Defending A View to a Kill
One of the James Bond films that has a particularly toxic reputation is 1985’s A View to a Kill. In this ongoing series of “Pan and Slam Essentials” I will be highlighting films that I love which I either find very underrated or for whatever reason I absolutely love yet the rest of the world seems to dislike.
To me A View to a Kill represents a moment in the 007 filmography that marks a distinct end to a beautiful golden era in more ways than one. It was Roger Moore’s farewell to a character he played for seven films in twelve years. Not only was it his last outing as James Bond, it was also the last 007 film to come from an original story by Ian Fleming. This would change in 2006 once Barbara Broccoli’s Eon Productions finally won the rights to make Casino Royale into a motion picture. But for the next twenty-one years throughout Dalton and Brosnan’s reign as the world’s most famous superspy they were working from truly original scripts and did not have any relation to an Ian Fleming work other than the characters name.
There are more reason’s A View to a Kill is more notable than its reputation. Not only is it Moore’s swan song as James Bond, but it is the final appearance of Lois Maxwell as Moneypenny. Roger might have been in seven Bond films, but Lois Maxwell not only originated the role back in 1962’s Dr. No, but she played M’s personal secretary who was always flirting with Mr. Bond for the first fourteen Bond films, that’s everything from Dr. No up to A View to a Kill. If you ask me she is the real Bond girl, only Judi Dench comes in second as an actress with seven appearances in the Bond series.
So yes both James Bond and Miss Moneypenny look a little too old for most conventional viewers but I think it is a nice farewell that these two actors leave together the franchise characters they helped to either create or reinvent for a whole generation of moviegoers.
So far I realize I have defended A View to a Kill as a milestone in Bond cinema history, but what about the actual movie itself. In my opinion it holds up very well and is arguably Roger Moore’s best 007 adventure other than The Spy Who Loved Me. The pre-opening credits sequence is a glorious one. It involved Bond in a ski fight into a snowboarding sequence with “California Girls” playing over parts of it to lighten the mood. I find nothing wrong with this action scene.
Next up, the opening titles with a once again solid job on the visuals by Maurice Binder who designed all of the 007 title sequences until this point other than From Russia with Love and Goldfinger. What really stands out for this sequence is the title song by Duran Duran. This is a great, catchy song that does not sound like regular 80’s cheese as one might expect. In fact Billboard-wise, Duran Duran’s A View to a Kill is the most successful Bond song of all time. The only one to peak at number one on both the US and UK Billboard charts. No, it is not a better song than Shirley Bassey’s title track for Goldfinger, or Paul McCartney and Wings’ Live and Let Die and it does not hold a candle to the greatness of Carly Simon’s “Nobody Does it Better” from The Spy Who Loved Me, but it is a very good song in its own right and should always be in the discussion of the best Bond songs. Listen for yourself:
From there it is a very typical Roger Moore Bond film. He jumps a few continents, has a great fight and chase sequence through Paris starting off in the Eiffel Tower. By the end of the film James Bond finds himself inexplicably on a blimp trying to hold onto a rope for dear life over San Francisco and then there is a great fight and explosion between Bond and the main villain on top of the Golden Gate Bridge.
A little preposterous yes, but almost all of Roger Moore’s Bond films featured highly unbelievable action scenes in ridiculous plots. The problem with Moore’s Bond films was there was never a sense of urgency. The audience was told the world was going to end, but with Moore as Bond we always knew just from his expression everything would be fine. A View to a Kill is no exception and once again a fitting conclusion to the Roger Moore era.
While you were watching that sequence and the opening scene, it is impossible to ignore John Barry’s fantastic score. Once again in my humble opinion, one of Mr. Barry’s best and that’s saying a lot when you consider all the Bond films he scored, eleven total starting with Dr. No and ending with The Living Daylights.
Also Max Zorin, the super-villain of A View to a Kill, is played by the great Christopher Walken. This marked the first time an Academy Award winning actor would play a heavy in a James Bond film (Javier Bardem would become the second in 2012 with Skyfall). Walken gives a great performance as a sort of lobotomized Nazi-super baby now all grown up and appropriately playing a very 80’s villain, he comes off as a sinister Bill Gates who wants to blow up all of Silicon Valley. He is over-the-top at times but by the end when he blows up and shoots his own men in a long, violent sequence, Walken’s Max Zorin is menacing. His main henchmen this time is a woman played by Grace Jones whom at the time was very popular as a musician and also appeared in Conan The Destroyer. Grace Jones is probably the weakest link in the picture as her haircut constantly reminds you that she is a relic of the 80’s. Her boyfriend at the time was Dolph Lundren and he makes a small appearance in the film getting bodyslammed by Jones.
Much criticism has been given to Tanya Roberts as the main Bond girl. Is she great? No. Is she beautiful? Absolutely. She is a serviceable Bond girl, not as terrible as Denise Richards but not nearly in the upper echelon of great Bond girls like Ursula Andress or Eva Green. I also want to note that A View to a Kill was the last Bond film of the 1980’s where James Bond would sleep with more than one woman per picture. He beds three beautiful women. The world was entering the height of AIDS awareness and after this film poor Timothy Dalton would take over and only get to actually sleep with one girl per his Bond pictures.
So there you have it. A View to a Kill is a very solid and entertaining James Bond adventure. With great action sequences throughout, a fitting farewell to two actors that belong enshrined in the 007 Hall of Fame, an over-the-top yet intimidating villain played by one of the best actors of the past fifty years in Christopher Walken. A View to a Kill is skillfully directed by John Glen, with tight editing and beautiful shots. Topped off with one of John Barry’s finest Bond soundtracks and a very good theme song. I have never understood why A View to a Kill has been criticized so harshly over the years. Moore’s age does not bother me because I think this is a much better film than 1983’s Octopussy, which would have been his farewell and would not have been nearly as appropriate. That was the film that turned James Bond into a clown, literally. Give A View to a Kill another chance. I certainly think there are more positives in this film than the two Dalton’s that would immediately follow it and it encapsulates all the greatness and silliness of Roger Moore’s James Bond.