Is 'A View to a Kill' in need of a critical reappraisal?

I've written a few of these in the past and they have sprouted some healthy discussion so here are some of my thoughts on the great 'A View to a Kill': http://thelektordevice.blogspot.co.uk/2014/12/is-view-to-kill-in-need-of-critical.html

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The Argument For:

There is a broad consensus that 'A View to a Kill' represents something of a nadir for the Bond films. The moment where the series nearly capsized into itself. When it came to reassessing the movie I was fully prepared to pull the knives out and write a diatribe on quite how woeful this film really is. So imagine my surprise when I sat down to watch 'A View to a Kill' and found myself enjoying it. Really? Could this be the same 'A View to a Kill' that was critically lambasted on release and in the ensuing years fans have found little redeemable about? Well, in a word, yes. It's not the best Bond film, but it's far from the worst and in fact I believe it may actually be quite underrated and in need of reconsideration.

Firstly, I think you really need to take a moment to appreciate quite how bonkers and brave the film is. Just look at the cast: you have an ageing action star, a former Charlie's Angel, an '80's diva and an Oscar-winning actor. What a bizarre bunch and for all intents and purposes this movie really shouldn't work but the thought of that group coming together in a Bond film is quite an exciting prospect.

Secondly, the film is thoroughly entertaining and as soon as it begins it immediately picks the audience up in a flight of fancy and its relentless pacing sees you through the more silly and embarrassing segments. John Glen is a tremendous action director and the set-pieces and chases are constantly inventive and extremely well put together. The film has not one but two high-octane sequences on top of prominent world monuments and throughout the film is littered with impressive and bold action sequences. 'A View to a Kill' may not attempt to deal with any heady issues or ideas or even build up a compelling characterisation of any of it's subjects but it is a fun and entertaining piece of pure cinema.

For instance, take the Golden-Gate Bridge scenes; the entire sequence is expertly edited and proves to be both tense and vertiginously terrifying. The chase through Paris and Bond's slowly collapsing car is inspired stuff and I really feel the pre-title sequence is the great forgotten gem of the film. Many seem to have deliberately erased the sequence from their memories due to the embarrassing use of the Beach Boys but if you look beyond that song's inclusion you can see that it is in fact a great and visually exciting chase.

John Barry's contribution is also stellar and while the inclusion of Duran Duran may have been a more commercial consideration, the band have produced an enduring piece of 1980's pop that is damn catchy.

The Villains

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'A View to a Kill' has a number of first-rate bad guys for Bond to tussle with. The last two films directed by Glen had severely undercooked adversaries and as a result suffered from a lack of threat and sense of menace. There is no such issue here, Max Zorin is a fantastic villain and Christopher Walken is brilliant in the part.

The conceit behind the villain is great stuff, as of course we discover Zorin is a product of a former Nazi-scientist's experiment on pregnant women in concentration camps. I also found it quite interesting the relationship that Zorin shares with Dr. Carl Mortimer, the man who essentially created him, there seems to be an odd father-son bond going on in the background of this film. In portraying the character Walken avoids the trap he fell into numerous times throughout his career of over selling his performance. Instead the actor is relatively subdued but still brings his customary and trademark tics to the role and as a result the character comes across as more maniacal, flinty and frightening.

However, it is Grace Jones who steals the show for me. The part of May Day on paper is actually rather flat but Jones imbues the character with great presence. The thought of casting a pop star/model like Jones would seemingly be the producers desperate attempt to appeal to the zeitgeist of the time but the move surprisingly works and Jones makes a terrifying foe. Jones is clearly an unusual and eccentric character in real life and it comes across on the screen. So while it may appear a little kitsch by today's standards there is still an undeniable joy in watching an '80's icon going head to head with James Bond. The only problem with the character is her sudden change of faith at the end of the film, part of me hoped that she and Bond could go head-to-head and a more imaginative and less redeemable death could have been planned for her.

