And with this Across the Bond reaches the end of Roger Moore’s tenure as Bond. Some would say it went on too long, and by some I mean everyone even Roger Moore himself. The man is just old in this movie and it pretty much is all Xander and I can concentrate on. Well, that and Grace Jones being all dominatrix.
As we say goodbye to Roger Moore we lament the fact that his final film was just not so great. Like all Bond movies there’s stuff to be enjoyed, but this one doesn’t quite hit the spot.
Roger Moore had been threatening retirement from the Bond series since Moonraker, and while returning for For Your Eyes Only and Octopussy produced two of the more confident movies in his run, it’s a shame he chose to stick around one movie longer. A View To A Kill is one of three movies which, on any given day, would have a strong claim to representing the low point of the EON-produced Bond series. If Rog was already pushing towards pensionable age in Octopussy, here he looks older than history itself. Aged fifty-seven at the time of filming, even Moore was later quoted as saying he was ‘at least four hundred years too old for the part’, and that’s underestimating by a factor of infinity. Any scenes involving physical activity come across as laughably ridiculous when Bond is involved, doubly so when a stuntman is required to perform some feat of athleticism – snowboarding, or jumping onto a raising drawbridge – which would likely make the decrepit Moore’s joints disintegrate. Even his trademark charm takes a hit, seeming more forced with every passing minute.
None of this holds a candle – and it’s a relief Bond doesn’t in this movie, as his face seems melted enough already – to any interaction between him and a woman, which escalates excruciating embarrassment to whole new levels. In Octopussy, Maud Adams – who makes a blink-and-you’ll-miss-her background cameo in this movie, making her the only woman to appear in three Bond movies* – was close enough to Moore’s advancing age that their relationship was at least credible. Watching Moore flirt with Tanya Roberts, who is almost thirty years younger than him but looks several ice ages more, is genuinely horrifying. The fact she, along with several other nubile young blondes, later throws herself at him only makes matters worse, and her climactic (urgh) ‘Oh James!’ in the shower would be among the worst moments in the series’ history were it not salvaged by also marking the movie’s end. As for Moore’s dalliance with Grace Jones, well… I don’t even know what to say. Does it sound right to you? If so, check yourself into the nearest prison immediately.
*The nerd in me would like to point out that, technically, Martine Beswick also featured in three Bonds. She was on-screen as a gypsy girl in From Russia and Paula in Thunderball, but only her silhouette was used as a dancer in the Dr. No credits sequence, so technically didn’t ‘appear’. You can stop looking at me like that now.
Moore’s age is a serious problem, but even had another actor taken the part instead, the movie is lousy enough to sink itself without the help of a doddering pensioner. Octopussy had some silly humour, but for the most part kept it under control. A View To A Kill allows it the run of the place, and while there isn’t a character as singularly awful as J.W. Pepper in The Man With The Golden Gun, there are chases in fire trucks, a woman called Jenny Flex, a snowboarding sequence set to ‘California Girls’, a robot dog from Q, Grace Jones dominating Roger Moore in bed (AAAAAAAARGH!), death by fishing hook, a car chase in which the back half of Bond‘s vehicle is torn off, a villain who is the product of Nazi genetic testing and friends with a monocled mad scientist, Tanya Roberts as a geologist (‘That’s incredibly dangerous!’)… it’s as though the writers decided to take all the worst excesses of the previous six movies, mix them up in a big jug, then drown the film stock in the resultant rancid ooze.
As with any Bond, there are a handful of elements saving it from being an unmitigated travesty. While the movie’s ridiculousness generally undermines it at ever turn, Christopher Walken’s Zorin is the exception. You could hardly call his character deep, but the performance is oodles of fun, with his manic charisma and line deliveries (‘I’m happiest… in the saddle! Ha!’) setting a delightfully energetic contrast to the rigid Moore and vacuous Roberts. Grace Jones, regardless of the horrors she’s asked to perform (see paragraph two), isn’t much of an actress but has a terrific Amazonian presence, making her a striking entrant into the pantheon of Bond villainesses. I also can’t ignore Patrick Macnee as Tibbett: though he’s as old as Moore, making the entire MI6 contingent look like the populace of a retirement home, the debonair affability which made him famous as John Steed in wonderful British ’60s spy-fi TV series The Avengers remains. Having two codgers running around isn’t ideal, and he’d much a much more interesting foil for a younger Bond, but is still an endearing presence, making his death one of the few moments when the movie achieves a connection. The scene which follows, where Bond manages to stay alive underwater by breathing air from a sinking car’s tyres after Zorin attempts to drown him, is also the only time Bond appears remotely competent. Duran Duran’s title song is also pretty catchy in a decidedly ’80s way.
