A View to a Kill, the 14th film in the longest standing franchise is a film that signals the end of one era for James Bond, the fictional MI6 licensed to kill and seduce almost every woman he encounters. To think this film would end on a high note is optimistic indeed, but really, being skeptical or even pessimistic is the better option given the track record of the previous 5 films released in a decade long span of time. A View to a Kill is the final time Roger Moore suits up in a tuxedo while ordering his signature vodka martini, shaken, not stirred. Divisive is the word to best describe Moore’s era at play Bond starting in 1973 with Live and Let Die.
Among his record breaking 7 performances surpassing Sean Connery (in the official Eon productions, Connery would make a 7th appearance in Never Say Never Again), the best actor who has played the character, Moore’s Bond has still been a financial success while not living up to the previous films expectations and critical success. Moore’s Bond stories has leaned more on the humor of the universe, heavily favoring the sly tongue and cheek one-liner jokes and campy out of touch dialogue. The villains of this film are even written poorly, something that has never plagued screenwriter’s Richard Maibaum and Michael G. Wilson before. “Looks like a view…. To a kill” uttered by Max Zorin (Christopher Walken) and his henchwoman May Day (Grace Jones) in unison together as if they spent their nights practicing their timing together when they weren’t training with the sexual tension that usually Bond and the Bond girl gives off.
The villains of the Moore era are nothing like the villains of the Connery era. For one, the legal battle over the rights and use of the criminal organization SPECTRE and its number 1 Ernst Starvo Blofeld are keeping these films from reaching their true potential. All we’ve gotten is a good look at a white cat and an over the shoulder shot of a bald man in all grey suggesting the Moore films are in the same universe as Connery and Lazenby. Beyond that, Roger Moore’s portrayal of Bond has the look and feel of a different dimension that Bond resides in – no connective tissue to what has happened in the past (most of that due to the Thunderball lawsuit brought on by former contributors of Ian Fleming, Jack Whittingham & Kevin McClory).
For majority of the films that Moore has appeared in, A View to a Kill has similarities to some of the worst films in the franchise. The plot, for instance, promises way too much for the story being told leaving a lot of the plot points to be abandoned for the bigger picture that ultimately winds up being complete disappointment.
Like all the films in this franchise, A View to a Kill is based off a Fleming property, the short story collection from Fleming that is part of a 5-part series. But here, the film version is an all-original story that only takes the name of the novel into consideration when crafting it. Something that has become the new normal since Moore took over.
How many chases down snowy mountains are enough for this franchise. The opening sequences uses this trope that has been done many times before sets the tone for this film but once that scene is over and Bond escapes the never-ending number of henchmen on someone’s payroll, the tone changes from high energy to barely awake. Did someone continuously hit the snooze button on the remainder of the film? There is zero energy or enthusiasm from the older Roger Moore. 6 films playing the same role, who wouldn’t lose the passion for the character. It’s not like the writing has changed Bond or any of the reoccurring supporting cast in the past 2 decades.
Returning to familiar roles are M (Robert Brown) who gives Bond his mission, Q (Desmond Llewelyn) who supplies Bond with groundbreaking tech to push further into the future, and Miss Moneypenny (Lois Maxwell) the unlucky secretary to M who never catches a break with Bond’s flirtatious seduction. A View to a Kill also marks the final appearance of Lois Maxwell who has played the role since the very beginning in Dr. No, two decades prior.
Bond films historically play it safe when it comes to the story that crafted. The story isn’t the main draw to these films as the assembly line churns them out but with an updated fresh coat of pain and new tech that dazzle. Following a big opening sequence that immediately places Bond in danger, he goes undercover, has a run in with the villain and gets bested by them only to be captured or thought to be killed, seduces the Bond, this time Stacy Sutton (Tanya Roberts), waits to the last minutes to save the world and then sleeps his way to victory. The template is there, the execution is mishandled.
Moore comes into A View to a Kill looking his age. He’s always played the role with a silent confidence and a whisper but here he’s almost too calm. He doesn’t have the Connery smirk and wink but still he made the character his own after taking a film or two to get his feet wet. His performance is fine, it’s not the worst in his era but opposite him, the villains have had the higher energy. Walken looks comfortable in his villainous role despite the lack of any character development or motivation for destroying Silicon Valley. But it’s Bond so the purpose is more geared toward the flashy entertainment than the depth of the universe. Walken would of course go on to play yet another villain named Max in Tim Burton’s Batman Returns 7 years later. Zorin and May Day both are infinitely more interesting characters than Bond and Sutton.
The franchise has come a long way since the early beginnings. In a way a new Bond film signifies a change in pop culture, technology, fashion, and music. The music of Bond has been synonymous with its identity. Long-time contributing composer John Barry is back with the opening credits accompanied by a Duran Duran song “A View to a Kill”. The song itself is stylistically the entire decade of the 1980’s adding more synth, harmonies and keytar than necessary to the song and the franchise.
Some Bond songs overshadow the film in which they were created for. Diamonds Are Forever & Live and Let Die are a couple of examples. A View to a Kill is the worst the Bond franchise has to offer, hitting rock bottom. The only direction the franchise can go from here is up. It’s unfortunate for Moore who had to follow a tough act that epitomizes the character. He’s not bad as Bond, but he will never be Connery.
Written By: Richard Maibaum & Michael G. Wilson
Directed By: John Glen
Music By: John Barry
Cinematography: Alan Hume
Starring: Roger Moore, Tayna Roberts, Grace Jones, Christopher Walken, Patrick Macnee, Robert Brown, Lois Maxwell, Desmond Llewelyn
Release Date: June 13, 1985
Running Time: 2 Hours 11 Minutes
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 38%
My Score: 1 out of 5
Based On: From a View to a Kill by Ian Fleming