Memo to bad guys in James Bond movies: For the umpteenth time, if you get the drop on 007, just pull the trigger, OK?
Forget about strapping him to a table and dismembering him with a powerful laser.
Forget about handcuffing him to a nuclear bomb.
Forget about tossing him into a shark tank.
Forget about locking him in an airtight room and releasing deadly cyanide gas.
Keep it simple, stupid. You're all packing heat -- use it!
Don't you guys get it? Every time you try one of your exotic methods of eliminating Bond, the man wriggles out of it and comes back to haunt you.
You people are what, 0-for-18 when it comes to getting rid of this guy?
Actually, we can now make that 0-for-19, because in the new Bond film, "The World is Not Enough," Bond again foils a thoroughly exotic (and dopey) execution planned in his honor. We'll discuss this, in all its glorious stupidity, later.
For now, let's see how this new Bond movie stacks up to those of the past by studying the seven critical factors that comprise every Bond movie:
1. Cool Gadgets Factor
Let's see: rocket-launching BMW roadster?
Ski jacket that inflates instantly into a bullet-proof protective cocoon?
Yes, yes, Bond again rides off to save the Free World with more gizmos than you'd find in a Sharper Image store.
But the grand-prize winner in the gadget category in "World" is a sleek, black speedboat with afterburners that looks like something Big Daddy Don Garlits used in drag races.
Naturally, the boat can change directions like a hummingbird, corner like a Formula I racer, dive like a Trident submarine and -- oh, but you saw this one coming -- convert to use on land.
(By the way, Q, played by veteran Desmond Llewelyn, actually retires from the spook business in this movie. Which begs the question: Can a guy who spent nearly 40 years designing flame-throwing galoshes, personal jetpacks and underwater motorcycles that do 0-to-60 in 4.5 seconds really find contentment playing golf and helping his wife put up window screens?)
2. The Bond Girl Factor
A major letdown, at least from an acting standpoint. (Then again, watching a Bond movie for the acting is like watching pro wrestling for fashion tips.)
The leading babe in "World" is Sophie Marceau, who plays Elektra King, of whom the kindest thing that can be said is: She's no Honey Rider.
Honey Rider, of course, was the Bond girl played by Ursula Andress, who came strolling out of the surf in "Dr. No" wearing that famous white bikini that took your breath away.
In "World," Marceau spends the movie flouncing around in low-cut gowns and silk robes while sporting a curious French accent (she's supposed to be an Englishman's daughter) and a hairstyle that can best be described as "Cher: The Early Years."
Denise Richards plays Christmas Jones, a busty young thing who's supposed to be a tight-T-shirt-and-short-shorts-wearing nuclear physicist, which you'll find believable only if you could also envision, say, Mike Tyson as a concert cellist.
3. Incredible Chase Scenes Factor
This one opens with a keeper: Bond on the Thames in pursuit of some floozy who tried to whack him with a high-powered rifle after a huge explosion that killed an oil tycoon, who just happened to be one of the dearest friends of the head of the British Secret Service.
(Yes, in true Bond fashion, you often need the Cliffs Notes to follow the plot.)
Anyway, during this chase, which ends with Bond flying through the air and latching onto a rope connected to a hot-air balloon, 007's boat and the boat of the floozy destroy, unofficially:
17 wharfside restaurants;
two dozen cars;
a dozen working piers;
three or four tankers;
a sprawling marketplace;
a London police boat.
By any conservative estimate, the chase causes in the neighborhood of $2 billion worth of damage, not including millions in personal liability claims from all the innocent bystanders running in terror for their lives as the boats shoot by.
In real life, they'd be stacking bodies like cordwood after a chase like this. But to Bond and his superiors, of course, it's just another day at the office.
4. Smug Arch-Villain Factor
Another major let-down.
The arch-villain here is a notorious terrorist named Renard (Robert Carlyle).
Renard has a bullet lodged in his head that has -- stay with us here -- rendered him incapable of using many of his senses (taste, smell, touch), but which will make him grow physically stronger and more psychotic until it eventually kills him.
Whew. Try getting your HMO to pay for that.
In any event, Renard is intent on blowing up the world with a nuclear bomb -- a plot device that feels incredibly old, doesn't it?
But he never projects the sheer menace and psychotic unpredictability of such classic Bond villains as Goldfinger ("Goldfinger") or Ernst Stavro Blofeld ("You Only Live Twice").
And he's strictly a lightweight compared to the greatest Bond villain of all time, that stiletto-toed madwoman herself, Rosa Klebb ("From Russia With Love").
Let us tell you something, Mis-ter Renard.
We knew Rosa Klebb, OK?
We grew up with Rosa Klebb.
And you, sir, are no Rosa Klebb.
5. Exotic Eliminations Gone Awry Factor
There is a rich legacy of inept bad guys who screw up killing Bond time after time. This dates all the way back to the first Bond movie, "Dr. No," in which the bad guys drop a poisonous tarantula on 007 as he sleeps.
You remember the outcome: Bond wakes up, sweats out a few frightening seconds as the spider slowly crawls up his arm, then flicks the filthy critter off him and wastes it with the business end of a slipper.
Again, if you're close enough to Bond to drop a poisonous spider on him, you're close enough to drill him with a .45.
In "World," Bond is captured by the bad guys and strapped into some sort of ancient Turkish torture machine designed to snap the victim's neck.
But instead of turning the lever right away and watching Bond's neck crack like a walnut, the female villain -- we won't spoil it by telling you who she is -- ends up yapping and sucking face with Bond for 10 minutes until of course he escapes by well, we won't spoil that part for you, either.
Let's just say there's nobody weeping over 007's body at the local funeral parlor in the next scene.
6. Dazzling Locales Factor
In service to Her Majesty, Bond has traveled all over Europe, the Caribbean, Russia, the Far East and the United States. He has battled evil in space ("Moonraker"), under the sea ("The Spy Who Loved Me"), even aboard the Orient Express ("From Russia With Love").
In "World," Bond travels to the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, the oil fields of Azerbaijan, Turkey, the Caspian Sea and the sleepy Ohio suburb of Richfield.
OK, he doesn't travel to Richfield. But the exotic scenery here is once again breathtaking, although a Hindu shrine with perpetually burning flames shooting from the rocks looked so fake it could have been built by a high school drama club.
7. Classic One-Liners Factor
Most of Bond's best one-liners involve double-entendres, ranging from the mild to the racy.
In "You Only Live Twice," when the character Tanaka explains: "In Japan, men always come first, women always come second," Bond smoothly replies: "I might just retire here."
In "World," the closest Bond comes to that degree of verbal dexterity is when the retiring Q introduces Bond to his replacement (John Cleese).
"Does that make him R?" Bond responds.
Then again, maybe you had to be there.