Thursday, July 16, 2015

A View to a Kill (1985) | Story

Plot Summary

Christopher Walken watches Goldfinger; thinks, "Hey! I should do that, but with computers!"


After the relatively down-to-earth Cold War stories of For Your Eyes Only and Octopussy, Cubby Broccoli and step-son Michael G Wilson (now listed as a full co-producer on the series) decided to go back to an over-the-top villainous plot. They also talked Roger Moore into one last movie, which confused me, because I was under the impression that everyone knew Moore was getting to be too old even for Octopussy, but they brought him back for that movie specifically to compete with Sean Connery in Never Say Never Again.

But it's the NSNA threat that best explains Moore's presence in View to a Kill too. The day before NSNA's release, Broccoli attempted to steal some of its wind by announcing that Moore would return for one last film. Without the benefit of hindsight, it must have seemed like a smart move. Everyone loved Roger Moore as Bond and no one really wanted to see him go. But if he was at his expiration date for Octopussy, he was long past it for View.

I wish I knew the thinking behind the movie's title. It was announced at the end of Octopussy as From a View to a Kill in keeping with the short story, but at some point it was shortened to the more wieldy version. The shorter version is better, but neither has anything to do with the movie. Even The Spy Who Loved Me at least has a plot suggested by its title. View just tries to force a reference with an extremely clumsy line of dialogue. It's true that they were running low on cool Fleming titles, but that's not even trying. What a cool challenge it would have been to improve on Fleming by creating a story that actually fits that title. Sadly, View isn't interested in doing anything challenging.

How Is the Book Different?

The one thing that the Fleming story has in common with the movie is Bond in Paris, but the circumstances are totally different and there's not a shred of Fleming's plot left. "From a View to a Kill" is one of the weaker Fleming stories, but it still has some set pieces that could have been put to good use. Instead, Wilson and veteran Bond screenwriter Richard Maibaum drew inspiration from the microchip boom and just laid that over the plot from Goldfinger.

Moment That's Most Like Fleming

Max Zorin is a mediocre villain because of his goals. With something else to do, he could have been great. Walken is pretty awesome in the role, but also, Zorin's origins feel very Fleming-esque. Like many of Fleming's bad guys, Zorin has his roots in WWII. And the evil program that created him is totally something that Fleming would have been interested in.

Moment That's Least Like Fleming

Sloppy diversionary tactics. The main problem with View is that it doesn't have enough plot to sustain a movie. Instead, it introduces a couple of extraneous plots to try to fool us into thinking there's more story than there actually is.

It starts the same way Moonraker did, with some technology going missing and Britain's only clue being the tech's manufacturer. In View's case, it's a special microchip that Zorin Industries was developing for Britain, but has now turned up in the Soviet Union. Because Zorin's organization has an obvious leak that needs looking into, MI6's lead is stronger in View than in Moonraker, but beyond that, the only thing Bond has to go on is an unsupported hunch that Zorin himself might be involved.

For some reason, this leads everyone to investigate Zorin's horse-breeding operation. The Minister of Defense urges caution because of Zorin's spotless record, but it's not even Bond who suggests the horses as a first line of inquiry. Moneypenny is all dressed for the races before Bond even shows up for his briefing, so this is apparently the approach to the case that M wants to take.

And it has nothing to do with the mysterious microchip that's supposed to be the purpose of the investigation. Man does it ever take a lot of time to look into though. Worse than that, despite the horse plot's including a microchip element and introducing Bond to the big players in Zorin's organization, uncovering Zorin's cheating in that area turns into a big, fat dead-end. All it does is confirm that Zorin is a bad guy, which - contrary to his reputation - everyone already suspected anyway.

Bond's second tactic then is to go to San Francisco where Zorin has other operations, and it's there that he uncovers Zorin's plan to profit from the deaths of millions of people. That's enough engine to drive the rest of the movie, but notice that it still has nothing to do with the initial microchip that started this whole thing off. What we have are three, different schemes of Zorin's that all involve microchips, but are otherwise unrelated.

Cold Open

I do like that the cold open at least appears to have something to do with the main movie this time. It takes place in Siberia where Bond finds 003 frozen with a locket containing a microchip. This is the second movie in a row where Bond picks up an investigation from a less-successful Double-O. The series never treats the rest of Bond's department very well and that won't end with this movie.

Once Bond has the microchip, he's chased by Soviets in another exciting ski chase (I honestly never get tired of these) until someone shoots his ski off and he has to steal a snowmobile from one of his pursuers. But than that gets blown up, so he turns the front ski into a snowboard and the chase becomes even more awesome.

Well, almost. As happens too often in Bond movies, the fantastic stunt-work is ruined by the soundtrack. This time it's the Beach Boys' "California Girls" playing, because snowboarding kind of looks like surfing, I guess?

After an otherwise thrilling chase, Bond escapes via a boat shaped like an iceberg, which is also pretty great. Without the Beach Boys, it would have made one of the best of the cold opens. Heck. It still does.

Top 10 Cold Opens

1. The Spy Who Loved Me
2. Moonraker
3. Thunderball
4. On Her Majesty's Secret Service
5. A View to a Kill
6. Goldfinger
7. The Man with the Golden Gun
8. For Your Eyes Only
9. Octopussy
10. Never Say Never Again

Movie Series Continuity

I already mentioned the presence of the Minister of Defense. He's outworn his welcome for me by this point. I'm ready to be done with his micro-managing and get back to M's running the show on his own.

Bond is sort of a show-off about wine during dinner at the Eiffel Tower, but he's eating with a French guy who appreciates Bond's knowledge, so it's not obnoxious.

The hat rack gag makes another appearance. This time, Bond is about to toss his hat, but notices a fancy, flowered hat already on the rack. That distracts Bond, so he just places his hat on the rack instead. It turns out that the flowery hat is Moneypenny's race-wear and he almost tosses it on the rack at the end of the scene, but Moneypenny stops him.

Proving once and for all that Bond's in-world fame can be used or discarded as the story demands, no one recognizes Bond in either of his aliases, even though he's wearing no disguise. He's in Zorin's database though, so Zorin's able to find Bond out when he needs to.

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