Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Film Review: A View To A Kill


A View To A Kill
  • Publisher: MGM / United Artists
  • Studio: Danjaq / EON Productions
  • Director: John Glen
  • Producers: Albert R. Broccoli, Michael G. Wilson
  • Writers: Michael G. Wilson, Richard Maibaum
  • Release: 24 May 1985 (USA), 13 June 1985 (UK)


The Girls: Stacey Sutton (Tanya Roberts), a geologist and oil heiress whose company is threatened by Zorin Industries.  She starts out as a fierce, independent woman, but when Zorin traps her and Bond in the burning elevator, she turns into distressed damsel good for naught but screaming out for James.  What a waste, eh.  2 out of 5.  Pola Ivanova (Fiona Fullerton), a KGB agent investigating Zorin.  She is thrust upon us without warning, but she and 007 apparently have a history together - that's not the way to go, writers.  1 out of 5.

Other Allies: Sir Godfrey Tibbett (Patrick Macnee, The Avengers), an agent who poses as 007's servant for the horse show.  Garrotted by May Day. Sports some playfull repartee with Bond as his servant, but is otherwise forgettable.  2 out of 5.

The Villain: Max Zorin (Christopher Walken), CEO of the microchip producer Zorin Industries.  Born from a Nazi genetic experiment which left him intelligent but psychopathic, which explains why he willingly drowns and machine-guns his own men at one point.  Struck with a fire axe and dropped into the San Francisco bay.  Worth it for that delightful Christopher Walken brand of awkwardness.  4 out of 5.  Fun Fact: This role was first offered to David Bowie, whose influence can still be felt in the character we got.

Other Henchmen: Mayday (Grace Jones), Zorin's African-American henchwoman.  Lets herself get blown up to foil Zorin's "Main Strike" plan.  She is just so awesome even before she is mortally slighted by Zorin and gets back at him - the hard way.  5 out of 5.  Dr. Karl Mortner / Dr. Hans Glaub (Willoughby Grey), a former Nazi scientist who ran the genetic experiment that gave birth to Zorin.  Accidentally blows himself up with dynamite.  Based on his role, he serves as a father figure for Zorin, but in practice that relationship is wasted a little.  Fun Fact: In the German dub, in order to dodge references to the Nazi regime, Dr. Mortner is referred to as a Polish communist.  3 out of 5.  Second Fun Fact: Dolph Lundgren makes his first film role here, pre-dating Rocky IV by months, in the scene where Zorin breaks ranks with General Gogol.

The Gadgets: For all its camp, this movie is surprisingly low on "traditional" gadgets.  If anything in this department stands out, it would be the remote-control camera robot, which Q demonstrates in the beginning and uses to track down 007 at the end.  Just imagine what a pet for the robot from Rocky IV would look like and you've got the idea.  2 out of 5.

The Locations: Soviet Union (Russia, filmed in Iceland), England, France, United States (California).

The Theme Song: Performed by Duran Duran ("Hungry Like The Wolf").  Fun Fact: The only James Bond theme song to reach #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts.  4 out of 5.  And on an embarrassing moment, the pre-credits scene plays a cover of the Beach Boys' "California Girls" when 007 rides on a makeshift snowboard.  Ironically, David Lee Roth (ex-Van Halen) would have a hit with his own version later that year.

The Opening Credits: Motifs include fire, ice, and lots of glow-in-the-dark colours.  I don't get what the fire and ice things have to do with the movie's plot (Ice = the opening in Siberia?  Fire = the city hall arson?), but like what the theme song did to my ears, it's visually striking compared to what came before it.  4 out of 5.

The Novel: This movie shares part of its title with "From A View To A Kill", a short story from the For Your Eyes Only collection.  However, the movie's plot is completely different and original - and by "original" I mean "lifted from Goldfinger".  Read on.

The Plot: We open in northern Russia, where 007 evades Soviet patrols to locate the body of agent 003 and retrieve his locket, containing a microchip.  He is discovered and a chase ensues across the snow, until Bond makes his getaway in a boat disguised as an iceberg.  Cue opening credits.  Back at MI6, Q informs Bond and M that the microchip is identical to a British model, designed to resist electromagnetic damage.  The clone came from a company bought out by Zorin industries, so they start their investigation with its CEO, Max Zorin.  007 and company find him at a horse race, where his horse wins a come-from-behind victory.  Bond confers with Sir Godfrey Tibbett and suggests that steroids were involved, but they cannot prove it.

