After Moonraker, Roger Moore’s entries in the series got progressively less silly. Octopussy struck the perfect balance between the serious and silly aspects of the series without completely eschewing the goofy humor that was a trademark of the Moore era. Apart from from the cold open, in which Bond snowboards to the tune of “California Girls” by the Beach Boys, the rest of the film is a darker, more sober affair than any of the preceding films Moore starred in. A View to a Kill functions as a transitional film, easing us into the far darker take that I’ve heard Dalton’s two entries went with.
That being said, this is probably the most distinctly 80’s of any Bond film before or since. To that point, the theme song is provided this time around by Duran Duran (definitely in my top five Bond songs), over a totally 80’s title sequence, replete with neon. The plot also exemplifies the Silicon Valley tech boom of the 80’s, centering around said area of San Francisco and a scheme involving advanced microchips.
The villain of the piece is a platinum blonde, billionaire industrialist named Max Zorin, played by none other than Christopher Walken. He does have penchant for playing characters named Max, doesn’t he? Looking at you, Max Schreck from Batman Returns. Walken does a great job here, even if it is a little distracting to see an actor so well-known in this role. More distracting still is the fact that he’s apparently supposed to be French, I think, and have been trained by the KGB, yet Walken makes no attempt at an accent. Probably for the best actually. Can you imagine his labored speech pattern in either a French or Russian accent? It’s also explained that he is the result of a biological experiment involving steroids which left him extremely intelligent at the cost of his sanity. This backstory is unnecessary. In all actuality, he doesn’t come off as all that smart.
In point of fact, his scheme is just as convoluted and stupid as his predecessors’. Zorin has got his hands on designs for a new microchip that wont short out from an EMP or any such thing. He plans to mass manufacture them, but before he can do that he wants to take out the competition. After purchasing an oil company, he plans to flood the pipelines with seawater, and blow them up in order to cause a major earthquake that will destroy all of Silicon Valley, so that he holds all the chips as it were. Complicated enough? It doesn’t make a ton of sense either. Is he not destroying a number of potential buyers? Wouldn’t some of these companies be manufacturing a large portion of the technological devices that could make use of those chips? That isn’t even the end of it. Zorin is also using the chips to administer a steroid (presumably a similar steroid to the one that gave him his higher than average intelligence) to horses in order to win races. First of all, steroids don’t just magically and instantly make something stronger. Why is it vital to administer the steroid during the race? Just give them the steroid beforehand. Don’t draw attention to yourself by using the experimental microchips you lifted, dummy!
The horse racing part of the story pretty much takes up all of the first act. After the iconic sequence on the Eiffel Tower, and the ensuing chase scene in which Bond pursues Grace Jones’ character, in half a car at one point, the film stalls until we get to San Francisco.
On Grace Jones, I wouldn’t classify her as a typical Bond Girl. There is the obligatory in which she has sex with Bond, which happens rather abruptly I might add. Apart from that, she actually functions as the henchwoman for Zorin. Sure, women have worked for the bad guy before in these movies, but this is the first time a woman has ever been the muscle in this series. It’s refreshing to see, and Grace Jones brings her signature style to create a henchperson that can stand alongside Oddjob or Jaws. She turns face by the end, but does nothing to diminish what came before.
Roger Moore is the oldest he has looked, but honestly, he’s at his very best here. I am going to miss him. After seven movies of seeing him charm his way through one situation to the next, I’ve actually become somewhat emotionally attached to Moore’s interpretation of the character. It’s upsetting that I can never again watch one of his outings as Bond for the first time. It’s not even just him I have to say goodbye to. Lois Maxwell, after playing Miss Moneypenny for all fourteen films thus far also leaves. A View to a Kill feels like an ending to classic Bond.
This film is a great send off to Roger Moore, and classic Bond in general. It’s not my favorite of this era, Octopussy better exemplified the best of Moore’s entries, and The Man with the Golden Gun was more entertaining in its wacky stupidity. This film however is overall better made. It’s good to see Moore leave us on a high note.