Our Word Is Our Bond reaches the end of the Roger Moore era, with Leon Nicholson taking a look at A View To A Kill (1985) starring Roger Moore, Christopher Walken, Tanya Roberts and Grace Jones.
A View To A Kill was the first James Bond movie I saw at the cinema. I was a little eight year old when this was released and by this time, I was already a huge Bond fan. My experience of the series up to this point came not from VHS or Betamax but from terrestrial TV (ITV to be precise), and my generation will remember that, at this time in the UK, there were only four channels. So with ITV possessing the rights to Bond, we could expect a film every Bank Holiday, including, of course, Easter, Christmas and New Year. So imagine my excitement, as an eight year old, when my mother said she was going to take me to watch the new Bond flick at the pictures.
Let’s not forget – like Doctor Who, every one has ‘their Bond’, their favourite – and that Bond is usually the one you grow up with. My parent’s ‘Bond’ was, of course, the one and only Sean Connery, and the actor who I grew up with playing 007 was Roger Moore. He was my Bond, the 007 that some of my early childhood memories were formed against – it’s the reason why I love James Bond.
The story sets itself up with Bond (Moore) going to Siberia to locate 003’s body and to find a cutting edge microchip from the USSR – one that is resistant to electromagnetic pulses. This leads to James Bond investigating Max Zorin (Christopher Walken), head of Zorin Industries which, incidentally, have made the said microchip. Further investigations into Zorin’s dealings lead Bond to his estate, where he comes across May Day (Grace Jones), Zorin’s extremely dangerous henchman (or henchwoman), and Stacey Sutton (Tanya Roberts), a beautiful woman that Zorin is trying to buy out. Later Bond learns that Max has aspirations to corner the microchip market by doing a Lex Luthor, and causing an explosion in the San Andreas Fault to destroy Silicon Valley. It’s up to Bond and Stacey to stop Zorin and May Day from taking over the world.
So (to use my age as an excuse), I loved A View To A Kill. Why? Well, I loved Duran Duran’s track but most importantly the baddie got his ass handed to him and James Bond saved the world… again – in fact for the 14th time (officially). It did however leave me with some images that have scarred me for life, namely watching Grace Jones’s May Day slip into bed with (at this stage) an aging Bond. It is a sight that, to this day, still sends more shudders down my spine more than any Hammer horror movie ever has.
On a serious note though, the main problem with A View To A Kill is that our hero, in the form of Roger Moore, looks very tired – in fact extremely knackered. I’m sure Steptoe And Son’s Hercules never looked as battered as Bond does in this outing. Moore is way past his prime and way past his best and, sadly, that affected the way the series was viewed after this movie. Sure, the Bond series was on a downward spiral; Moore’s smooth womanising ways as 007 were increasingly coupled with awful one-liners that made Arnie’s ‘let off some steam, Bennett’ and ‘stick around’ feel like they were written by Shakespeare. Bond was (hopefully) unintentionally heading down a self-parodying route and despite A View To A Kill trying to veer away from this, the damage was already done. By the time Timothy Dalton came along it felt very uncool to like anything associated with Bond.
Our exhausted-looking hero looks a tad fed up of shagging the girl and saving the world, and it shows in an auto-pilot performance by Moore. Christopher Walken shows only minute glimpses of why he’s such a great actor and Grace Jones has such a presence that she does not really need to act. It’s the very beautiful Tanya ‘Sheena: Queen Of The Jungle’ Roberts that is reserved for the biggest judgement. Without being too harsh, there’s less wood in Sherwood… somewhere down the line, however, director John Glen has to take some of the responsibility for the performances with uninspiring direction, but a lacklustre screenplay also doesn’t help the film.
A retrospective look at A View To A Kill demonstrates that this is a below average Bond. It’s not truly awful, but there’s not much going for it either. For example, the pre-credits sequence, which is usually one of the most exciting and impressive factors in Bond movies, just seems laboured and uninspiring. With director Glen helming his third Bond out of the five he directed, A View To A Kill is most definitely his weakest effort. The only way to even attempt to enjoy this is to not pay any attention to plot or performance and watch with the brain well and truly switched off.
A View To A Kill reminds me of Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull – it has a lead far too old to play the all-action hero (and I’m saying this despite Harrison Ford being one of my favourite actors of all time) with the magic of previous entries well and truly lost.
A View To A Kill was a disappointing way for Roger Moore to end his Bond career. Love him or loathe him, Moore brought a different approach to the British secret agent – one that every so often still resonates within the modern Bond movies. It’s an interpretation embraced by some, derided by others, but A View To A Kill was quite simply a Bond too far for Roger
MoM Rating: 4.5/10