It’s no surprise Fleming’s short story was ignored entirely, as it’s a slender, badly dated affair – Bond hunts down an assassin who is killing motorbike dispatch riders carrying top secret information – and by far the least interesting entry in the For Your Eyes Only collection. It’s nowhere near as painful as the movie, though, whose few redeeming elements don’t even begin to disguise how out of touch and out of time the exaggerated spoof stylings of the Moore era had become. With critical reception at an all-time low and box office returns over $50m lower than Moonraker six years earlier – the culmination of a consistent downward trend – both the actor and producers finally saw sense and decided a new direction was needed. While the man they brought in never quite managed to set the box office alight, the series would never have survived without his taking Bond back to his roots and pre-empting Daniel Craig’s rougher interpretation of the character by almost twenty years. Enter Mr. Dalton…
So old. So very, very old. Roger Moore was technically supposed to have stopped playing Bond two movies ago by the time A View to a Kill started shooting, and I’m sorry, but the man aged about ten years between this movie and Octopussy. I don’t know what was going on in his life, but he looks ancient in this film. In fact he was older than his female costar’s (Tanya Roberts) mother and it shows. His fighting is even worse than normal and completely at odds with the reality of a 57-year-old man, the love scenes are simply awkward and it’s just nearly impossible to concentrate on anything but the growing wrinkles and possible plastic surgery on his face. Even later in life Moore would admit that he was far too old for the part, and go on to say that A View to a Kill was his least favorite film, though his reasoning was more because of the violence.
As Xander discussed the film is goofy to an extreme extent, so Moore disliking the violence of the film may seem a bit odd. However, despite the definite cheesiness of almost everything there’s a darker tone to a lot of the action even if it isn’t handled well. It’s not much, but it’s a slight pre-cursor to Dalton’s upcoming Bond films (Xander is going to punch me for even saying this, I’m sure). You don’t really see it in Moore’s Bond at all as he snowboards to California girls and uses ridiculous glare reducing glasses that make him look like an idiot, but in Christopher Walken’s Max Zorin instead. For me this is what saves the film, and much like I wonder how OHMSS would have been if Connery were in it I can’t help thinking A View to a Kill may have worked if Dalton had stepped in. While Zorin is a ridiculous character with his genetic super powers, Walkin and the more serious Dalton would have made a fantastic on screen duo, and the tone could have eased people into Dalton’s Bond a bit more easily. Sure Max Zorin, a genetic super creature designed by ze Germans, is the kind of character that appears in the more ridiculous Bond‘s but with Walken’s unique cadence and looks, he could have pulled off truly sinister in a more serious Bond. He’s decidedly cruel, motivated by both pride and arrogance and just plain evil. His evil plot is pretty far-fetched as he plans to sink silicone valley by flooding it, but it’s more believable than many of other Bond plots. Much like Man with the GoldenGun this is a great Bond villain stuck in a bad Bond movie.
While Moore’s action sequences might seem ridiculous to at his age whenever he has to do something ridiculous I have a slightly better view of the action in the film. While often ruined by odd directorial choices (like cuing “California Girls” or not running with a good idea long enough) there’s a lot of creativity and great stunts going. The now famous parachute jump from the Eiffel Tower almost completely excuses the entire film just because it actually happened. In fact two stunt men were set to do the jump so they could get two takes, but the first guy did so well that the second one didn’t get to go. Upset, he climbed the tower himself and illegally parachuted off causing the film no end of trouble in Paris as it had been extremely difficult to get permission to perform the stunt in the first place. This jump leads into the progressively-destroyed-car car chase that Xander points out with some disdain. Sadly this cool idea is used more as a site gag than an action sequence. If it had been executed better the movie would have had a truly memorable action sequence in it. That tone also plagues the fire truck chase, which has some great stunt work, and the fire rescue. Also of note is Zorin’s attempt to kill Bond during a horse race. Again, a scene made goofy by stupid trick traps and jumps, but underneath quite a threatening event with Walken being truly creepy. Where the action totally fails is in the film’s climax, which could have been an impressive sequence shot on the Golden Gate bridge, but instead relies more on set shots than the actual stunts. It ends up looking really goofy and isn’t helped at all by the evil doctor actually lighting what looks like a cartoon stick of dynamite to throw at Bond.
Thankfully A View to a Kill is often forgotten with many people I talk to never even realizing that Christopher Walken played a Bond villain. I’ve had plenty of people when discussing Bond say that Walken would make a great villain and my reply being that yes, he was. Unlike other bad Bonds A View to a Kill is simply forgettable. With Diamonds you’re angry at how off target it is and with Golden Gun you’ve got a great set piece, but here everything just kind of fades away. Sure Grace Jones and Roger Moore getting it on is possibly one of the most disturbing things ever, but you remember that they did it not that it was a Bond movie. It’s actually a strange occurrence in the franchise and possibly the only movie I find that just won’t stick. There are definitely parts you remember, but when you think of Bond films A View to a Kill just isn’t remembered.