Furthermore, despite the standout performances by Jones and Walken you can't help but feel the movie could have used more of the pair. As it stands the film doesn't really give them too much to do which seems a shame and is more than a wasted opportunity.

Old in the Tooth:

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While I've pointed out some of the film's more admirable features it would be overly optimistic to say the movie is totally faultless. Among 'A View to a Kill's more costly errors is the reappearance of Roger Moore as James Bond. With 'A View to a Kill' what is most clear is how far we have moved away from the pure testosterone and sex-appeal of Sean Connery back in 1962.

Firstly, Rog looks a bit odd, it's clear the actor has indulged on some cosmetic surgery and subsequently his eyes have a slightly vacant quality to them. Furthermore, his hair just looks strange and artificial. Every time Roger has a closeup his new look is just distracting and to be quite honest a little embarrassing. In addition, you can't help but laugh at the film's poor attempts to disguise the use of Roger's stunt-double; I encourage everyone to get their copy of 'A View to a Kill' and go through it and find a stunt where you can't clearly tell it's not Moore in the action. It's literally ridiculous and
shows quite how unearned Roger's star-billing was on this film.

Moore isn't helped by the producer's refusal to acknowledge Bond's age. It makes the whole thing slightly more embarrassing to watch considering the physical feats we are supposed to believe Moore is capable of. Despite this it seems as though the filmmakers behind 'A View to a Kill' believe the more action and young girls they throw at Bond the more audiences will accept the older Moore. It makes little sense and it's very uncomfortable and rather creepy seeing the older more predatory Bond turning his attention to women young enough to be his daughter.

This may all sound slightly ageist, but the truth is if your leading-man is 57 let him play a 57 year-old. 'A View to a Kill' would have been a more interesting film had they played up this angle and it would have given Moore some actual dramatic meat to chew on. Instead poor Rog has to put on a Fila tracksuit and chat-up a teenager.

Despite this, there is still a certain amount of fun to be had watching Roger pad about, especially during the earlier segments of the movie. Moore is most alive during 'A View to a Kill's scenes set in France and his moments with Patrick Macnee are something of a highlight. The pair have great chemistry together and the loss of Tibbet is genuine and saddening. There is a slight Holmes-and-Watson vibe to their relationship which is no surprise considering both Moore and Macnee had previously played those respective roles in a 1970's television film.

Furthermore, I find it quite commendable how the film places such reliance on two ageing stars. Curiously both have large fan-bases for their performances in TV spy dramas during the 60's - in a way 'A View to a Kill' is something of a latter day more tame and English 'Expendables' film set in the French countryside.

Guilty Pleasure:

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Many of the film's other indiscretions can be forgiven or at least have a blind eye turned towards them. Often fans have labelled Tanya Robert's portrayal as Stacey as the worst Bond girl in the history of the series and I can sympathise with these claims. Roberts is not the best actress out there and often she is left to retort dull exposition that she herself seems to have no idea about. It's actually rather comically seeing Roberts sprout all some technical mumbo-jumbo while wearing the shortest nightie in the world. It doesn't help matters that after her mysterious build-up, Stacey is revealed to actually be totally superfluous to the story.

Essentially, Roberts is a blow-up Barbie doll bought to life and too often the script requires her to be nothing more than a damsel in distress. Despite the shortcomings of the character it's clear that Roberts has only really been hired as window-dressing and in this regard is perfectly adequate in the film. Furthermore, her presence has surely set more than a few young men's heart aflutter. (Also I couldn't help but find it funny how unmoved she is by the attempt on her life in her own home, she even has enough time to put on a sultry dress and eat a quiche with a complete stranger - genius).

The film is also littered with some really strange and baffling little moments and chief amongst them for me is Bond's seduction of May Day. It makes no sense either dramatically or in context of the actual story why he would turn his attention towards her. It's quite simply a contrived moment to get Bond in the sack with Grace Jones and surely messrs Maibaum and Wilson could have thought of something more interesting? And what's the point of the Pola Ivanova character? It seems to be just another excuse to get Roger in the sack with another scantily-clad nymph.

