Originally an exhibition opened at the Beaulieu Motor Museum to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the James Bond Franchise before moving to its more permanent home at the London Film Museum in Covent Garden in 2014, the Bond in Motion exhibition, an assortment of vehicles and props from the spy series continues to grow and expand with the subsequent expansion of the franchise with the last iteration Spectre. A celebratory exhibition showcasing the cars from a variety of brands including Aston Martin and BMW that have assisted the world’s most famous fictional secret agent, its continued presence has seen delivery of cars from the latest Bond film including shells and props such as the latest Aston Martin DB10, the prototype car not released into production but developed for the purpose of the film. Principally the attraction of the museum as a whole will come from the appreciation of both classic and modern cars and fans of the Bond automotive history on film.
Located in the London Film Museum just off Covent Garden the exhibition itself takes place below street level in the basement of the location however it does provide access to those with limited mobility and is open and spacious enough to provide good access and more importantly, photography options to capture some shots of these beautiful cars. The exhibition has been updated to reflect the evolving nature of the franchise with a cafe serving a limited assortment of snacks and refreshments towards the back of the exhibit and what was previously the store now a collection of the various movie posters both domestic and international showcasing the film series in different territories. With the latest iteration of the franchise due to continue with No Time To Die in 2020, it’s safe to assume the museum will continue to evolve and adapt for a willing audience moving into the new decade.
I first visited the exhibit in October 2014 following the release of Skyfall, the 23rd entry in the spy franchise. The allure of the series cars, weapons and gadgets to tempting a prospect and indeed it was all I had imagined an exhibition of this nature to be. I decided to return this winter to see the recent additions following the release of Spectre and was pleasantly surprised to see the attraction still open and operating in its home in Covent Garden. Over the last five years there have been some noticeable changes, the gift store is now located in the entrance hall and somewhat reduced from it’s original offering though you imagine any casual fan of the franchise will have visited in the last few years, it’s attraction now presumably targeted towards the more passionate attende. Before your descent into the basement there is a brief display of posters and design sketches on the small upper floor level which was interesting to go and see, purely from a fan’s perspective I always enjoy these small insights into the design process and whilst there was nothing groundbreaking it was still an interesting addition to the exhibit.
On arrival when you descend you are presented with two of the more iconic Rolls Royce from Bonds legacy, the Phantom III from Goldfinger and the Silver Cloud II from View to a Kill. It’s a testament to the longevity of the franchise and the pedigree of the companies the series could attract it open’s with these two car’s as its opening attraction. The Phantom III from Goldfinger was one of the earliest memorable Bond vehicles I remember from watching that film when I was a child, it had a menace and character of its own in contrast to the classic lines of the DB5 Bond drives through Europe. Seeing the vehicle there made the exhibit feel special, it imbued my visit with a sense of purpose and decorum, for a modest entry fee I was standing before one of my childhood icons and memories. My first, and indeed, ‘my’ Bond will always be Roger Moore, his charm and disarming approach to the character in stark contrast to the most latest iteration, his last film A View To A Kill is represented by The Phantom, a beautiful vehicle in its own right.
From there the exhibition expands to take in the showcase of both Bond’s automotive and vehicular history, with portions of the exhibition dedicated to the boats and water based transport used in the film. I enjoyed seeing for example the gadget boat from the Thames chase in The World Is Not Enough on display beside the crocodile infiltration suite from Octopussy. Both on display and accessible providing a chance to get close and see detail not previously possibly when viewing on the big screen. Released at the turn of the millenium the small gadget boat is central to one of the more memorable and spectacular opening sequence in the series history and to be able to actually stand beside it and look at the various controls and labels inside was a privilege. Not all the exhibitions provide as close proximity, a predominant amount of the modern cars on display are roped off I would presume as loaned exhibits from private exhibits or even just the cost and value of the cars. However both the exhibits here and in Beaulieu do have a certain level of faith and trust in their audience to allow access to the extent they do, especially the older less famous vehicles.
