Visit London Zoo and you have the chance to meet, and even adopt, one of the stars of Skyfall, but I wouldn't ask for his autograph. Raja the komodo dragon makes his screen debut in a scene in Macau's Golden Dragon Casino. The reptile was measured and filmed in his London enclosure and recreated in the casino's komodo dragon pit using the magic of CGI. In the scene, James Bond falls into the pit and fights off a casino thug before escaping by jumping on to the back of a komodo dragon and leaping to safety. Meanwhile, a second komodo dragon rushes out from the shadows, grabs the thug by the leg and drags him away and presumably eats him.
To me, the scene, incorporating a bizarre death by exotic animal, captures the essence of the Bond films. Raja the komodo dragon takes his place alongside, among other animals, the piranhas of You Only Live Twice, the sharks of Thunderball, the alligators and crocodiles of Live and Let Die, and the scorpion of Diamonds Are Forever in the Bond villain's menagerie of dangerous animals. Indeed, director Sam Mendes had Bond step on to the komodo dragons in tribute to the scene in Live and Let Die in which Bond uses the backs of crocodiles as stepping stones.
But seeing the komodo dragon reminded me of the decision to replace the giant centipede that crawls up Bond's body in the novel of Dr No with a tarantula in the film version. Raymond Benson suggests in The James Bond Bedtime Companion that the producers felt that the threat posed by the centipede, not the most well-known of creatures, would have been lost on most audience members, whereas tarantulas are popularly perceived to be deadly (although one can imagine practical problems filming with a centipede). In reality, giant centipedes are about as dangerous as the most venomous species of tarantula; both are harmful to humans, but neither is (usually) deadly. As for the tarantula in Dr No, it appears to be the pink-toed tarantula, which is venomous enough to kill frogs, but not James Bond.
In the same vein as the centipede, I wonder whether the impact of the komodo dragon scene is reduced, and that the peril faced by Bond not fully appreciated, because of uncertainties about how dangerous komodo dragons actually are to humans. In fact, while cases of komodo dragons attacking, let alone killing, humans are rare, they are by no means unknown. In their native habitats on the islands of eastern Indonesia, komodo dragons hunt small and domestic animals, such as snakes, chickens, goats, cats and dogs, and occasionally larger animals, including water buffalo. And in areas of human settlement or activity, attacks on humans have inevitably been recorded. Recently, two workers at Komodo National Park were bitten by a komodo dragon that entered a park office. The men were immediately transferred to hospital; the saliva of Komodo dragons is toxic, and if bites are untreated, septicaemia can set in. Worse cases were recorded in 2007, when a boy of nine was mauled by a komodo dragon in Komodo National Park, and in 2009, when a farmer was mauled after falling from a tree. Tragically, both died later from their injuries.
So to answer the question posed in the post’s title, the komodo dragons in Skyfall do pose a threat to James Bond, and deserve as much respect as a dangerous animal as do sharks, piranhas and crocodiles.