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'A View to a Kill' - Roger Moore's Last Mission

Second Chances #14

Hello, and welcome back to Second Chances where my mission is to spotlight the unfairly maligned and ignored.

Back when I looked at the scores of John Barry (a composer best known for his work with the James Bond movie franchise), I chose to highlight the music from the 14th official entry in the franchise, 1985's A View to a Kill.  I mentioned that it is my favorite movie in the series to this day. I knew I was going to have to explain myself since this one constantly shows up near the bottom of other fans and critics' official rankings of the Bond movies. Even the star Roger Moore was quick to dismiss it. I just can't agree, though; I love it! I know part of my affection for it is nostalgia; A View to a Kill is actually the first Bond movie I ever saw when I was just 7-years-old. However, that isn't the whole reason. Does it have problems?  Absolutely. Do those problems hurt the film? In some ways. Does it have good stuff in it? Hell, yeah!

The plot can be dismissed as largely a retread of Goldfinger, but it was updated for the 80s quite well. After discovering stolen microchips in Russia that can resist electromagnetic pulses, Bond (played for the last time by Sir Roger Moore) is sent to investigate the manufacturer Zorin Industries. Despite his company being the second biggest producer of microchips in the world, the head of the company Max Zorin (played by the always friggin' awesome Christopher Walken) has his eye on the holders of the #1 spot, Silicon Valley. His plan is to eliminate the competition, quite literally. Even though the plot follows many of the same beats as Goldfinger, the set pieces, which include a ski chase in Siberia, full-contact steeplechase, a fire engine escape in San Francisco, and the final fight on the upper reaches of the Golden Gate Bridge, are awesome. The movie stays suspenseful even with the familiar plot.

There are two very significant problems with the movie, and they both involve casting. The first is Roger Moore. By his own admission, he was too old to be playing Bond by 1984 when the movie was being filmed. He had wanted Octopussy to be his last time in the role, but the producers, in a panic over Sean Connery's return to 007 in the unofficial Never Say Never Again, practically begged Moore to do just one more. While his natural charisma was still very apparent, his age did get to be distracting. He got doubled for most of his action scenes, stretching his credibility as an action hero. Worse, his age made the sex scenes outright cringe-worthy. Newsflash, EON Productions: nobody wants to see old people getting it on, especially with women young enough to be their daughters!

The second casting misfire is the primary Bond girl Stacy Sutton, played by former Charlie's Angel Tanya Roberts. To be fair, she was more believable as a scientist than Denise Richards in The World Is Not Enough (though that's really not saying much). My problem was primarily her voice. She seemed to have only two volume settings the whole movie: barely audible whisper and ear-splitting shriek. Coupled with the fact that she spends most of the movie as just a damsel in distress, you have one of the weakest Bond girls in the whole franchise.

Aside from them, the rest of the cast is in top form. The Avengers' Patrick Macnee was enjoyable as Bond's comrade Tibbett; it's a shame he didn't get more screen time. Lois Maxwell's final appearance as Miss Moneypenny was wonderfully warm, a great end to her tenure. Desmond Llewelyn has some funny moments as the gadget master Q. However, the biggest reason by far that this is my favorite movie in the franchise is the villains. Christopher Walken is always an oddball onscreen, and he found a way to add genuine menace to his quirky persona with his portrayal of Max Zorin. There were numerous moments where he blew me away from his reveal of his master plan on his airship to when he had Bond and Stacy cornered at City Hall. He even had one of the best evil laughs in the franchise, no question. His primary henchwoman May Day, played by the incredible Grace Jones, was a force of nature, unbelievably intimidating. She even gets one of the greatest redemption scenes in the whole series.

I said it before, and I'll say it again. The music in A View to a Kill is some of the best in the whole franchise. The electronics were limited; most of the score was a lush orchestral arrangement that's just plain exciting. I also can't ignore the awesome theme song by Duran Duran which, for 30 years, was the ONLY Bond theme ever to hit #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 (until Sam Smith's "Writing's on the Wall" from Spectre in 2015).

While there is a degree of nostalgia with this being the first Bond movie I ever saw, I still gladly name A View to a Kill as my favorite film in the franchise. Ignore Roger Moore's wrinkles and Tanya Robert's screams, and you get a great plot, awesome action scenes, and two of the greatest villains of the franchise. It will never overtake From Russia With Love or Skyfall in the rankings, but it's still a hell of an awesome movie. Give it a second chance.

What do you think? Does another ignored Bond movie deserve another shot? Let me know, and take care!

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