Also the plot is extremely convoluted, Bond is initially investigating Zorin due to a possible leak that has led to the Russians gaining technology the Brits have been developing. This idea is quickly picked up only to later be dropped as Bond starts investigating some scam Zorin is doing on racehorses before we finally head to San Francisso for the meat of the movie. The horseplay (ahem) segment of the film is the most enjoyable of the movie, the movie really changes gear during the San Francisso portion of the film and as a result never quite gets back the momentum it had for the first half. During the latter hour of the film, Zorin's plan becomes flat-out confusing and the movie's attempt to explain his scheme proves head-scratching.

In summary, 'A View to a Kill' isn't perfect but it's a thoroughly entertaining and expertly put together piece of cinema. It's a guilty-pleasure through-and-through; no one is going to admit to actually really loving the film as it's far to easy to poke holes at the plot or just flat out laugh at the film generally. Nonetheless, it is difficult to deny that when in the moment it's hard not to have fun when watching it.

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Comments

  • AceHoleAceHole Belgium, via Britain
    edited December 2014 Posts: 1,727
    I like your well-written defense of a Bond film which, let's face it, is in desperate need of it's supporters.

    A lacklustre script (which truly wastes some potentially great adversaries - yes, Walken & Jones could have been classic Bond nemeses) and stubborn refusal to acknowledge the leading man's age are it's main failings, as far as I'm concerned.

    Somewhere beneath the 007 trite AVTAK forces upon us there are the makings of a very decent Bondfilm - yes, the opening is actually one of the better PTS's in the series if you ignore Brian Wilson & co., Barry's score is arguably one of his best and the whole Übermensch theme could have brought forth some interesting plot-lines.
    But instead we have mediocre stunts, Moore schmoozing with 20 year olds and a tepid rehash of the Goldfinger plot.
  • ThunderpussyThunderpussy My Secret Lair
    Posts: 13,384
    I like AVTAK ( there I've said it ) :)) as already mentioned, if they had given a
    Nod to Bonds age, got some better look a like stuntmen etc, but in my opinion
    It's a fun way to pass a couple of hours , watched it a few nights ago on ITV 4.
  • Posts: 1,146
    Is it true they play the Beach Boys as part of a gag at one point in this film?
  • ThunderpussyThunderpussy My Secret Lair
    Posts: 13,384
    Yes, that is a bit of a low point.
  • Posts: 11,189
    Is it true they play the Beach Boys as part of a gag at one point in this film?

    Haven't you even seen the film?


  • ThunderpussyThunderpussy My Secret Lair
    Posts: 13,384
    Still a great bit of snowboarding !
  • Posts: 1,146
    BAIN123 wrote: »
    Is it true they play the Beach Boys as part of a gag at one point in this film?

    Haven't you even seen the film?

    Saw the film when it came out, thought it was a farce and never saw it again.
  • MayDayDiVicenzoMayDayDiVicenzo Here and there
    edited December 2014 Posts: 5,080
    BAIN123 wrote: »
    Is it true they play the Beach Boys as part of a gag at one point in this film?

    Haven't you even seen the film?


    He brought this scene up in another thread, so he clearly knows of the scene. Not sure why all of a sudden it's become a question.

    Anyhow; ever since becoming a member of this forum, I've always vouched for this film as it is one of my favourites. There has been growing appreciation of this film in recent times, and in royale65's Rate the Bond films thread, it finished in the not too shabby position of 15th place.

    And so I agree whole-heartedly with the OP that AVTAK deserves better, but I'm glad that this seems to be already happening.

    I've posted why I love this particular release on other threads, but here they are again in relation to points brought up by Pierce2Daniel-

    --The Villains! Zorin and Mayday are my favourite duo of villains in the series. Walken is just perfection and brings his A game here- he looks like he is having immense fun. Mayday is wacky and threatening nonetheless. My appreciation of her is reflected in my username.

