In the days leading up to the American premiere of Skyfall, the Shattered Lens has been revisiting the previous films in the James Bond franchise. Today we take a look at 1985’s A View To A Kill.
Along with bring the 14th “official” Bond film, it was also the last to star Roger Moore in the role of 007. On a personal note, it was also released the same year that I was born. I have to say that I hope I’ve aged better than this film has.
Much like The Spy Who Loved Me, A View To A Kill opens with a ski chase between Bond and a bunch of Russians. And while the chase itself isn’t all that exciting, it does lead to one of the better opening credits sequences of the Bond franchise.
Say what you will about A View To A Kill, it features the perfect theme song. I first heard Duran Duran’s title song long before I saw the actual film. After I graduated high school, I spent the summer in Italy and I can still remember hearing this song blaring from a loud speaker in Venice. With it combination of exuberant music and incoherent lyrics, the song is the perfect soundtrack for both an American girl abroad and a mid-80s spy flick.
A View To A Kill finds James Bond investigating the mysterious industrialist Max Zorin (Christopher Walken). Though Zorin is one of the world’s richest men, MI6 is suspicious of him. Microchips manufactured by Zorin Industries are turning up in Russian submarines. Perhaps even worse, it’s become apparent that, much like Auric Goldfinger, Zorin is a cheater. He owns a champion racehorse but it’s rumored that the horse is somehow being given steroids. MI6 sends Bond and racehorse trainer Sir Godfrey Tibbets (played, quite wonderfully, by Patrick Macnee) to investigate.
These scenes, in which an undercover Bond sneaks around Zorin’s estate in France, are my favorites of the film. Moore and Macnee make for a likable team and it’s fun to watch the two veteran actors play off each other. As well, since these scenes are more about detection than action, it’s easier to ignore the fact that Moore was 58 years old when he made A View To A Kill.
Unfortunately, the rest of the film doesn’t work as well and that’s unfortunate because A View To A Kill starts to get seriously weird as things progress. It turns out that Zorin isn’t just a shady businessman. No, he’s actually the product of Nazi genetic experimentation and, as a result, he’s both a genius and a complete sociopath. What this means is that, opposed to previous Bond antagonists, Zorin spends a lot more time giggling and smiling as if even he can’t believe how evil he is.
Bond ends up following Zorin and his aide, May Day (Grace Jones), to San Francisco. It’s there that Bond discovers that Zorin is planning on setting off a massive underground explosion, in hopes of causing an Earthquake that will totally destroy California. This will allow Zorin to corner the world microchip market and make a lot of money but, for the most part, Zorin just seems to want to do it so that he’ll have something to talk about the next time he gets together with his fellow megalomaniacs.
Once everyone arrives in San Francisco, James Bond ends up teaming up with geologist Stacy Sutton (played by Tanya Roberts, better known as Donna’s mother on That 70s Show). As for Zorin, he divides his time between holding business meetings on his blimp and laughing like a maniac while gunning down random people.
Seriously, it’s an odd film.
Whenever film critics are looking over the Bond films, A View to A Kill seems to be the Bond film that’s destined to get the least amount of respect and admittedly, this is an uneven entry in the Bond franchise. In Sinclair McKay’s excellent look at the oo7 films, The Man With The Golden Touch, Roger Moore is quoted as having been uncomfortable with just how violent A View To A Kill eventually turned out to be and, watching the film, he definitely had a point. It’s odd to see Moore’s light-hearted approach coupled with scenes in which Zorin gleefully kills a thousand people in a thousand seconds. It also didn’t help that, in this film, Roger Moore looked every bit of his 58 years. Never have I been as aware of stuntmen then when I watched A View To A Kill. Finally, Moore and Tanya Roberts have next to no chemistry together.
With all that in mind, A View To A Kill is something of a guilty pleasure and that’s largely because of the bad guys.
If anyone was born to play a Bond villain, it’s Christopher Walken and Max Zorin is an enjoyably over-the-top villain. Whereas previous Bond villains were motivated primarily by greed, Zorin is the first Bond sociopath and Walken seems to be having a blast playing bad. As opposed to the grim bad guys of the past, Zorin laughs and grins through the whole movie and Walken is a lot of fun to watch. Regardless of whatever other flaws that the film may have, Max Zorin is rightly regarded as one of the best of the cinematic Bond villains.
As played by Grace Jones, May Day is one of the franchise’s most memorable and flamboyant villainous lackeys. Much like Richard Kiel in The Spy Who Loved Me, Jones is such a physical presence that she dominates every scene that she’s in. In their scenes together, Walken and Jones have the type of chemistry that’s so noticeably lacking between Moore and Roberts.
As I previously stated, A View To A Kill was Roger Moore’s final appearance as James Bond. Before we started our look at the Bond films, I spent some time researching the history of both the franchise and the men who have played 007. One thing that quickly became apparent was that nearly everyone agreed that Roger Moore is a nice, likable guy but that he didn’t bring much more than likability to the role of James Bond. Having now rewatched the Bond films, I can say that Roger Moore’s performance as James Bond was and is seriously underrated. Yes, Moore may have brought a light touch to the role but his interpretation of Bond was perfect for the films that he was starring in. Much as it’s difficult to imagine Roger Moore in From Russia With Love, it’s just as difficult to visualize Sean Connery in The Spy Who Loved Me. Moore’s greatest talent may have been likability but that likability kept the Bond franchise alive and Moore’s interpretation of the role deserves better than to be continually dismissed.
With Roger Moore leaving the franchise, the role of James Bond would next be played by an actor named Timothy Dalton. If Moore was the likable, fun Bond, Dalton was, in many ways, the complete opposite. We’ll be taking a look at The Living Daylights tomorrow.