Saturday, June 27, 2009

Saturday Is Bond Day, #15: A View To a Kill

Well, now I'll have that Duran Duran song stuck in my head for five years again. Luckily, I have a lurking fondness for DD -- my guilty-pleasure tastes as a teen tended to the more baroque end of the New Wave to begin with.

A View to a Kill sees the final appearance of Roger Moore as Bond, which even his greatest fans will probably admit was two movies and at least four years later than it should have been. (If Moore's movies had come out as quickly as Connery's early movies did, it might have been different -- but he was three years older than Connery to begin with, and Bond really shouldn't look like a man in his mid-fifties.)

But View to a Kill holds together better than I remembered; it's a better movie than Octopussy, all in all, even if Grace Jones (as Mayday, one of the rare villain's top henchman/Bad Bond Girl roles) hasn't mastered any acting more subtle than a growl at this point. Christopher Walken is the main villain, a microchip tycoon/racehorse breeder named Max Zorin who has a complicated backstory that mostly serves to drag in a cute blonde KGB agent for Bond to bonk in the middle of Act 2.

And the horse-breeder aspect is another example of the pointlessly elaborate plotting of the late Moore Bonds; it's as if they had a series of hats with kinds of scenes -- posh expensive sporting event, party in sumptuous location, unlikely villain's lair, chase with unusual vehicles, interaction with comedy-relief local, escaping death-trap, and so on -- picked one from each hat, and only then figured out a way to get the movie to thread through all of them in turn. On the other hand, the late Moore Bonds do have the vague overall plot involving M (Bernard Lee and then Robert Brown) skirmishing with his KGB opposite number, General Gogol (Walter Gotell), which is a nice bit of continuity and helps to ground the series. Well, as much as it can be grounded.

So, once again, Bond wanders around the edges of something nefarious, trying to figure out exactly what the bizarre plot is this time, shooting thugs and bedding wenches and just generally being dashing as he goes. Moore was 58 at this point, and he seems to be even slower than he was in Octopussy; the action is mostly shooting and climbing rather than hand-to-hand combat.

And the plot is even more bizarre than normal: Zorin intends to blow up the bottom of San Andreas Lake, using that water and a bomb placed on the "lock" of the fault -- yes, I don't think geology works that way, either, but let it pass for now -- to destroy Silicon Valley, corner the world's microchip market, and possibly go into the waterfront property business with Lex Luthor for all I know. That leads to an oddly flat and extended climax, in which we get to watch Zorin slaughter faceless mine workers (which is a metaphor for American capitalism if I ever saw one) while Bond and the utterly useless Good Bond Girl (Tanya Roberts, as the simpering blonde excuse for a geologist this movie calls Stacey -- and why did action-movie heroines suddenly get so wimpy in the mid-80s? I claim a trend, counting Stacey here and Willie in Temple of Doom.) run away from Mayday for a while, then fight the flood, and then get separated for plot purposes.

Stacey is pulled up from somewhere by Bond approximately once every five minutes throughout the last forty minutes of the movie, which is blatant enough that the entire group I watched the movie with -- as usual, my two sons, Things 1 and 2, and The Wife -- noticed it, and began commenting MST3Kially on that and other silly aspects of the end of View to a Kill.

(For another example, Stacey is run down by a blimp, and then pulled Zorin! It's like she has a sign on her back that says "please pull my outstretched arms.")

It's very hard to take the end of View to a Kill seriously, and the mine sequence ends up being a disappointment -- no race down the tracks, only minor explosions -- but it's fun and good-natured, with a decent use of the Golden Gate Bridge for the final confrontation. View to a Kill does tend to end the Moore years with a whimper rather than a bang, but I still think it's better than Diamonds Are Forever, so he wins that particular battle with Connery on points.

And, from here, I'm going to be seeing Bond movies for the first time -- I stopped watching this particular style of dumb movies for nearly twenty years for no obvious reason, and so I missed the Dalton and Brosnan movies. It'll be interesting to see what I missed.

1 comment:

Brad Holden said...

in which we get to watch Zorin slaughter faceless mine workers (which is a metaphor for American capitalism if I ever saw one)

Funny quote of the day, at least for me.

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