    --The Music! My favourite Barry score. Wine with Stacey and Snow Job are sublime pieces. Duran Duran's belter of a theme is my favourite (along with LALD).

    --Action- The scenes involving the Eiffel Tower is all great stuff, and I love the dramatic music when Mayday parachutes from the tower. The horse chase is thrilling, and Zorin gunning down all the miners is both shocking but very put together all the same. Perhaps one of the most violent scenes in the series. I love all the scenes in the City Hall, and the subsequent Fire Truck chase is another well directed set piece by Glen.
    And of course, the finale upon the Golden Gate Bridge may just be my favourite finale in the series. The score, Zorin going all out, and the Blimp explosion are superb.

    --A solid story/plot- Undoubtedly, the similarities with Goldfinger are present. But this is where I have to disagree with @Pierce- the plot actually improves upon the foundations of the Goldfinger "monopoly" plot- this time around, it actually makes sense. Ooh, controversial, I know! As for it being convoluted- it is no more so than GF, TB, DAF, TMWTGG, OP, TLD, TWINE and QOS.

    --Sir Godfrey Tibbet- has great chemistry with Moore's Bond- a delight to watch the duo on screen. I love the back and forth banter between the two.

    --and to a lesser extent, Stacey Sutton. Not the best Bond girl, but certainly to the worst. I do like the idea of her relationship with Bond being more "patriarchal", so it was a shame that this was broken with the ending scene. This is my main gripe with the film, but it does not spoil what came before.

  • Posts: 1,146
    What a joke.
  • Posts: 11,189
    The thing with View is that, as a kid, it too was one of my favourites. But seeing it now as a 28/29 year old it doesn't feel as good anymore.
  • MayDayDiVicenzoMayDayDiVicenzo Here and there
    Posts: 5,080
    =D> Another insightful and constructive comment from doubleohdad there...
  • Posts: 1,146
    The thing is, without the music it would have made for a better sequence. The music COMPLETELY undercuts it.
    Honestly, it's cringe-worthy and a long, long way off from the coolness of the 60's films.
  • MayDayDiVicenzoMayDayDiVicenzo Here and there
    Posts: 5,080
    Ok, so we seem to be relegating AVTAK down to its PTS. The Beach Boys song doesn't even bother me, to be honest.
  • ThunderpussyThunderpussy My Secret Lair
    Posts: 13,384
    I remember my Dad and his mates laughing at the Beach Boys song :))
  • Posts: 183
    Have always liked the PTS. Love the beach boys fun. It's not meant to be or trying to be serious, it fits the general tone of the Moore era which, like it or not, was an essential part of the Bond franchises longevity. The film itself is solid Moore, yes he's too old but I don't think this ruins it.
  • Posts: 1,146
    Trigger wrote: »
    It's not meant to be or trying to be serious, it fits the general tone of the Moore era

    lol, you got that right.
  • --and to a lesser extent, Stacey Sutton. Not the best Bond girl, but certainly to the worst. I do like the idea of her relationship with Bond being more "patriarchal", so it was a shame that this was broken with the ending scene. This is my main gripe with the film, but it does not spoil what came before.

    I have to disagree here, at no point in the film is the relationship between Bond and Stacey "patriarchal". Stacey is presented throughout the film solely as a sex object. She's objectified pretty much in every scene she's in.

    Immediately the relationship between Stacey and Bond is presented as a sexual one. She's outrageously flirting with him over dinner and Bond looks gutted when she's passed out later. Once again this element of the film is rather embarrassing as a woman like Tanya Roberts would never find a guy like Roger in 1985 attractive. Had the film acknowledged the age-gap between the pair a more "patriarchal" angle would have by far suited the film.


  • Posts: 11,189
    Personally I think the PTS is average to poor.

