Saturday, September 22, 2012

Brandon Peters dissects the 007 series part 14: A View To A Kill

With Skyfall dropping in theaters in just a couple months, along with the 50th anniversary of the James Bond series, a close friend and fellow film nerd, Brandon Peters, has generously offered to do a comprehensive review of the entire 007 film franchise. Today is the fourteenth entry, with a full review of  my wife's favorite 007 picture, A View To A Kill (no, that's sadly not a joke). I hope you enjoy what is a pretty massive feature leading up the November 9th release of Skyfall. I'll do my best to leave my two-cents out of it, give or take a few items I have up my sleeve (including a possible guest review from my wife as she sings the praises of her favorite 007 film, you won't believe what it is). But just because I'm stepping aside doesn't mean you should. Without further ado...

A View To A Kill
Directed by: John Glen
Starring: Roger Moore, Christopher Walken, Tanya Roberts, Grace Jones, Patrick Macnee
Rated PG

“What a view…”

“…to a kill!”

                        ~May Day, with Max Zorn finishing the sentence

Kills: 7
Girls:  Stacey Sutton, May Day, Pola Ivanova, woman in glacier sub
Car:  1984 Chevrolet Corvette
Locales:  Siberia, France (Paris & Chantilly), San Francisco
Odd Villain Trait:  May Day is a brute…woman
Song:  “A View to A Kill” performed by Duran Duran

A View To A Kill is the concluding chapter in the twelve- year era of Roger Moore as James Bond 007 and a Mendelson family classic.  Also bowing out in this adventure is Lois Maxwell as Miss Moneypenny, ending a 23 year/14 film run in the role.  The film proves to be a step up from Octopussy, but doesn’t quite bring about a completely satisfying result.  The film does deserve some credit for really wanting to go all in and find some originality, but can’t quite execute to bring the potential to fruition.

When 007 finds a microchip on the body of 003 in Siberia, it leads him to the head of Zorin Industries.  Max Zorin, a KGB trained psychopath, is planning to set off a series of earthquakes in Silicon Valley.  After the wreckage is cleared he plans on gaining a monopoly on the market.  James Bond is able to find an in to Zorin through Stacey Sutton, granddaughter of an oil tycoon, whom Zorin is trying to pay off.  In an earlier article I gave credit to Roger Moore for having aged so well.  At the time of filming A View to a Kill, he was 57.  Somewhere between Octopussy and View, his age began to show.  This one definitely feels like grandpa Bond saving the world.  The film refuses to acknowledge his age.  At least Never Say Never Again conceded to this and made for an interesting angle on the story.  That might have added here.  Also, casting somebody a bit older than Tanya Roberts might have been a bit more comfortable to watch.  Apparently, Moore felt very uncomfortable when he discovered he was almost old enough to be Tanya Robert’s mother’s father.  And, you never know, this film might have served as a better launching point for a new James Bond rather than Moore’s final opus.

Moore’s age also affects a lot of the action beats in this film as well.  It’s clearly obvious he’s not involved in any of it.  The rear projection technology in this film looks like it has regressed in this film.  The effect is really bad, and it’s shocking, because it was somewhat passable in the last few films.  It doesn’t help that the opening gives us skiing (four!) again, and the lamest one at that.  Aside from that, the action scenes definitely do try to bring something different.  The Golden Gate Bridge finale is very epic on paper and in thought.  However, the execution is poor.  Rear projection and the whole thing obviously looking like it was done on a sound stage severely takes away any thrills and suspense this was meant to evoke. All in all, A View to a Kill looks and plays very much like a big budget ABC Sunday night made-for-tv movie that were a common place in the 1980s.

Not all the action is ambitious but lacking.  The jump off the Eiffel Tower is quite good, as well as the car chase that follows.  I really like the escape from the fire on City Hall and the fire truck chase (later done better in Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines).  The horse chase in Chantilly does bring sense of dread and inescapable circumstances with it.  The music in this film is definitely good and the main highlight of the film.  They bring back the On Her Majesty’s Secret Service theme (one of the series’ best) finally and its more than welcome.  The title song is awesome too, if you weren’t already aware.  Duran Duran helps close the Moore era the way it began, with a rock band full creating a song for the film.  This song is bigger in its legacy than this film is.  I still here it to this day in stores, restaurants, radio, bars, you name it.  Its funny we get this intense crazy song to support an old aged Bond hobbling to the finish line.

Christopher Walken as a bad guy?  How is this movie not insanely awesome?  I don’t know.  Its almost forgotten that he was a Bond villain.  He’s not bad.  He’s actually very good.  It’s the first time we actually get a Bond villain who is a complete psychopath.  Walken plays it great.  I can’t imagine the original choices for Zorin, David Bowie and Sting, being able to pull this off.  A lot of critics at the time did not appreciate the scene where Zorin mows down a bunch of miners with a machine gun, but I did.  It just adds to the insanity of his character.  To add to Zorin’s insanity, his girlfriend May Day compliments it in appearance.  This woman looks like a man.  She always creeped me out when I was younger.  She was just disturbing in appearance.  And Bond sleeps with her!  However, in his defense, he was saving his own hide by doing it.  May Day tries to evoke some of the henchman menace that Jaws brought to some of the earlier films.  Also, she turns to Bond’s aid in the end just like Jaws.  I’ll go ahead and say, May Day is kind of underrated as a henchman.  She’s not the best, but clearly far from the bottom.  Grace Jones also brought her boyfriend at the time, Dolph Lundgren on for a short little extra-like role.  See if you can find him.

Tanya Roberts has garnered a lot of flack for her character of Stacey Sutton in this film.  I gotta say it’s well deserved.  She’s quite a dingbat.  She also gives a sense of being unnecessary in so many scenes.  And I’ve always thought this, but I’ll share.  Tanya Roberts has got to be an actress that the porn industry is kicking themselves for having not gotten to first.  I feel like she would have been a massive success as a porn star.  She’s got the look and that raspy voice that is so fitting of the adult entertainment industry of that era.  Shame.  A View To A Kill wants to be that epic finish to Roger Moore’s James Bond career, but just doesn’t fill it out.  Its certainly not as embarrassing as Octopussy and its never terribly boring.  It feels a lot different than a lot of Bond movies.  It’s got some original action beats, but none of it is show stopping or memorable.  One thing I’ve always remembered this film for is the scene where Bond keeps alive underwater by breathing air out of a tire. 

Roger Moore was a fine James Bond for his first five efforts.  He should have hung it up after Moonraker or For Your Eyes Only.  These last two  films have tainted his run.  There’s a lot of poor memories associated with his Bond films, and much of them derive from Octopussy and A View to a Kill.  Some of his early work is no different than any Connery adventure.  He hung on a bit too long.  Moore even admits he should have let go sooner.  I went into this fearing his run as Bond, but it was only feeling tiresome or painful during these last two films.

Brandon Peters will return in The Living Daylights*

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*the film only ends on “James Bond Will Return” it does not give the title of the next film.  

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