29 April 2009

A View To A Kill

A View to A Kill Still A Guilty Pleasure
By Kristin Battestella

Despite my better judgment, I like the 1983 swansong of Roger Moore as British uber spy James Bond in A View To A Kill. Taking nothing but the contrived title from an Ian Fleming short story, A View To A Kill boasts very dated computers, Duran Duran music, a freaky Grace Jones as May Day, and a senior citizen Moore. Oft considered one of the worst Bond outings, for me A View To A Kill is so bad, it’s good.

007 (Moore) tracks computer microchips to Zorin Industries and uses Zorin’s (Christopher Walken) interest in horses to infiltrate the ex KGB agent’s annual horse sale as James St. John Smythe. Bond-now as Stock, James Stock- and oil heiress Stacey Sutton (Tanya Roberts) trail Zorin to San Francisco and uncover his ‘Main Strike’ plan to blow the San Andreas Fault and destroy Silicon Valley. Along the way, Bond wrestles with henchwoman May Day (Grace Jones) and attempts to turn her sway from Zorin.

A View to a KillWell, let’s get the biggest hang up about A View to A Kill out of the way first. By golly, Roger Moore looks old. Old and what we would today call Botoxed. Perhaps in knock down drag outs with the boys, Moore’s elderly Bond might stand a chance. Unfortunately, against the strong and hard-core May Day and the soft and svelte Stacey Sutton, Moore looks too out of touch. When people claim that Moore is ‘sleepwalking’ through his tenure as Bond, this is the film they mean. Bond is almost a non-factor here. Being out witted by a juiced horse and a trick race track-in some ways I feel bad for Moore. Again his villain upstages him.

Best Supporting Actor Winner Christopher Walken (The Deer Hunter) steals A View To A Kill as megalomaniac Zorin. He plays the part to a T, and yet it so eighties clich├ęd and over the top. His platinum hair is still a delight a quarter of a century later. Zorin’s bizarre relationship with Grace Jones’ (Conan The Destroyer) strongwoman May Day adds to his creepiness, along with his unusual blend of insane genius and gentlemanly style. Unfortunately, Zorin’s use and abuse of May Day doesn’t leave room for the henchwoman to shine. Although her style was a little harsh then and still is now, Jones does make a few scenes play in her favor. Her penchant for death and strength is a little too frightening to be sexy, but it’s certainly memorable.

You can tell I’m an eighties baby since I think Tanya Roberts (The Beastmaster, That 70s Show) is a cool chica. Another Bond girl who doesn’t have much to do and actually doesn’t have a whole lot of screen time, but Roberts’ oil heiress turned geologist Stacey Sutton is one of the few pretty things in A View To A Kill. Her voice is a bit too husky marshmallow to be sprouting tech babble geological talk. But come on, by time we get to Sutton’s analysis of the plight, are you really paying attention to the plot?

Though the snowboarding styled opening sequence is still cool, A View To A Kill is in may ways, not just the end of the Moore era, but the changing of the Bond guard. Lois Maxwell shows her age and retires her role as Miss Moneypenny here. The neon opening credits mixed with the very popular at the time Duran Duran are trying too hard to be hip, and A View To A Kill’s closing tags do not mention which film is coming next. It’s as if veteran director John Glen and screenwriter Richard Mailbaum (late penner of 13 Bond pictures) peaked with a very old and proper Bond in his English riding boots and teeny saddle and little riding hat and didn’t know what to do next.  

Even though the dates of the films rollover, Connery was very much the Sixties ideal, Moore the seventies suave, and Dalton the eighties man in his brief appearances. Already Brosnan’s tenure is dated, and we’ve moved on to Daniel Craig-whose currently hot reboot will fall along the wayside in about fifteen years, too. In 1983, A View To A Kill was quite a violent picture, but the franchise has definitely gotten darker and more brutal since.

Yes it’s a little hokey, dated, and silly, and nearer the bottom of the Bond barrel, but A View To A Kill also exemplifies this long standing franchise. With all its faults, there is something about the innuendo, memorable scenes, and catch phrases that bring viewers back. Knowing how weak this outing is, I can still tune in to A View To A Kill, leave it play in the background, and take pause at the better scenes. Through all its good and bad, changes, and redos, I do believe there is something Bond for everyone.

A View To A Kill looks tame today on the violence and sex front, but its not quite viewing for the entire family. Older action fans can appreciate the early computers and Silicon Valley premise, and no doubt Bond fans already have A View To A Kill in their collections. If you’re a closeted Bond fan, come out with this one for some late night viewing. No one will know, I promise. Look for the DVD or forthcoming bluray if you dare.


Anonymous said...

I beg to differ with Kristin, A View to a Kill is one of the best Bonds since Live and Let Die.

It was a fitting end to Roger Moore as James Bond.

I look forward to the Blu ray release of this movie.


Kristin Snouffer said...

Hi Marc.

Thanks for taking the time to comment. I don't think we differ. I do like A View to A Kill, and I am glad that Moore exited with it-rather than Octopussy!