    "ooo Commander Bond" (falls into Moore's lap really unconvincingly)
    "Call me James"

    It's kind of funny but at the same time...yuck :-&
  • MayDayDiVicenzoMayDayDiVicenzo Here and there
    edited December 2014 Posts: 5,080
    --and to a lesser extent, Stacey Sutton. Not the best Bond girl, but certainly to the worst. I do like the idea of her relationship with Bond being more "patriarchal", so it was a shame that this was broken with the ending scene. This is my main gripe with the film, but it does not spoil what came before.

    Stacey is presented throughout the film solely as a sex object. She's objectified pretty much in every scene she's in.

    Bit of an exaggeration there. I can think of one scene where it only comes close to her being "objectified": when Mayday rips her dress when climbing the mine shaft. Apart from this "showing a bit of flesh", what are other examples where Sutton is "objectified"? She's hardly running around in nothing but a bikini a la Kissy Suzuki or Mary Goodnight. There is a bit difference about being a damsel in distress (then again, does every Bond girl need to be Bond's "equal"?) and being solely a sex object. Sutton fits comfortably in the former category.

    --and to a lesser extent, Stacey Sutton. Not the best Bond girl, but certainly to the worst. I do like the idea of her relationship with Bond being more "patriarchal", so it was a shame that this was broken with the ending scene. This is my main gripe with the film, but it does not spoil what came before.

    She's outrageously flirting with him over dinner and Bond looks gutted when she's passed out later.

    Again, I think this is quite an exaggeration. The discussion over dinner is nothing more than Stacey telling the story about her father's oil business. I see no romantic tension whatsoever.

    I do think that Bond's relationship with Sutton is presented as being patriarchal to an extent. Take the scene where Bond opts to sleep on the chair with his shotgun, to protect her if Zorin's men were to return in the night. Any other film would have had him do the deed.
  • Posts: 1,146
    --and to a lesser extent, Stacey Sutton. Not the best Bond girl, but certainly to the worst. I do like the idea of her relationship with Bond being more "patriarchal", so it was a shame that this was broken with the ending scene. This is my main gripe with the film, but it does not spoil what came before.

    I have to disagree here, at no point in the film is the relationship between Bond and Stacey "patriarchal". Stacey is presented throughout the film solely as a sex object. She's objectified pretty much in every scene she's in.

    Immediately the relationship between Stacey and Bond is presented as a sexual one. She's outrageously flirting with him over dinner and Bond looks gutted when she's passed out later. Once again this element of the film is rather embarrassing as a woman like Tanya Roberts would never find a guy like Roger in 1985 attractive. Had the film acknowledged the age-gap between the pair a more "patriarchal" angle would have by far suited the film.


    Bingo.
  • I have always enjoyed the film and it is pure hokum. Moore looks great at times, and quite with it, in particular the briefing scene where he begins 'Yes, minister...' His eyes are piercing blue and he looks a heck of a lot better than Connery in NSNA (no hard feat). But yeah, other times he looks rough and when he is trying it on with Stacey at the Chateau, you feel like actually May Day is intervening on her behalf cos he's a dirty old man...

    The May Day seduction is just weird but it uses the old 'think of England' gag that Bond references to Moneypenny earlier 'I am expected to sacrifice myself...' with the bugle of God Save the Queen... It is meant to be comical, that's how sex was portrayed back then anyway.

    For some reason, as this film is hokum, I can believe it is Rog doing those amazing ski stunts whereas I just can't in FYEO.

    The film is slick and unpretentious and it just rolls along. A couple of dodgy action scenes though, such as the high jump thing and the fire engine chase. Still, I love Barry's score and the look of the French chateau scenes. Love the villainy too.
  • TripAcesTripAces Universal Exports
    Posts: 4,547
    Ok, so we seem to be relegating AVTAK down to its PTS. The Beach Boys song doesn't even bother me, to be honest.

