton pack from Ghostbusters; or turn envious heads at our high school reunion with ʻLisaʼ – the gorgeous synthetic doll that comes to life in Weird Science.

Although it doesnʼt always prove consistent, I like to think that one can usually gauge a filmʼs merits on itʼs ingenuity of the clever gadget. And, as costume design, special effects and props slowly fade into the green-screen abyss, audiences eagerly anticipate cinemaʼs next memorable gizmo.

(Article written for Le Bonbon, UK, 20/4/2016)

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