Well, let’s wash the weird taste of Never Say Never Again out of our mouths by heading back to the once and future Bond franchise. And today we say goodbye to the third Bond, Sir Roger Moore. And folks, it’s a doozy. There are certain opinions towards the James Bond franchise that seem to be mostly universal. People love Sean Connery, they love Goldfinger, they think Moonraker went too far, and they think A View to a Kill is a bit of a trainwreck. And they aren’t necessarily wrong. A View to a Kill is a mess of a movie. It’s kind of become tradition that the Bonds go out on a stinker, or at least what’s considered a stinker, and this is no exception. This is a film where Roger Moore was 58 years old, we got Christopher Walken putting in a thoroughly Christopher Walken performance, and where it’s most well-known and beloved aspect is the delightfully 80’s theme song performed by Duran Duran. It features lackluster fights, far too much information about horses, and a shocking misunderstanding of what Silicon Valley is, and how it operates. And yet, I really, really adore this movie. Similarly to Diamonds Are Forever, there’s just something about the lunacy that this movie revels in that I can’t help but adore. This is not a good movie. This is not a good James Bond movie. And yet, it works for me. I have a hell of a time with this movie, and I hope to make at least some sense of that statement in the article to come.
The fact that this movie even exists in this form is a little shocking. After Octopussy, where the producers seemingly had to drag Roger Moore back kicking an screaming, you’d think that he maybe wouldn’t want to come back for a seventh time at bat. And yet, here he is, delivering his swan song. And why did he finally decide that this film would be his last? Well, it may be apocryphal, but the story I’ve always heard is that he found out he was older than the Bond Girl, Tanya Roberts’, father, showing him that maybe he should move on from the franchise. Which is probably a solid decision. More so than the other story, which is that he thought this movie focused too much on blood and violence, which doesn’t exactly track, and probably shows that in the then current climate of action cinema, Roger Moore was going to quickly become a fossil. But even besides Moore it’s pretty clear when watching the film that everyone involved in the franchise was running out of steam, and in dire need of fresh blood and fresh ideas. There were some great ideas in this film, liking getting Duran Duran to deliver a radio-hit of a song, bucking the trend of ballads the films had been on for a decade, or even the potential casting of David Bowie as Max Zorin, which would have been fascinating and delightful. But, despite some of those interesting ideas, what this movie ended up becoming is a rather muddled, slow-moving mess, that kind of becomes a slow-motion car crash. I can’t keep my eyes off of it.
The film starts off with James Bond, resplendent in a white snow-suit, investigating the death of 003 in Siberia. He comes across 003, dead in a snow drift, holding a microchip. Bond then has to escape some Russian soldiers, and obviously ends up taking the tread off of a snowmobile and having to snowboard to freedom while “California Girls” plays. We’re then tossed into what may be the most 80’s thing of all time, the title sequence to this movie. Duran Duran’s song rocks, but it’s clear that Maurice Binder only watched the ski sequence in the beginning of the film, because that’s all we get. And once that’s taken care of we head to MI6 headquarters where we hear what makes that microchip special. It’s apparently a ripoff of British technology that keeps circuitry safe from EMP attacks, and it could only have come from a man named Max Zorin who owns one of the world’s largest technological equipment companies. So Bond is send to a fancy horse-race where one of Zorin’s stallions is competing to start scoping him out. Bond finds Zorin and his visually striking companion May Day at the race, and after it’s pointed out that his horse is probably using steroids, Bond decides Zorin is sketchy enough to warrant investigation. Bond then heads to Paris to meet with a private investigator who has been looking into Zorin. Really all the man imparts is that Zorin has a horse auction coming up, and he’s then killed by May Day wielding a deadly butterfly on a fishing-line. She then escapes by base-jumping off of the Eiffel Tower, confirming some of Bond’s suspicions. So Bond and a man named Sir Godfrey Tibbett, an expert on horses, and they crash one of Zorin’s parties at his mansion in France.
Bond and Tibbett arrive at Zorin’s palatial estate, and Bond immediately begins investigating. Although it’s Tibbett who discovers that there’s a secret laboratory below the stables, so he’s really of more help. But Bond does pressure May Day into sleeping with him, so I guess he’s getting things accomplished too. Bond and Tibbett end up investigating the secret lab, and find proof that Zorin and a German scientist have been genetically engineering horses and giving them steroids to win. That information doesn’t matter in the slightest to the rest of this film. But it’s enough to get Tibbett killed in a car-wash and Bond to be put in a car and then drowned. But Bond survives the car-drowning, and heads to Zorin’s American base of operations in San Francisco. We also see Zorin meet with some shady criminals on his blimp, where he lays out his plan. Basically he’s going to trigger a series of earthquakes on the San Andreas Fault, solely to destroy Silicon Valley. And he’s going to accomplish this because he’s bought several oil companies in California, just so he can aggravate the fault lines. Which gives Bond a perfect place to start investigating once he gets there. Bond meets up with a CIA agent who tells Bond about some suspicious oil rig Zorin owns. Bond heads over and is shocked to find that there are two KGB agents recording Zorin’s conversation. One of them is killed, but Bond gets away with one of them, who turns out to be a woman Bond has dealt with in the past. So they obviously head to a Japanese spa and have sex in a hot tub, before Bond sneaks off with her recording, getting proof that Zorin is pumping sea-water into the faults, and is up to shady business.
