PG, but as always, James Bond PG. It's not a real PG. It still has a Maurice Binder opening credit sequence, which I feel is accidentally more tame. Regardless, James Bond is still an ultraviolent sex-crazed alcoholic. People die. Someone dies by fish hook to the neck in this one. Someone gets chopped up in an industrial strength fan blade. There's one murder that is so basic, but it comes across as kind of brutal despite its simplicity. It's PG, but 1985 James Bond PG. I don't think we get a PG-13 James Bond until Pierce Brosnan.
DIRECTOR: John Glen
I'm not sure which Bond got me stuck longer: Connery or Moore. I think there was a big gap between On Her Majesty's Secret Service and Diamonds are Forever. I watch movies way too systematically. I don't want to go on a binge unless there's some kind of deadline to watch all of the movies before hand. I did that with the Marvel movies going into Avengers: Infinity War. But now I try spreading a franchise out a bit with lots of other movies in that list. But I'm done with the Roger Moore era, and in a way, the end of truly classic Bond.
The Dalton era, in my mind, is a liminal period between the truly classic formulaic Bond and the Bond of the contemporary era. I would love to say that A View to a Kill represented the end of Ian Fleming's Bond and the Bond that we're more used to in the Daniel Craig reboot films. (I watched a horrendously long video trying to tie all of the Bond movies into the same character, including the reboot films, and it just completely fails with trying to tie Octopussy and A View to a Kill into the same universe.) It's such a weird way to close up the era of classic Bond because it isn't really all that important of a story. As much as I love the idea of Christopher Walken, Max Zorin represents one of the more one-off bad guys of the franchise. He has no personal ties. The movie tries tying in all of this Cold War mythology into the character, but it is just an excuse to get General Gogol into the film. Really, Zorin is almost a fan-fiction level mess as a background.
Roger Moore is getting up there in age by this point. He's slightly a creepy old man in this movie. (Note: if you actively fight against seeing old Roger Moore, he's actually pretty good as Bond in this one.) But he has to know it's his time. They want this ultimate villain to make a commentary about the '80s, so Max Zorin is going to be an industrialism who comments on the tech boom. Okay, conceptually not terrible. It's this great self-aware moment in film. Like how Rocky III has a robot butler, A View to a Kill has a similar looking robot. It's all because Max Zorin is a computer guy, who definitely isn't Bill Gates, despite a clunky disclaimer at the beginning of the movie.
But my guess is that they wanted to be a both a movie that commented on our obsession with computers AND give us the ultimate Bond movie, so they gave Christopher Walken all of these traits that would make him the perfect villain. It doesn't. There's a line that says that he's French, but he doesn't speak with any accent. I guess that's a way to describe Christopher Walken's unique speech patterns. But there's this whole throughline of Max Zorin being the product of German eugenics programs that doesn't really come into play. He's supposed to be this super soldier that might be unstoppable. That's great, but he just seems like another rich guy with ambitions to become richer. That's why we have Grace Jones as May Day in the movie.
I really wanted to have a great shot of Grace Jones as the photo for this movie. Grace Jones's May Day is one of those actually really game-changing Bond girls. I'm not saying that the character is perfect in any way, but it also starts the idea of the strong female lead. Bond movies always toyed around with the idea of the strong female lead. Honor Blackman's character in Goldfinger was perhaps the ancestor of Grace Jones's May Day, but I never really respected that character like other people do. She was a character who was easily just swayed by Bond's charms. Galore abandons her sexual preferences on a dime for charming James Bond and that's not my definition of a strong female Bond girl. Instead, May Day never really falls for Bond. There are others in the franchise, but none that really command the screen time that May Day does. May Day redeems herself morally by the end of the film, which really puts herself in the category of Bond girl, but it isn't because she's enamored by Bond. I actually get the idea that she dislikes him at the end, but hates Zorin more. Part of that comes from the fact that Grace Jones introduces the idea of sexual violence on the part of the female lead.
But all this talk about Grace Jones's character really makes me quesiton Tanya Roberts's Stacey Sutton. While we wouldn't have Xenia Onatopp or Vesper Lynd without May Day, we wouldn't have Christmas Jones without Stacey Sutton. While there have been more and less capable supporting roles for women in the Bond franchise, Stacey Sutton hits an all time low (pun intended). I can't imagine that someone on set didn't see Grace Jones just crushing every scene she was in and then thought "But let's have a complete waif in this movie as well." My logic behind the whole thing, and it's me just guessing, is that the commentary from the era was part of what created Stacey Sutton. The world of Bond is so grandiose and sexy. This is a story of world-hopping. One day Bond is in India with a sexy circus troupe. In another mission, he's in Egypt with a Russian spy at his side. Stacey Sutton is an attempt to get someone real into the Bond universe. She lives in a boring house. She got screwed over by a major corporation. She has her daddy's shotgun. If we're going to give a commentary on America, it may say that we're not sexy. But we are comprised of real people. I know. It's a weird logic.
The Bond movies, by this point, might actually share something in common with The Simpsons formula. Watch a Simpsons episode once they are on too long. Like, season 9 or something. They often start with the following: a character --more than likely Homer --is involved in a random event that will have nothing to do with the main plot. Through happenstance at this random event, he stumbles across the main plot. A View to a Kill opens with Bond actually kind of on task. This is one of those rare pre-credit sequences that apparently has a direct tie to the main storyline. But it actually kind of abandons the main piece of evidence into studying Zorin and trades it in for the fact that Bond starts investigating how Zorin keeps winning horse races. And then the movie really doubles down on the horse race element for a good chunk of the film. It's really weird that the horse race thing matters at all. It's super confusing because we're there investigating if Zorin is making defensive technology for the Russians. But so much of the movie is devoted to this horse sale. The James St. John Smythe part of the film is actually baffling because so many of Zorin's deals leave evidence at what should be an unrelated element of the film. This seems to be a trend to this era of Bond storylines. It's not the actual crimes that are garnering attention. It's the villain's fragile ego that gets the better of them. Octopussy had the sale of gems. Moonraker had the public apology that Bond needed to make. If you are going to blow up a chunk of the world, maybe lay low for a few weeks. Don't do anything illegal. Give no reason to be investigated. Honestly, at one point in the film, MI6, the KGB, and the CIA are all investigating Zorin's oil pipelines and a lot of it comes from the idea that Zorin is acting super sketch all the time.
Also, Bond be having too many secret identities in this one. I do appreciate "James Stock from the London Financial Times." (Stocks and Bonds? Get it?)
A View to a Kill might be the silliest Bond movie that I enjoy. This is about as far as I'm allowed to stretch. It firmly falls into the category of "this isn't a good movie, but I really enjoy it." While I'm watching the film, my brain is telling me "this is dumb." But as a whole experience, it really works. Perhaps the fact that it is unapologetically over-the-top or maybe it is because it feels like it is giving an older Bond one last trip out before hanging up his PPK holster, but A View to a Kill is fun. I mean, the fire truck might not work as a chase as well as I want it to, but that Paris sequence. I can't stress enough that Bond chases an assassin who skydives off the Eiffel Tower by hopping on top of the elevator. He then steals a cab, which he rides downstairs. He loses the roof of his car, launches it on top of a bus, loses the back of the car and then hops onto a boat. There's a lot of too much there. But it also perfectly defines the best elements of the Moore era. Yeah, it's a dumb film. But it also is a really fun movie. You know, besides the mass murder.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.