    Uh...it is a black mark, for sure; one of the biggest cringe-worthy moments in the Bond franchise. Take out that music, substitute back in Barry's score, and then find a better stunt double (also cringe-worthy in this film) and AVTAK might be one of the top 10 Bond films.

    For sure, the film has one of the best villains and one of the very best title songs.

  • MayDayDiVicenzoMayDayDiVicenzo Here and there
    edited December 2014 Posts: 5,080
    TripAces wrote: »
    Ok, so we seem to be relegating AVTAK down to its PTS. The Beach Boys song doesn't even bother me, to be honest.

    Uh...it is a black mark, for sure; one of the biggest cringe-worthy moments in the Bond franchise. Take out that music, substitute back in Barry's score, and then find a better stunt double (also cringe-worthy in this film) and AVTAK might be one of the top 10 Bond films.

    For sure, the film has one of the best villains and one of the very best title songs.

    For the me, the biggest cringe-worthy moment in a Bond film (other than the CGI para surfing) is Sean Connery dressed as a Japanese fisherman.

    It just doesn't bother me whatsoever (California Girls).

    I also find it bizarre that one would disregard the film altogether just because of a, what, a 20 second scene in the PTS? Well, c'est la vie...
  • AceHoleAceHole Belgium, via Britain
    Posts: 1,727
    Indeed, the Beach Boys faux-pas is just that - a slight mistep, and easily ignored. I actually think the PTS is one of the film's strong points. Great score, setting, snowboarding...
  • Posts: 1,146
    TripAces wrote: »
    Ok, so we seem to be relegating AVTAK down to its PTS. The Beach Boys song doesn't even bother me, to be honest.

    Uh...it is a black mark, for sure; one of the biggest cringe-worthy moments in the Bond franchise. Take out that music, substitute back in Barry's score, and then find a better stunt double (also cringe-worthy in this film) and AVTAK might be one of the top 10 Bond films.

    For sure, the film has one of the best villains and one of the very best title songs.

    Huge, cringe-worthy moment. Absolutely.
  • MayDayDiVicenzoMayDayDiVicenzo Here and there
    edited December 2014 Posts: 5,080
    Again, we seem to be reducing this thread to nothing more than discussion of the Beach Boys scene. @Pierce2Daniel has brought up a variety of points for discussion.
  • Posts: 1,146
    So if the PTS is the only lowlight in this film, why is it ranked so poorly worldwide?
  • MayDayDiVicenzoMayDayDiVicenzo Here and there
    edited December 2014 Posts: 5,080
    You can't give any kind of contructive comment, and you don't seem able to discuss this film outside of the PTS, so you (yet again...) resort to ratings and reviews.

    People are entitled to their opinions, but you can't use them as FACT.

    If you think there other faults in the film, then DISCUSS them.

  • Mi6LisbonBranchMi6LisbonBranch Lisbon, Portugal
    Posts: 243
    I myself find the PTS (silly but) entertaining.
    I think its fair to say that Roger Morre shouldnt have done this one but overall it isnt so bad.
    Great Villain (Zorin) and henchewoman (MayDay), nice plot, great title song by Duran Duran, great OST by John Barry, some great locations, and some iconic scenes (Eiffel Tower, Golden Gate bridge fight).
    On the minus zide Tania Roberts character is really poor and the whole SanFrancisco fire Truck chase scene was rather poor as well.
    Overall i would give it a 15/20
  • Posts: 1,146
    You can't give any kind of contructive comment, and you don't seem able to discuss this film outside of the PTS, so you (yet again...) resort to ratings and reviews.

    People are entitled to their opinions, but you can't use them as FACT.

    If you think there other faults in the film, then DISCUSS them.

    The lead is too old for the female lead, the villains are cartoonish and outright silly, (I remember everyone in the audience groaning when mayday picked up someone OVER HER HEAD) and the firetruck chase was just awful.

    This film deserves the 38% it gets on RT.

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