So Bond heads to Paris, setting up a lunch date (of course, at the Eiffel Tower) with a French PI, Achille Aubergine.  He is killed by May Day, Zorin's henchwoman, but not before he tells about a horse sale at Zorin's estate.  Bond gives chase, but fails to catch up with May Day.  So instead he gets signed up to attend the horse sale.  During the festivities, Bond takes note of three clues: a US$5 million check made out to a lady named S. Sutton, Dr. Karl Mortner, a former Nazi scientist who "created" Zorin in a genetic-engineering experiment, and a secret laboratory underneath the stables, where he learns the secret of the aforementioned horse race victory: a tiny computer-controlled steroid injector.  But Zorin does some investigation of his own, learning of 007's true identity.  He has May Day kill Tibbett, and tries to kill Bond by sinking him in a car - which of course, doesn't work.

After getting a reprimand from the KGB for his independent business ventures, he proceeds to make yet another: the ambiguous project "Main Strike", which would enable him and his microchip cartel to overtake Silicon Valley and create a monopoly in their market.  Bond follows Zorin to San Francisco and sneaks into one of his oil rigs, where for some reason he's pumping sea water into the wells, instead of pumping oil out.  He escapes detection and meets up with Pola Ivanova, a KGB agent also on Zorin's case.  After a date at the spa, he steals a tape she recorded and learns about "Main Strike".  He then meets up with Stacy Sutton, the geologist whom Zorin tried to pay off, over a lawsuit filed by her grandfather.  The two head to the city hall to piece together Zorin's intentions, when the man himself arrives to kill her (former) boss, trap them in an elevator, and set the place on fire.  Of course, they escape, but they run into the police chief, who believes 007 was responsible for the arson and murder (and jaywalking?).  He escapes on a fire truck and drives to Main Strike, an abandoned silver mine.

Sneaking about Main Strike, Bond and Sutton uncover the finer details of his plan: flood the San Andreas and Heyward faults by draining nearby lakes, then blow up the geological lock to trigger earthquakes in both faults, thus flooding Silicon Valley.  In executing the first stage of his plan, Zorin willingly kills his underlings, save May Day, who take revenge on him by helping Bond take out the bomb, blowing herself up in doing so.  But it's not over yet: Zorin scoops up Sutton from his hot-air balloon and Bond hitches a ride by hanging onto one of its mooring ropes.  Before he can be smashed on the side of the Golden Gate Bridge, he ties his rope to one of the bridge's cables.  Zorin walks out and tries to kill Bond with a fire axe, but instead gets killed and falls into the bay below.  Dr. Mortner tries to take revenge by throwing dynamite at him, but he trips and blows himself up instead.  With all said and done, Bond and Sutton are free to hide out together, away from the watchful eye of MI6.  You are now free to turn off your TV.

So it has come to this: the first James Bond film I've had to give a failing grade.  Personally, I blame the plot being a decade-displaced carbon copy of Goldfinger's (without a good reason), the first half of the movie having little to no bearing on the second, the Bond Girl becoming a whiny deadweight, and Bond himself being at the most 57 years old during production.  In fact, there's only one other Bond movie which could challenge this as the worst entry in the franchise, but I'll have to review it before I can decide which is worse.  If you're going to watch A View To A Kill, do it either for completion (in which case I probably can't dissuade you), or for the combined force of Christopher Walken and Grace Jones.  Still, they can't fix everything.  I say it's time to switch out Roger Moore for a new lead.

Positives:
+ Christopher Walken and Grace Jones are awesome.
+ Fans of '80s pop will love the theme song.
Negatives:
- The plot is a rip-off of Goldfinger's.
- The first act of the film is inconsequential to the rest of the movie.
- The lead performances (Roger Moore and Tanya Harding) are pretty awful.

The Call: 40% (F)

IchigoRyu will return in
The Living Daylights

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