“I’m going to redraw the map. And when I do, the whole world will know my name, my grandfather’s name, the glory of my people. No one can resist me.”
The James Bond movies features some of the most dangerous female villains in the spy genre, but they always play second fiddle to the franchise’s main baddies, and typically they’re dispatched quickly before any given film’s third act. The same can’t be said for the villainous and beautiful Elektra King, whose turn from Bond Girl and ally to the main villain (and the franchise’s only leading female antagonist) is one of the highlights of the 1999 Bond flick, The World is Not Enough.
Pierce Brosnan’s third outing as 007 is a divisive film among Bond fans and critics alike, with some lambasting the mediocre writing, campy tone, and uneven acting, particularly from Denise Richards as a nuclear physicist, Christmas Jones. In contrast, others hail the movie as one of the most entertaining from Pierce Brosnan’s four-film run as Bond. Film critic Roger Ebert awarded The World is Not Enough three and a half stars out of four. Personally, I enjoyed most of the film, particularly the scenes with Judi Dench’s stern and severe but always enjoyable M, and Sophie Marceau’s scene-stealing performance as the sexy, mysterious, and duplicitous Elektra King.
There’s a nuance to Elektra, the damaged and spoiled daughter of an oil tycoon, that’s sometimes missing from other Bond villainesses of the franchise, who are often cut and paste femme fatales or second rate henchwomen. They’re evil because the plot calls for it and they’re never really given any motivations outside of sleeping with and killing Bond (although don’t get me wrong, I still love all of them).
Initially fooling Bond and presenting herself as a naïve kindly heiress, it’s not long before the gloves come off, and Elektra reveals herself as a vengeful master manipulator who uses the intoxicating effect she has on men to her own advantage. She ambitious and calculating, and she plays the long game like a boss as she patiently waits for the pieces of her master plan to come together. Elektra is the polar opposite of a docile damsel in distress; she’s a spider waiting for a hapless man to stumble into her intricate web of deception.
Unlike the other female villains in the series, she’s motivated by personal revenge, but the revenge is merely a fork in Elektra’s rise to power. She also wants fame and glory and to become memorable in a way her father never could. She’s well aware of the influence of her family, and she wants nothing more than to outshine all those who came before her and contributed to her family’s wealth and status, but to do that, she must destroy her father who abandoned her in her time of need.
Revenge is nothing new to the Bond films. Diamonds are Forever opens with 007 killing his nemesis Ernst Stavros Blofeld, the man responsible for the murder of Bond’s wife, Tracy (of course, the man Bond kills is revealed as a decoy in a later film). License to Kill follows a vengeful Bond as he goes rogue and hunts the men responsible for the torture and maiming of his close friend and ally Felix Leiter and the murder of Felix’s wife. In The World is Not Enough, Elektra’s vengeance isn’t fueled by the death of a loved one; rather, hers stems from the ineptitude and inaction of the men around her, particularly her father, Sir Robert.
Elektra embarks on the journey of revenge after she is kidnapped and held hostage by international terrorist Renard (Robert Carlyle), who demands $5 million in exchange for her freedom. When she realizes that her father won’t pay the ransom, thanks to advice from his family friend M, Elektra turns the tables on Renard, seducing him and causing him to fall madly in love with her. She cuts off part of her ear, instructing Renard to send it to her father, and later escapes and orchestrates Sir Robert’s death, an act which brings Bond into her orbit when MI6 instructs him to protect the seemingly traumatized heiress.
With Renard posing as the main threat, Elektra becomes Bond’s lover to distract him and enacts her plan to destroy Istanbul, leaving her pipeline as the only channel for oil to reach the West. Bond learns of Elektra’s true nature when she kidnaps M. Her plan moments away from reaching completion, Elektra confidently has Bond and Christmas Jones brought to her hideout, and she tortures Bond, insisting that she wields a power no man can resist. Eventually, Bond is freed by the arrival of his allies, and he gives chase to the fleeing Elektra. They have a tense standoff, with Bond holding Elektra at gunpoint and demanding that she calls off her plans to destroy the city.
Elektra’s overconfidence and ego ultimately are her downfall. Ignoring the gun trained on her, she tells Bond he won’t kill her. “You’ll miss me,” she says with a seductive smile, never believing that her lover would kill her in cold blood. She then radios Renard and instructs him to proceed with the plan, but before she can even finish her sentence, Bond kills her with a single shot, proclaiming, “I never miss.” It’s a dark ending, made even darker in the film’s novelization, where she doesn’t die immediately after Bond shoots her, instead laying on the bed and softly singing a lullaby as she succumbs to death.
The World is Not Enough isn’t the best film in the franchise, but it did give us one of the most memorable and scheming villains of the series, and Elektra will go down in infamy as the woman who nearly tricked and bested Bond.
What do you think about the character? Let me know in the comments, and check out my website for all things pop culture. Stay nerdy!