That fatal kiss is all Wil needs...
Is it possible to absolutely love a movie yet completely understand that it is awful? It's the situation I find myself in with A View To A Kill.
August 12th 1985. I was headed to the old ABC cinema in my hometown with my family, about to go watch Police Academy 2: Their First Assignment as a birthday treat. I'm not exactly sure why, possibly the trip to Pizza Land overran, but when we got to the cinema we were late and the movie had already started. Not wanting to miss the first 10 crucial minutes and feel lost with the plot (a-hem), and not wanting to go home early I made the on-the-spot decision to see A View To A Kill instead - possibly influenced by the lady saying "It's the only one starting in the next hour".
Bond's latest adventure was still playing, even though it had been out a good couple of months, but it was in the third and smallest screen which seated, if I remember correctly, about 50 people at most. And I think about 46 of those seats were empty.
I'd seen Bond on the TV (most recently Moonraker, which let me tell you at the age of 12 is fantastic!) but never at the cinema. At the time I wouldn't have called myself a Bond fan, but if the movies were on I watched them, it was just what everyone did back then. Roger Moore was my Bond, I couldn't get on with Connery when I was young, he was my Dad's Bond, old and serious. So here I was, on my thirteenth birthday, experiencing Bond on the (semi-)big screen for the first time ever. And I loved every single second of it. So much so, I went back with some friends the next weekend and watched it again. Well, I was a man now!
And so began a love affair with James Bond. Almost as soon as I'd properly discovered the series Moore left and Dalton arrived. I had no problem accepting the change (possibly because I'm a Doctor Who fan, and you have to be open to change to survive that show), I totally embraced his arrival. And I loved Dalton, especially Licence To Kill. His more serious, truer-to-Fleming portrayal led to me understanding and appreciating Connery - it also led me to see the many flaws in a lot of Moore's Bond films. I couldn't even watch Moonraker for many years (although it's now something of a guilty pleasure), and don't get me started on The Man With The Golden Gun!
But I never, not once ever, lost my adulation for A View To A Kill. Yes, the plot it nonsensical, a simple remake of Goldfinger. Yes, Moore is 157. Yes, Tanya Roberts is by far the worst James Bond girl the world has ever seen (really, even Nicholas Cage in drag would do a better job). All of this, but it's just so much fun, a perfect slice of mid-80s nostalgia complete with the finest (totally 80s) James Bond theme the series has ever seen - and I don't even like Duran Duran. Madness!
Christopher Walken as Max Zorin makes for one of the most memorable adversaries to face off against Moore's Bond. A psychotic business magnate, Bond must stop Zorin from destroying Silicon Valley and cornering the world electronic market all for himself. For someone who was obsessed with his Sinclair Spectrum, the thought of no more computer chips for old Sir Clive was truly terrifying!
But Zorin is not your average megalomaniac, oh no, this is 80s Bond-to-the-max (Max Zorin to be exact). He was born as the result of a Nazi doctor's scientific tampering, resulting in him being hyper-intelligent but also uncontrollably murderous. And Walken excels in this role, even if the script he's given to deal with makes him appear a little too similar to Auric Goldfinger - they are both European outsiders who plan to wipe out a massive American
resource thus increasing the value of their own stockpiled wealth, they both own a stud farm, they both win horse races by cheating, and they both have a lust for power which is greater than their loyalty to their lovers…
Talking of which, it's Grace Jones. You know it's the 80s if Grace Jones is in the film! Amusingly called May Day (I've always thought this was a little nod to the Bond British Bank Holiday tradition, I could be wrong?), this statuesque Jamaican woman, with sharp-cut hair to enhance her
profile, is cast as a horse-taming, Kickboxing American, who according to
Q "must take a lot of vitamins."
I've always felt quite sorry for Grace Jones, as the scene where her and Bond get it on seems very uncomfortable. There's a moment when she pushes him away to get on top, but the look on her face is more like "Help, there's a corpse about to snog me!". All I can say is they must have paid her a lot of money to let Roger Moore pull up to her bumper! She's not a great actress, and ultimately May Day is not a great character, but her leap off the top of the Eiffel Tower is a fine moment presented in the best Bond tradition, and her actions at the film's climax ensured she retained a few shreds of humanity.
Then there's Tanya Roberts. Oh, Tanya, why? Her 1985 beauty is only matched by her 1985 inability to act. I do love this film, I truly do, but I can't defend you Tanya, I just can't. Let's move on.
The remainder of the supporting cast are on on good form, with the regulars M, Q, and Moneypenny (with Lois Maxwell in her last Bond role) as dependable as ever. They are joined by David Yip (I yelped as the Chinese Detective appeared in Bond!) as the CIA agent with the ever-so-slightly rascist name of Chuck Lee, and the always entertaining Patrick McNee as Sir Godfrey Tibbett, a horse racing expert affiliated to MI6.
There are some brilliantly funny scenes where Bond and Tibbett go undercover at Zorin's stables during a horse sale, both actors using their comic timing to distract the guards from suspecting them as imposters. It's a shame that Tibbett was killed in unusual but chilling fashion by May Day (in a car wash of all places) before the film could make more use of his obvious debonair charm, and the rapport McNee and Moore had.
So let's get to that old elephant in the room. Roger Moore himself. In hindsight Moore should've left after Octopussy, possibly sooner. He is too old for the part, not just for the action scenes but also the essential romantic element. It's uncomfortable to see him with the ladies (although probably more uncomfortable for them, eh Grace?), but he's just so damn charismatic that it's hard not to resist his charm.
In the history of the movie franchise Moore's Bond is clearly the softest of the lot, and his era is saddled with probably the most diverse collection of movies. He has the absolute worst, and a couple of the very best, but I believe that no matter your opinion of A View To A Kill it's hard to argue against Moore's performance as Moore's Bond. I'll explain that better - the age issue aside, Moore delivers a very good interpretation of his Bond. When he has to hit the humour of the character he does so perfectly, but the script also, quite wisely, curtails much of his custom wit and repartee - the writers often dropping his usual amiability towards the villain in favour of a disgusted and repulsed tone, which is quite a turn. If you could rewind time a decade to his opening movies this would've been a great direction for Moore to have taken sooner, and it possibly could've saved a few earlier efforts.
Many of the set pieces are incredibly memorable; the Siberian ski chase; the aforementioned parachute pursuit from the Eiffel Tower, the fire engine chase around the streets of San Francisco; and the airship crash on the Golden Gate Bridge, to name but four.
As I said earlier, the theme tune is a corker, and John Barry intertwines his orchestral version throughout the movie to great effect. In fact it was watching this film some years later when I first noticed just how good the Bond scores were, and how they can totally make or break a scene, or even an entire movie. Overall this is one of Barry's best, and a CD I'll cue up quite happily again and again.
So there we have it, A View To A Kill has so many memorable, outstanding, exciting parts. Unfortunately they are combined with a silly plot, a few overly long scenes, some less than impressive editing choices and Tanya Roberts, which together add up to a movie that, if I lose the rose tinted glasses, is clearly not very good. Many people claim it to be the worst Bond film, but even viewing objectively I can't agree with that - The Man With The Golden Gun takes that mantle in my opinion, with Die Another Day tugging at its heals.
But possibly because of the way I discovered A View To A Kill, because it was my 'way in' to the Bond franchise, I can forgive pretty much everything that is wrong with it and just go with the flow, just dance into the fire, and just repeatedly enjoy the hell out of a couple of hours of pure 80s, pure Bond madness.
Geek. Lover. Fighter. Dwarf. Follow Wil on Twitter.
James Bond will return next Thursday...