As I think about the new James Bond movie, A View to a Kill, I wax metaphorical. I think of a once elegant party which has gone on too long. All the French champagne has already been drunk, and the remaining domestic stuff has gone flat. The pates are beginning to spoil, the brie has turned into a smelly, runny liquid, the souffles have fallen, the whipped cream has curdled, and they're out of strawberries, anyway. The flowers are wilting. Several members of the orchestra are drowsing and the rest are wearily playing the least taxing tunes their sleep addled memories can recall. All of the urbane English lords, dazzling French intellectuals, witty New York writers, and fascinating Far Eastern artists have departed, leaving a crowd composed largely of insurance salesmen from Topeka. The host is getting visibly tired, and obviously wishes his remaining guests would leave so that he can go to bed, though he is far too polite to even hint at this. Dawn is breaking, but with no feeling of rebirth. Rather, it promises only the beginning of a particularly dreary and rainy Wednesday.
Get the picture? A View to a Kill is a tired film, devoid of inspiration and enthusiasm. The old team is still there, but they are unable to muster up any real excitement. Roger Moore, always a second choice for the role of James Bond, shows no great interest either in dispatching the villains or bedding the women. His quips are feeble and delivered in a manner which suggests little confidence in them. John Barry's score is stolid and unhelpful, failing even to properly use the James Bond theme song. Duran Duran's title song is forgotten, note for note, as it is played. John Glen's direction is slack and disinterested. The gadgets and effects are largely unextraordinary and unoriginal, and poorly employed, too. Maurice Binder's opening credit sequence, often a highlight of Bond films, is uninspired and even amateurish. It would be laughed off of MTV, and certainly isn't up to his past work.
Very little of A View to a Kill is worth mention. Grace Jones, as the secondary villain, Mayday, is energetic and enthusiastic. She has a good time, even if no one else does. I think she's demonstrated an interesting enough personality in this and the second Conan movie to deserve a film of her own. I've heard someone suggest that she take over as James Bond, but that may be going a bit far. Some of the stunts and action sequences aren't bad. The opening skiing sequence is OK, a jump off the Eiffel tower is interesting if only because it obviously really is the Eiffel tower, and it's hard to resist a fire engine jumping the gap of an opening bridge. Other action sequences are less exciting, and the ending suffers from being undercut by last summer's Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. I'm fairly sure that it wasn't a copy, as the Bond film was probably far along in production by the time Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom came out, but Spielberg's flooded mine was a lot more fun than this one.
Tanya Roberts is the main love interest, and she's just terrible. She looks great, but she must live in dread of being imprisoned in a paper bag and being forced to act her way out. By the end of the film, the audience I saw A View to a Kill with was laughing in derision every time it looked like Roberts was going to open her mouth. She had a large share of stupid lines, but she could make Noel Coward sound inane. An early, permanent retirement is called for in the case of Ms. Roberts.
Christopher Walken sounded like an interesting choice for Max Zorin, the principle villain, but he really doesn't work out too well. He's chosen to underplay Zorin's insanity, and I get the feeling that the editor kept cutting away from Walken's reactions a second too soon to get the effect Walken was going for. Walken may have given a good performance before the camera, but, if so, it's on the cutting room floor.
Which brings us to the subject of the editing. It's flaccid. The cutting during the action sequences is especially poorly done. There is no crispness to the cuts. Potentially good fight scenes are uninvolving because the editor doesn't give us a sense of speed and desperation. Rather, it looks like a bunch of stuntmen going through the motions. John Glen, the director, did an excellent job on For Your Eyes Only and an adequate job on Octopussy, but here is unable to convince most of his cast that this is anything other than a routine assignment, so he gets routine performances. Glen hasn't provided the editor with especially good material, but even so, more could have been made of it.
A View to a Kill isn't the worst of the Bond movies, but it's near the bottom. I can only hope that the next Bond film cleans the Augean stables and replaces the whole crew, from Roger Moore to John Glen to John Barry to Maurice Binder. Cubby Brocolli, long time producer of Bond films, needs to find a cinematic equivalent of Peter Sellars, the energetic and iconoclastic director of the Kennedy Center's controversial new theatrical program. Without a fresh approach, the Bond films are likely to face a rapid decline in ticket sales and audience interest.
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