Thursday, December 29, 2016
Bond Watch: A View to a Kill (1985)
On the social medias, Jake asked me if I thought Never Say Never Again was better than Octopussy, and I told him I'd think about it. I'm gonna go with "Octopussy is the clearly more fun of the two movies, but Never Say Never Again is the better-thought-out and probably smarter movie. Less clowns." But what I will say is that both are much better than Moore's final outing as 007, A View to a Kill (1985).
"But, Signal Watch," you say. "That's the first one I saw in the theater! It was fun! Christopher Walken!" Yes. Those are all *facts*. It's why you're nostalgic for this movie. But, my friends, I am sorry to say - this was not a great movie. In fact - it was a bad movie.
What it does have is a killer theme song, courtesy Duran Duran + John Barry. The video is a bit weird as Rhino didn't seem to have rights to anything but the song itself, so, no the video is not broken. Just wait til the 1:17 mark for audio.
As I mentioned with Octopussy, it feels as if View to a Kill was made for children, which is weird, because Bond is still humping his way across the Northern Hemisphere and killing people. So it's likely meant to be some entertainment Dad can take the kids to see and not feel too bad, and lord knows my mom dropped me and my brother off to see this one in the theater with no parental supervision.
I've mentioned before that as a kid, I had a very hard time following the plots to Bond movies, and as an adult, I can see why. This film is more a collection of scenes tying loosely together, with no actual MacGuffin. It's just Bond following the worst possible path for answering the riddle the movie opens with.
Our plot - James Bond retrieves a chip from a dead 00 agent, stolen from a lab in Siberia. It turns out it matches the EMP-proof secret chips being made for UK intelligence by a manufacturer which was just bought out by a fellow named Zorin (a blonde-dyed Christopher Walken). Zorin's bio has a few holes, so he's suspicious (also originally from East Germany). M is already on the case and takes Bond, Moneypenny, himself and a character we'll call Uncle Steve to the horse races, because that is where Zorin is at. Zorin loves horses.
For some reason Bond becomes very interested in the horsey-angle, and goes to a @#$%ing amazing chateau in France where Zorin is auctioning horseys. For some reason, we lose a lot of time worrying about horses here, and through blind luck and an insanely placed conveyor belt, a connection is made.
Something something - go to San Francisco, water and oil pumps (no horses are mentioned again), and it seems Zorin is trying to corner the semi-conductor market with a Lex Luthorian plan.
None of it makes any sense, we lose plenty of time to a scene where Bond decides to escape in a f'ing firetruck, in a chase that is clearly not filmed in San Francisco (I'd guess the filmmakers thought San Fran and LA were more or less the same until they got there, given the scuba-diving-in-the Bay bit), and Tanya Roberts' character is in the movie way, way more than she needs to be. Also - James Bond does not seem to know the myriad reasons one does not go *up* in a building when it is on fire. Also, marble and steel don't burn like that, and government buildings have fire suppression systems.
There are any number of notable Bond girls in the film. As I mentioned, Tanya Roberts of Sheena and Beastmaster fame is our heroic female lead, who mostly seems like deadweight through most of the movie. What you'll remember is that 80's-icon Grace Jones plays "May Day", the villain's prerequisite lady-sidekick. Allison Doody gets a few minutes of screentime as sub-henchwoman named "Jenny Flex", and if you're wondering who Doody is - she's Elsa in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.
I literally don't know why a whole sequence was occurring there at the end. I'm sure there's a reason, but I missed it. They introduce a Russian spy for about six minutes of the film, as if we're supposed to know who she is, and it's sort of introduced in context, but it feels left over from a different draft where the character was relevant.
The movie was directed by John Glen, who did other Bond movies I genuinely like (For Your Eyes Only, The Living Daylights - that is, until we watch it next week, I guess). But who knows what issues he struggled with? This was a weird time with the Bond pictures as they struggled with ownership rights. Heck, as Jamie pointed out in the final minutes - we'd never heard the actual Bond theme in this movie. Just the Duran Duran song. It's hard to know what happened there.
Further, Glen is an accomplished editor, so one would think he'd know what he needed for a coherent picture. But... man, no.
I don't want to bag on Moore too much. He can't help it that he's clearly older here, and he's settled into his Bond-ian patter where it's all a good chuckle. The problem is that it never feels like anything is at stake, so it never feels like anything matters to the audience. We're going to just watch Bond waltz through the scenes, no doubt winning the day and having a good laugh about it as people die around him and women disrobe for him. I mean, you can't blame him for feeling a bit blase about the whole thing. We'd already hit self-parody with gusto in Octopussy, so by the film, we've passed into uncharted territory that makes you wonder "what am I looking at here?".
It's impossible to say if Walken is good or bad. He is simply Walken, and he defies your judgment or mine. He simply is. Behold.
It's a bit of a relief that we hit the end of the Moore-era. I like his earlier pictures well enough, but I can see why, by this point, my dad had given up on Bond and only cared to watch when old Connery movies made it to TV. Even in Never Say Never Again, which is not exactly perfect, Connery still feels like a guy who might/ maybe could be killed, who isn't exactly a cartoon even as his adventures get a little surreal.
When we eventually get to Casino Royale, remind me to talk about how, up to this point, nobody is ever traumatized by the completely horrific scenes Bond skates through. Whether he's attaching himself to a geophysicist or a cello player, everyone just sort of shrugs, acts like this is all normal and feels up for sex three minutes after (a) Bond breaks into their house and (b) two minutes after murderous thugs appear and Bond kills them before her very eyes.
It's kind of creepy in a way.
What was absolutely weirdest was that I had juxtoposed a scene I have to assume is from The Living Daylights into this movie in my head. I swore there was a sequence where a guy strangles someone in a kitchen with the wire from his earphones. Someone tell me what movies I'm mixing up here.
Further - I had literally no recollection of most of the second half of this movie, and I think I watched it about five years ago with Simon. It's all very confusing.