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
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.
'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:
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.
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.