This first Thursday in September brings with it the end of an era, the Roger Moore era. Today, 007(x3) Weeks of 007 takes a look Moore’s last outing as Bond, 1985’s “A View to a Kill.”
Want amazing? “A View to a Kill” was released 30 years ago. It hit theaters the same year as “Back to the Future.” That just feels weird.
“Back to the Future,” which is purposefully situated in 1985 and 1955 feels like it hasn’t aged all that much. You could almost envision a world in which such a movie was made today, one that was structured in similar fashion, shot in similar fashion, and edited in similar fashion. The same is not true for “A View to a Kill.” No one would make an action movie like that today.
Really? A zeppelin? Snowboarding to “California Girls?” The turning sand into silicon chips thing Zorin offers? Even the butterfly lunch at the Eiffel Tower feels dated, and dated in a way that other Bond movies aren’t.
One of the things that amazes me about it is that despite the fact that most folks would say “A View to a Kill” is a relatively forgettable Bond outing, it has two absolutely classic Bond moments, even if I listed them above as things that wouldn’t appear in a movie today. The Eiffel Tower sequence and the zeppelin at the Golden Gate Bridge (don’t give me any malarkey about “Indiana Jones” using a zeppelin to great effect, that’s a period movie), are both iconic moments for the franchise. It actually feels a little weird that it took more than 20 years of Bond movies for them to do something at the Eiffel Tower, for a franchise full of famous locations, the Eiffel Tower seems like a no brainer.
So, that’s one amazing thing, but there’s so much more to the movie. For instance, “A View to a Kill” is almost “Goldeneye.” They lay the groundwork for the latter here.
No? Don’t believe me? You didn’t watch then.
At the outset of this film, when Bond is getting his mission, Q explains that they’ve been working on a microchip that would survive a nuclear blast and that the Russians have stolen the technology, that’s what prompts the investigation of Zorin. Momentarily, it looks like this chip or the widespread lack thereof is what the movie is going to be about – saving the world from a nuclear blast that would disable anything with a microchip; saving the world from what would be known in the first Brosnan film, which released a decade after “A View to a Kill,” as a “Goldeneye device.”
Of course, that isn’t what “A View to a Kill” becomes. Instead, it’s the tale of a villain trying to corner the market on microchips by destroying Silicon Valley via an earthquake. And, he isn’t just any regular villain either, he’s the product of Nazi experimentation to create a superman. Maybe that’s another one of the reasons it feels a little dated. We may have been 40 years past the end of the War in the mid-’80s, but now we’re 70 years past it.
Zorin actually shows those super-human smarts at one moment in the movie (besides with his evil earthquake plan). He has Bond unconscious in the back of a car driven into a lake. Then, rather than disappearing and just hoping that Bond drowns, Zorin actually stays to watch. He, in fact, stays long enough that Bond ought to be dead. Zorin doesn’t count on Bond waking up and breathing air from the car tires and he probably should have actually tried to fish out the dead body (or just shoot Bond), but watching to make sure that Bond is dead is a step up from your standard supervillain.
“A View to a Kill” also has the utter brilliance of Grace Jones as May Day. Talk about a great henchman, one who can do anything. She is stellar and yet another example of a woman being Bond’s equal during the Moore years.
The other element of the film that really strikes watching me watching it is that despite coming out more than 20 years after “Goldfinger,” the franchise can’t seem to move away from that Bond outing. Zorin’s explanation of his plan to his business partners overtly echoes Goldfinger’s explanation of Operation Grand Slam, from the name (Operation Main Strike), to the map that appears, to one guy saying he wants out and seemingly being allowed to leave only to then be murdered. In “A View to a Kill” the producers are still trying to replicate that film’s success despite there being 10 movies between “Goldfinger” and this one.
You almost wind up feeling a little bad for Bond. This guy can defeat any villain, foil any plan, go anywhere in the world (or space), but he can’t get past his own history. He can’t escape his greatest triumph.
I feel like, at this moment, there’s some sort of summation required about the Roger Moore years, and that it ties directly in to the “Goldfinger” problem. Even if you don’t like him as a Bond, Moore makes the character his own in the same way Connery does, and that character us quite a different one. The franchise grows and changes, moving past SPECTRE, adding more gadgets, and going for a different sort of humor than Connery ever employed. But, despite all that, here in his final outing, the franchise still goes back to a Connery movie. The shadow of Connery looms large—as does the shadow of Moore for those who come after him—and Moore is still facing it here in “A View to a Kill.” And that’s despite his having been Bond for more years and in more films.
One last thing to note – this is the first Bond movie that uses the now regular “James Bond will return” at the end of the credits as opposed to naming, or attempting to name, the next movie. More than 20 years of films and this is the first time that happens.
As for us, next week, the Timothy Dalton era begins. Sure, it’ll end the week after that, but we’re not there yet. 007(x3) Weeks of 007 will return with “The Living Daylights.”
photo credit: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment