Ranking the Films of the James Bond Series: #19 – A View to a Kill

A View to a Kill (1985)

Directed by: John Glen
Written by: Richard Maibaum and Michael G. Wilson

 

rogermooreeiffeltower

There was a period of time when people would refer to A View to a Kill as the worst Bond film in the franchise. It was like we were living in an alternate reality and Diamonds Are Forever never existed. Oddly enough, in recent years Roger Moore’s last run as 007 has actually developed a bit of a cult following (thanks in no small part to the unbridled love cast upon it by the James Bonding Podcast). I’m going to lay it on you straight, A View to a Kill is neither great nor ghastly. It’s campy as all hell, but it’s also a lot of fun.

In a previous post I spoke of the troubles with Spectre and how they just couldn’t work on that schedule and it seemed like everyone was gassed. Looking back on it, I feel like that is like the modern day pitch-count in baseball. Guys used to go till they couldn’t even lift their arms before you would even consider taking them out of the game, now, if they get close to a hundred pitches – even if they’re throwing a no-hitter – they get pulled. Maybe it’s safer, maybe it’s better or maybe it’s bullshit… I don’t know. What I do know is A View to a Kill was Roger Moore’s seventh Bond film in twelve years, from 1973 to 1985. And this was the third of five straight films John Glen would direct for the series from 1981 to 1989.

hottubbond

These guys worked like total fuckin maniacs for EON, and while they had some less than exceptional entries, none of them sucked, some of them were great and at no point in time did you ever feel like these guys were phoning it in.

 

The Cold Open:

snowbond

Roger Moore’s James Bond really loved to ski. For as many times as we’ve seen Sean Connery in the Caribbean, we see Moore on the slopes.

Here James is up to his Cold War antics as he sneaks into Siberia to recover a stolen microchip from the frozen body of 003 while the Soviets chase him by helicopter, snowmobile and ski.

bondsnowboard

This opening has some goods stunts and only a few glaring rear-projections parts. It’s solid and ends with a cheeky little gag on an iceberg boat, but it also has one of those groaners that leave you scratching your head.

There are moments in the Bond franchise where it basically farts in bed. They’ll do something visually amazing and then drop in a song or a sound effect that just undercuts the entire scene.

The Beach Boys were a great band, but the California Girls song when Bond constructs a snowboard out of a piece of a busted snowmobile was a total groaner.

 

The Credit Sequence:

This is how you do a James Bond credit sequence. Take a kick-ass song, throw in beautiful women dancing around, add a few splashes of color that pop off the screen and drop a couple Moore silhouettes in for good measure. It’s so simple, but so amazing.

Is this the best song in the Bond franchise? Maybe. You’ll have to follow my Ranking of the Songs Series to find out.

 

Plot:

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If there is one thing I have learned from the James Bond Series its to never let logic get in the way of a good story. Silicon Valley is known for computers, so if the Villain in the movie wants to seize control of the manufacturing of the world’s computer chips, it’s only fitting he would try to destroy Silicon Valley. Symbolically that makes perfect sense. But they don’t manufacture microchips in Silicon Valley, they use microchips in Silicon Valley. So in reality, the Villain’s plot was to kill his potential customers.

zorinsmiling

If Zorin actually wanted to eliminate his competition he would have targeted factories in China, but that’s a more depressing narrative. If you want to shoot a James Bond movie in California, and have a daring final fight scene take place on the Golden Gate Bridge, you don’t stop to check the logic of your plot.

Forgiving the film the slight weirdness of Zorin’s target, the backbone to this one isn’t too bad. It’s basically Goldfinger on the West Coast.

 

The Gadgets:

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Bond was in peak skiing form during the Moore era, so it shouldn’t be surprising that he was able to transition into Snowboarding so fluidly he barely broke a sweat before drifting into his getaway Iceberg Boat.

Roger Moore’s James Bond was a cool dude.

Some of my favorite moments in Bond films revolve around the inspection of a hotel rooms for bugs. I don’t know if it’s because I love the shitty nature of hotel rooms, or I just like the spy-vs-spy nature of Cold War espionage, but A View to a Kill has some excellent spy gear, especially during the scenes at Zorin’s place. I always favored a clever Bond and I think for the most part these gadgets are on that level.

bugdetector

The Mini-Tape Recorder and Shaver Bug Detector combo is a definite callback to the Connery days of snooping around the room to see who is snooping on you. They’re simple gadgets that are cleverly disguised and don’t require serious reverse engineering to explain why Bond would have it.

polarizedglasses

The Polarizing Glasses are another simple and cool gizmo Bond breaks out at Zorin’s horse ranch. They might have those weird tabs hanging off the bottom, but they’re a practical gadget.

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The Ring Camera is pretty advanced for a camera in 1985, but I just loved seeing Roger Moore try to casually frame up shots without looking like a total weirdo. Again, it’s campy, but so be it.

cardreader

The Card Swipe Machine reminded me of the scene in the Big Lebowski where the Dude tries to lift a note off a pad that Jackie Treehorn was writing on and ends up in Malibu with a picture of a penis. It was good stuff.

creditcardpick

The last of the casually great gadgets is the Credit Card Lock Pick. Just slip and lift and voila, you’re in.

 

The Villains:

maydayzorin

An argument could be made that A View to a Kill has the most inspired Villain/Henchperson combo in the franchise. We might have seen better villains, and we might have seen a better henchperson, but these two compliment each other better than perhaps any pair since Goldfinger and Oddjob…which is fitting because this is basically a Goldfinger level caper they’re trying to pull off.

Zorin and May Day are perfectly evil in the ways you want your baddies to be; ruthless killers who are freakishly strong and totally psychotic. But what I love about them is the fact that when they eat the scenery they don’t stop at the salad, they fill up their plate and come back for more.

zorin

Max Zorin is a fantastic Bond Villain. He’s the perfect blend of psychopath and genius. The dude is totally out his gourd. Christopher Walken seemed to revel in the opportunity to go totally over the top with this and it worked. Just look at the scene where he’s discovering Bond’s true identity in his office and can’t help but start giggling. That’s the kinda crazy I want in a Bond film – hint hint Mr. Waltz.

mayday

Could May Day be the best Henchperson in the Bond franchise? The competition is pretty tough, with Red Grant, Jaws and Oddjob at the top of the class, but May Day is a serious badass who deserves consideration.

First of all, Grace Jones might be one of the most stylish people of all time.  She’s like David Bowie in the sense that she is so cool she’s basically on another planet. So it was interesting to see so cool play someone so unhinged and so terrifying.

 

The Bond Girl:

staceysutton

I don’t really know what to think about Stacey Sutton. Her character was one that just got swept up into the world of James Bond and just floundered about around him.

When actresses playing Bond Girls say their Bond Girl isn’t just another Bond Girl, I think they’re referring to Stacey Sutton, cause she runs straight to damsel in distress and stays there.

Overall Score: 2.5/5

Tune in next month for #18 on the list as we countdown the James Bond films leading up to the release of EON Productions JAMES BOND 25.

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