The good, the bad, and the Bond: Re-evaluating 007 – A View to a Kill
WE HAD TO TAKE some time to recover from the, er, all time high of Octopussy for this instalment of our Bond retrospective. There’s a reason for that – it’s Roger Moore’s final turn as Bond, and it’s called A View to a Kill.
Jozef Raczka: I really know how to pick ‘em. First Octopussy, now A View To A Kill. I’m glad I was able to skip Moonraker just for the maintaining of respect for Mr. Moore; I mean, this is the man that starred in The Spy Who Loved Me, very possibly the best Bond film. Now he’s, well, he got old. He was older than his love interest’s mother. Roger Moore is clearly embarrassed about how old he is; he can’t hide it, and it sinks the centre of this film. There’s still that glint in his eye but it’s hard to look past his obvious age.
Sorry, this is meant to be the positive half. Let’s get this out of the way: Duran Duran. I’m not particularly a fan of the bouffanted yacht-sex pop kings but they really knock it out of the park. I know, I spend so much of these reviews talking about the soundtracks but this one, ooh boy, this one is good. From the opening notes, you can tell that the bizarre combination of Barry and Duran has created something mystical, a funked-up little number that maybe dates it a little with quite how 80s it is.
But it’s catchy, it has a sinister edge to it and it suits the tone of the film down to a tee. Its use as a motif within the score (including a wonderful little ragtime number on a boat) is constantly fresh and not too overplayed as in some other films. Sure, the opening credits sequence itself is a bit forgettable, but that song. That song, man.
The other major highlight of the film is, once again, the villains. Christopher Walken and Grace Jones, Max Zorin and Mayday, the nazi-superchild horse breeder and Grace Jones. Just consider the very fact that we have a Bond film with Walken, and Peak Walken, as an insane horse breeding entrepreneur who wants to blow up silicon valley so that he can be the world’s leading microchip supplier. It’s barmy and the man is an idiot. He manages to find out who Bond is using his (indispensable) computer and then sits there grinning like the lovable doofus he is chatting about stallions. Oh, and he slaughters roughly hundreds of people with one machine gun.
Jones gets less to do but that still works fine because when you have Grace Jones in your film, you aren’t going to forget her easily. She imbues every line with just the right amount of authority, making you believe, even more than most of the muscled man-mountain henchpeople of the past, that she would kill you. Kill you dead.
I’m not going to lie – most of this film is a mess. The chase scenes aren’t particularly thrilling, Moore is past his prime and Fiona Fullerton makes no impression whatsoever as… well she’s in the film but goddamnit, I still love it. It’s a big, dumb, stupid film. It’s what Moonraker wanted to be in how, at every turn, it continues to be stupid you can’t believe it could get any stupider. And it always does. This is the quintessential Bad Bond film. It’s truly awful and I bloody well love it.
Daniel Abbott: Having watched Octopussy quite recently and thus re-witnessing the troughs to which this franchise sank, I came into A View to a Kill with the pall of a doomed man lingering, feeling more than a little like Damocles. Was Christopher Walken as amazing as I remembered? Was Roger Moore as bone-creakingly, ill-fittingly, sweat-wipingly old as I remembered? Could the film be as fucking rubbish as I remembered? Yes, yes and… not quite.
It’s certainly naff, dated and boring throughout but, unlike Octopussy, it’s not unbearably so. View is at least more restrained in its well-shot setpieces, including a particularly thrilling ski chase opening, but it’s all padding to buffer up a meandering, unsettled narrative that involves Christopher Walken AKA Max Zorin AKA Christopher fuckin’ Walken flooding Silicon Valley by detonating a warhead on the San Andreas Fault.
The plot is your standard Bond fluff, a framework upon which lumbering camp is laid (Jenny Flex, May Day – what?). The pacing is, at times, agonisingly slow, particularly when Bond investigates Zorin’s horse-doping alongside Sir Godfrey Tibbett (original Avenger Patrick Macnee). The investigatory process has always been one of the worst recurring narrative quirks in Bond, and it’s at its worst here when we know exactly who the villain is – it’s the Nazi genetic experiment superchild with a microchip dynasty. Here’s a tip, chaps – look at him!
Elsewhere, Tanya Roberts’ Stacy Sutton is an awful doormat who doesn’t stop shrieking or whimpering, whether she has legitimate reason (trapped in a burning elevator) or not (every other scene). She’s only a step up from Dr. Christmas Jones. Moore, for his worth, has acknowledged since that he was too old for the part, but his wheezing in front of green screens had never looked so unconvincing.
He’s very spry for a 59 year-old, to be sure, but it’s embarrassing to watch a man reaching bus pass eligibility grappling with Christopher fuckin’ Walken atop the Golden Gate Bridge – and winning. It’s hard to believe that director John Glen had made Moore seem almost dangerous in For Your Eyes Only – here, he might as well be a pillow. Safely reassuring, certainly, but if that eyebrow had any edge it was long gone. Even Lois Maxwell, in her final turn as Miss Moneypenny looks, finally, tired.
The fact that Walken spends most of his screentime chuckling like a loon (presumably at the script) is supplemented by the Amazonian presence of one May Day, AKA Grace Jones in her 80s heyday. (As if that matters; she still suplexes bears, no doubt.) The duo are electric, making for two of the most weird and wonderful Bond villains in the entire series. It also helps that they’re not content to sit back and send in scores of underlings to do their job, like the Hugo Draxes or Blofelds of the world. They’re a proactive force to Moore’s geriatric one.
And, obviously, Duran Duran’s fantastic theme song is just that, and John Barry’s infinite wisdom weaves it seamlessly into the score, albeit a little too often. Really, A View to a Kill is about what you’d get if you tried to make Bond sleek and modern with a 59 year-old in the titular suit: An incredibly lame, often irritating, sometimes inspired mess.
And, for all of Walken’s twisted brilliance, we could have had David Bowie as Zorin. Dance, magic dance.