Bond then tracks down a woman named Stacey Sutton, who Zorin has been trying to pay off. Stacey’s family owned a small oil company in town, and Zorin has been trying to pressure her into selling it to him. Bond chats up Stacey, and finds that she’s a geologist. He asks her about Zorin’s sea-water escapades, and she tells him that it’s incredibly dangerous. So they head to City Hall to get so answers, and end up finding Zorin and May Day there, ready to kill them. They start a fire in the building, and leave Bond and Stacey to die. They of course escape, and get in a big, goofy fire-truck chase through the city. And once that’s taken care of they head to Zorin’s nearby mine, figuring that that’s where his plan will be occurring. And they’re right, Zorin has dug right down into the fault, and has been loading it with explosives. Bond and Stacey infiltrate the mine, and find out Zorin’s plan, which we’ve known for most of the movie. May Day is sent down into the mine to find Bond, and while she’s gone Zorin decides that he doesn’t need her anymore, and starts killing all of the miners to cover up his tracks. May Day figures out that Zorin was trying to blow her up with Bond, and helps Bond get rid of the bomb that would trigger the larger explosion, ruining the plan. Zorin then responds by grabbing Stacey and flying away in his blimp with his mad scientist friend. Bond grabs onto a rope hanging from the blimp, and ends up helping the blimp get caught on the Golden Gate Bridge. Bond and Zorin fight atop the bridge, until Zorin ends up slipping off and falling to his death. Oh, and the weird Nazi scientist explodes, taking the blimp along with him. Bond and Stacey then head back to her place and sleep together, sadly not in a mode of conveyance.
This movie is kind of an absolute mess. It really and truly feels like multiple scripts were stitched together to form some semblance of a Bond movie, and none of them were really that well thought out. Plot lines are brought up and forgotten, or play out and end up having more or less nothing to do with the rest of the plot. Roger Moore is absolutely phoning it in, having clearly lost all interest in the franchise at least two movies ago, and he just seems so utterly bored with the film. Stacey Sutton is one of the least important Bond Girls in the whole franchise, and probably could have been completely excised from the script. Grace Jones puts in a fascinating performance as May Day, and does manage to become one of the more iconic and memorable henchpeople in the franchise, despite kind of being a nonsense character. I guess she has super-strength from Nazi experiments, but that’s not very explored. Neither is whatever is up with Max Zorin. Christopher Walken hams this role the hell up, and he’s a goddamn delight the entire time, but so very little of his character makes sense. I guess he was a Nazi genetic experiment that was then raised by the KGB. But then he rebelled against them for his own gain? I’m not quite sure if that’s a hundred per cent accurate. Which gets to one of the big issues with the movie. The plot.
James Bond movies aren’t particularly well-known for having logical and easy to follow plots. You often just have to give up and roll with it, just trusting that the movie knows what it’s doing. I talked about this in my Octopussy article, but it’s clear that the makers of these movies were running on fumes, and didn’t really seem to know what to do anymore. But whereas that movie’s lack of a logical plot grates on me, I kind of don’t mind it here. Which is weird, because this movie makes no goddamn sense. Octopussy just had a lot of unnecessary narrative decisions, and seems cluttered. And yet, this movie seems to have no idea what the real world is like. First a foremost there’s the fact that Max Zorin’s plan makes no sense. And not just in the normal way that Bond villain plans don’t make sense, this one literally could not work. Max Zorin is going to destroy Silicon Valley in order to become the leading creator of silicon chips. But Silicon Valley doesn’t make chips, it uses them. Max Zorin would be destroying his own customers, not his competition. Not so great for a Nazi super-baby. It’s clear that the makers knew about Silicon Valley, and that it had to do something with these new-fangled computers, but that they had no idea what it really was. They just took the name at face value. Which speaks to a large issue with this movie, and a systemic problem with the franchise at this point. Things were getting stale. Action movies were dramatically changing around this point, and this was not the franchise to catch up with them. Roger Moore has said that this movie went too far with its violence, which is a surprising statement given how tame it is. The world was changing, the Cold War was ending, Roger Moore was aging, and no one seemed to know what to do to make these movies hip and relevant anymore. I really enjoy this movie, needless horse sequences, lack of blimp sex, and Nazi scientists aside, but it’s really showing the franchise’s age. This movie is a clear sign that things needed to change. And change they did. So say goodbye to Roger Moore, and get ready to meet our fourth James Bond, Timothy Dalton, and two radically different Bond movies. Whether they both succeed is up to you.
Categories: Reel Talk