The Film: A View To A Kill (1985)
The Principals: Director: John Glen, Roger Moore, Tanya Roberts, Christopher Walken, Grace Jones, Patrick Macnee, Robert Brown, Lois Maxwell, Desmond Llewellyn, Allison Doody, Dolph Lundgren.
The Premise: In this outing, James Bond is pitted against Max Zorin, a rich and sociopathic industrialist who is looking to corner the world microchip market by destroying Silicon Valley.
Is It Good: It’s undeniably one of the worst Bond films, definitely bottom five, probably bottom three. That’s not to say that it doesn’t have a few noteworthy things going for it; but never in the history of the entire franchise was it in need of a reboot than it was after this movie. Even Roger Moore, who was 57 at the time he made it, has freely admitted that he was way too long in the tooth to do it: “I was only about four hundred years too old for the part.” His stunt double probably should have gotten co-top billing for him this go-round. I liked the creative editing they did when Bond grabbed the shotgun at Stacey Sutton’s house and did a combat roll behind the stair railing to take out some of Zorin’s henchmen that looked like it would have broken Moore’s hip. How Bond didn’t have a coronary running up the steps of the Eiffel Tower I don’t know.
The film looked to be trying to be make a change with the times, incorporating a vilain that was looking to harness an industry that was taking the world by storm. But one of the elements of a typical Bond film up to then that suffered was the Cold War element, which was reduced to a forgettable romp in the hay by Bond and Russian agent Pola Ivanova. The Russians were essentially reduced to clowns here, both in that instance and in the opening sequence. So Moore was too old and his frequent nemeses looked like Keystone Cops. Doesn’t make for a very compelling Bond adventure.
Of course, the factor that even begins to salvage this film is Christopher Walken as Max Zorin. Glorious. Is there any more “Christopher Walken” character than Zorin? Not that many if there are. Walken doesn’t just chew scenery in this movie, he sits down to a buffet. Zorin is an faux-erudite, entitled and maniacal asshole who has the moral compunction and compassion of a Terminator. You’ve got to wonder why, at the end of the movie, his right hand man and blimp pilot is hanging with this guy after Zorin has exterminated every employee and is planning mass genocide with the nonchalance of someone sitting down to a cup of tea. For self preservation’s sake, the guy should have popped a few dozen caps in Zorin with his uzi and then blimped his way to a non extradition treaty country. Walken was deliciously evil in this movie.
As for Grace Jones, I’ve never had a problem with her being in this movie. Bond films have frequently been of the moment, and Grace Jones was definitely of the moment at the time. And her Mayday was a unique Bond hench and (gulp) Bond Girl. Jones wasn’t an issue in this movie except for two scenes: Bond having to slink his old ass into bed with her and when she helps Bond save Silicon Valley. She got the same inane Jaws treatment from Moonraker at the end and that just didn’t play.
Tanya Roberts was, well…Tanya Roberts, slinking her way through the movie. She was very sexy and has held it together nicely over the years, but she was easily the most vacuous Bond Girl and maybe the worst in the franchise’s run. Who knows, maybe Roberts could have made something of the role if Stacey Sutton hadn’t been written as all sizzle with no steak. Beyond helping Bond identify Zorin’s plan with that Goodle Earth table of Silicon Valley, she was written as nothing more than a shrinking violet with a tremendous body. The best Bond Girls, whether good or evil have always challenged him as an equal. Hell, Mayday was a better Bond Girl than Sutton. Also, nice shout out the relationship between The Avengers and Bond by having Patrick Macnee put in an appearance. And am I mistaken? Was that a fresh faced Dolph Lundgren, a Daniel Benzali with some hair and future Grail quester I saw in the background talent?
There were some quite good action sequences in the film. That aforementioned chase sequence in Paris for example. But again, we keep coming back to what Moore was able to physically pull off. He was very game, but still…. On a whole, A View To A Kill just seems like Bond Lite, going through the motions, and going for more laughs than anything, some unintentionally. I find it watchable, mostly for Walken, but Timothy Dalton’s reboot two years later was very welcome, I’m sure even by Moore himself.
Is It Worth A Look: For Walken only…and Duran Duran’s opening titles and song. But it’s way too slapstick for a real Bond enthusiast and offers too much ammunition for Roger Moore-as-Bond haters.
Random Anecdotes: Great one via Wikipedia that I didn’t previously know: Maud Adams is said to be visible as an extra in one of the Fisherman’s Wharf scenes; in the DVD documentary Inside A View to a Kill, Adams explains that she was visiting her friend Moore on location and ended up in the crowd, but admits she is unable to actually see herself in the film; In the same documentary, director John Glen confirms that Adams appears as an extra, but does not specify where she is visible. The appearance remained a mystery for years until she was identified as standing in the background during one of the Fisherman’s Wharf scenes. As a result, Adams appears in three Bond films, previously in The Man with the Golden Gun in 1974 and in Octopussy in 1983.
Cinematic Soulmates: Octopussy, Moonraker