We may not have gotten a new James Bond film this year because of MGM’s money issues, but Bond’s Astin Martin got to star in a spy movie of his own, Disney Pixar’s Cars 2. The dashing Finn McMissile, voiced by the even more dashing Michael Caine, is a silver-blue custom automobile. His body is based on the 1964 Austin Martin DB5, but with a BMW-type grill as a mustache and his namesake fins on the back. His license plate is 314 FMCM, also a Bond homage as his cars’ plates often used the initials JB. (The 314 is a reference Caine’s birthday.)
Finn has lots of spy gadgets, including headlight missiles, grappling hooks, hydrofoils, tire magnets, a computer, a camera and even a submarine mode! He, and other spy cars, can change their looks with holographic costumes. He uses all of his gadgets in an opening sequence similar to the pre-title sequences that set up Bond films. He drives up and onto an oil derrick using his magnetic tires, and then suspends himself from his grapplers to eavesdrop on the villain, Professor Z, and his henchmen. He gets caught, and has to escape, using his hydrofoils and then diving underwater.
He teams up with Agent Holley Shiftwell, a lovely sports car equipped with tasers and with wings. Much of the more, um, Bondian elements are not present. Finn is very suave, but there’s no seduction in Cars’ world! They are out to stop a mysterious baddie. All they have seen is a picture of his engine. But they do know he has hired the evil Professor Z to create a gadget that will discredit a new renewable fuel.
Professor Z is a hilarious take on the Bond villain. He’s a Zundapp Janus, a small car that was built to look the same from the front or the back. He has a monocle and the requisite Eastern European accent. His henchmen, also a Bond staple, are all “lemons”. Gremlins, Pacers and Yugos.
There’s a French informant, Tomber, who is a black market parts dealer. He doesn’t want to spill any knowledge to Finn, and there’s a huge chase scene through a French marketplace based on the famous Les Halles. Tomber is eventually convinced by Holley—and her tasers!
Yes, indeed, there is torture in this kiddy film. There’s even a death, and stacks of junked, cubed cars, during one of Professor Z’s more ominous moments. Old tow truck Mater is even gassed and goes on a bit of a trip. Finn, Holley and Mater are kidnapped and tied to the huge gears inside Big Ben(tley) and they, in classic Bond fashion, have only minutes to escape before being crushed inside the giant clockworks.
But biggest homage to our beloved JB, is in the sets and the styling. The framework of the spy plot is the World Grand Prix, a series of three races that take place around the world. The races are sponsored by a tycoon, and they open in Tokyo at a huge party. The party scene is where our heroes from the original Cars film get sucked into the world of the international car of mystery. It’s very ritzy and modern and glamorous. James and his tux would fit right in.
The next race is in Italy, in a made up town called Porto Corso. It’s a seaside resort and very Old World European, with red roofed stucco houses built into hillsides, and cobbled streets. It’s full of classic Italian cars—some of them Mamas in headscarves bearing plates of pasta. It’s from here that the spies grab a train to France. There’s even a scene in a casino! I know, right? In a kid’s movie.
Our jet setters (and there is a spy jet, fully equipped and named Sidderly) then travel to London. It’s there that we get one final chase scene, where the villain is unmasked after a battle between the spies and race cars and Professor Z’s lemons, plus a confession in front of the Queen!
I’m always surprised and delighted to see how many mystery and thriller characters, plots and themes get referenced, re-used, recycled and re-imagined. This isn’t the first time Bond tropes have shown up in a work for children—but I think this could be the most obvious introduction to the many pleasures of watching a beautiful man (or car) and lovely ladies battle outrageous criminals with nutty gadgets in exotic locations. How wonderful to see how a character that was created in the 1950’s can bring so much fun and entertainment to children created in the 2000’s.
For more articles about 007, check out The Bond Hotline feature.
Amy Dalton is a buyer for a large, Midwestern library system. She has written news and reviews for several book and film sites over the years.