The more recent film series starring Daniel Craig provides a greater assortment of vehicles and exhibits with multiple cars from his first film Casino Royale including the damaged Aston Martin used in the night time shoot. The same model carried over into Quantum of Solace is also on display. From watching the various production videos and media material released you do learn how many of these vehicles were used in the various chases and crash sequences, there may be more original Bond vehicles in existence that exhibited in London but certainly it does feel like one of the single largest collection of the films cars in one location and certainly a destination for any fan of the franchise to attend should they have an opportunity. It was certainly enjoyable to stand looking enviously through the polished glass at the various Aston Martin’s on display, they really are beautiful machines and resonate as much of a presence as the actors inside of them. In the same way the Enterprise is in the fabric of Star Trek, an element of the Bond series is his car, preferably, with the wings of Aston Martin on the bonnet.
With a Franchise spanning over five decades, any fan will tend to have an actor that personified Bond as their own, for myself that was Roger Moore in my youth but when it came to the big screen it was Pierce Brosnan and there is a great selection of cars from the Brosnan era film series as they switched to using the German car company BMW in the first three films before an eventual return to Aston Martin in his last movie Die Another Day. There is a large prominent exhibit of the two featured vehicles from this last entry in the Brosnan series with the grey Aston and the green Jaguar which made a nice visual comparison of the two side by side. I did have a great weakness for the Z8 as used in the The World Is Not Enough and they have one of the production models with the missile launchers built into the car’s frame. Thankfully not the production model that ended up being cut in half during filming. All of the car exhibitions come with a short video clip showcasing the vehicle in use during the film, the aforementioned BMW Z8 highlighted with the cars use during the raid sequence at the caviar facility.
Tucked away towards the back of the exhibit is the car from the Living Daylights, the first of the two films in the Dalton series which served as somewhat of a transition from the camp action of Moore to the more debonair suave portrayal of Brosnan. I always enjoyed the two films from Dalton, License to Kill feels more in keeping perhaps with the modern interpretation of Bond and could be argued to be more aligned with the original tone of the character in book form but it did miss a signature vehicle besides the tanker truck chase towards the end, and I can imagine the difficulties of parking one of those in the basement in London. However, Living Daylights featured a great chase sequence using the Aston Martin on display with the skies attachment protruding from the vehicles body. This was the first official Bond movie I remember our family owning as a child on cassette tape, I remember watching that sequence in particular for the wonderfully staged escape sequence resolved on top of a cello.
The rear of the exhibit is dedicated to a cafe with an arrangement of food options though given the sparsity of use I do imagine should a sufficient amount of vehicles and props be donated after their use in the next release it may be on show there. I did enjoy the poster exhibit where the gift shop was previously located, visually it’s a nice looking area with the original movie posters on display from a variety of the franchise films international appeal. Certain franchises given their longevity and impact do deserve a place of memorial, the Harry Potter exhibit in Watford is a great example of this and continues to be as popular now as it ever was with new additions and events continually ensuring its prominence. Bond has been in the public domain for over 5 decades and has built up a wealth of treasured memories in the props, vehicles and gadgets it has to display, whether this location can continue to expand and grow is dubious given the expense of operating in London but it does serve and continues to evolve and change over the years.
With the production pace of the film series slowing in recent years following the release of Spectre, new material for the exhibit will naturally decline given the size and space available without plans for expansion or growth from its current location. Certainly in Beaulieu there was room to show case a greater range of the props used in the series and in the film museum this is constricted somewhat. How the long the exhibit remains would presumably be based on its popularity and draw. With the latest film showcasing the DB5 it doesn’t immediately seem there will be any new star attractions to draw an audience back. But like the Harry Potter exhibit, in itself it’s a fascinating glimpse into the production of these films that have spanned five decades and has seen usage and development shift from the aesthetically pleasing, historical Phantom to the streamlined, almost futuristic Aston Martin DB series. In this respect even a curiosity of the subject matter warrants in my opinion a visit to the exhibition.
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