Franchise Expansion (Or Implosion): ‘A View To A Kill’
by Ben Martin
Franchise Expansion (or Implosion) is a column that looks at franchises that have new installments or releases forthcoming. In looking at a franchise, each entry in a franchise will be given a review and then be examined as part of the bigger franchise. (i.e., Was this sequel a worthy expansion of this franchise or was it an implosion of sorts?)
Very seldom does one character define a subgenre. But that is precisely what James Bond 007 has done with spy/espionage fiction. Since making his film debut in 1962, Bond has appeared in over 20 movies. Moreover, the character has only been portrayed by a mere six actors (officially, anyway). Now that the 25th (official) Bond installment, No Time to Die, is finally slated for release on November 25th, I think now is a better time than any to look back at 007’s dossier. I’ll be examining the James Bond franchise to see how these pictures evolved over the decades with each new leading actor. Today’s mission: A View to a Kill (1985)!
Before jumping into this review, I may as well address the recent rumblings of the forthcoming No Time to Die. Due to COVID-19, the 25th Bond picture was pushed to the more traditional release date of November 25th, as mentioned above. This release date shift purportedly cost the studios between $30-$50 million. But hey, it costs money to make money, and studios can’t make money on the big screen when movie theaters are currently closed.
Recently, there have been reports that Daniel Craig’s final outing as 007 could be trice-delayed to sometime next year. Of course, the release date depends not only on how this pandemic progresses but also how movie theaters can function during it. As I write this, the majority of theater chains are tentatively planning on resuming operations by June 2020. Frankly, in regards to theatrical movie exhibition and every other aspect of COVID-19, I hope for the best but expect the worst. One thing is sure, though. James Bond will return, sooner or later.
Alright, that’s enough doom, gloom, and delays. For now, let’s go back to (what I can only assume) was the less stressful year of 1985. Here, I’ll examine the 14th movie in the franchise, as well as the seventh and final installment to star Roger Moore: A View to a Kill!
Like the last couple of movies which preceded it, A View to a Kill reunites its star with director John Glen and screenwriters Richard Maibaum and Michael G. Wilson. Sticking with the other trend this crew established, the film in review is once again based on an Ian Fleming short story. (Albeit, any other similarities end with the title, and even that’s altered.) See, From a View to a Kill was intended to be a TV special, but that was abandoned in the end. Following that dissolvement, the story was published in a 1959 issue of The London Daily News. It follows 007 as he investigates the demise of a motorcyclist with top-secret documents, but the screenplay which spawned from it is very different.
In A View to a Kill, James Bond 007 (Moore) recovers a state-of-the-art microchip with EMP capabilities off the corpse of a Soviet agent. MI-6 then tasks Bond with investigating the powerful object’s origins. He finds that the chip was created by a San Francisco based corporation called Zoran Industries; a company founded by a Nazi experiment-turned-mega-industrialist, Max Zoran (Christopher Walken). Unsurprisingly, Zoran has a more dastardly plot at hand. He wants to create a monopoly in the microchip market of Silicon Valley, even if that means killing any people who get in his way. Now, only Bond can stop Zoran before it’s too late!
As with Octopussy (1983), director John Glen once again delivers a competently made film. Alas, the problem with A View to a Kill (as with its immediate predecessor) is its ludicrous screenplay — one which becomes more over-bloated and ridiculous with each of its three acts. But, for a movie that kicks-off with an action-packed skiing sequence, I quickly knew I was, yet again, in for a film replete with silliness and tonal shifts.
In the cold open alone, it’s blatantly apparent that the aging Moore is not performing any of the action. Instead, that’s left to the leading man’s stunt doubles; which there’s no effort made to hide. Worse yet, this sequence is briefly and abruptly underscored by The Beach Boys‘ “California Girls.” A choice which made me nearly slap my own forehead. Following this opening, A View to a Kill devolves into a slog of a flick wherein the remaining action scenes presented are few and far between. In watching the movie, you may quickly discern, as I did, that it is essentially an inferior, dull retelling of Goldfinger (1964) for the burgeoning technological age of the mid-1980s. Still, the cast of A View to a Kill makes it a watchable entry, if only once.
At age 57, Moore was and is the oldest actor ever to play Bond. Even so, he brings his all, including his eternal charm, for this final outing. Years after the release of A View to a Kill, Moore revealed that this was his least favorite of his Bond entries. In his autobiography, the actor stated that he felt the film was overly-violent. Beyond that, though, he admits he’d aged out of the role. Perhaps this is fitting though, as producer Albert R. Broccoli was intent on replacing Moore with a younger actor in the next installment. (The actor would turn out to be Timothy Dalton in The Living Daylights (1987).)
It’s worth noting that A View to a Kill also marks Lois Maxwell’s final appearance as Miss Moneypenny. Seeing as she appeared in every installment in the franchise up to this point, Maxwell was hoping to be promoted to the role of M in the inevitable follow-up. Alas, Broccoli was not having it. In this case, I agree with the producer’s instinct, considering there was already an established professional dynamic between 007 and Moneypenny. Therefore, I doubt audiences would’ve gone with that same actress becoming the boss of Bond. Alternatively, Maxwell suggested she be killed-off as Moneypenny. Broccoli also disallowed this notion.
For me, though, the real star of this installment is not its seasoned protagonists, but its villain, Zoran. The late-great David Bowie was initially offered the role. And while I think the musician/actor would’ve been fantastic in the part, he ultimately turned it down. When asked why he made that decision, Bowie cited the script as being “workman-like” and “terrible.” Of course, it didn’t help matters that Bowie was never a James Bond fan. Undeterred, producers then extended the offer to Rutger Hauer (Blade Runner), who also declined.
In the end, the role went to the first Academy Award winning actor to play a Bond villain: Christopher Walken. As a long time fan of this unique performer, perhaps I’m a bit biased; but I feel Walken was the best possible candidate to play Zoran. Moreover, it was this role wherein Walken began his infamous style of what I like to call “Pregnant pauses acting.” While the character of the biological experiment who is Zoran is somewhat absurd, Walken makes the most of the role, enjoying every minute of his screen time. Of course, the scariest thing about this Bond antagonist is that he possesses eerie similarities to a particular U.S. president. But, let us not forget that this was not the last time Walken would play a malevolent industrialist-turned-killer. He went on to play a similar part as Max Schreck in Batman Returns (1992).
Then there are the Bond girls in this film. Firstly, Broccoli cast Tanya Roberts after seeing her in The Beastmaster (1982). Her character of Stacey Sutton doesn’t show up until well into the second act of this picture, but she makes the most of her role. Stacy has equal amounts of intelligence and beauty. Better still, I enjoyed the chemistry between her and Moore.
Following the love interest, Broccoli cast musician/actor Grace Jones as one of the most memorable henchmen in this series, May Day, after seeing her performance in Conan The Destroyer (1984). Now, I wouldn’t go so far as to say Jones is as talented an actress as she is a musician. However, she is perfect as May Day. In this role, I found Jones to be incredibly intimidating, yet also mysteriously sultry. Beyond that, her physical appearance commands the attention of the viewer.
It should be noted that while Jones found A View to a Kill to be a pleasant gig, Moore, along with the majority of the other cast and crew, found her difficult to work with. Still, Jones’ reputation didn’t stop No Time to Die director/co-writer Cary Joji Fukunaga from offering her the opportunity to appear in the newest Bond picture. But, when Jones discovered she would merely be doing a cameo appearance, she abruptly walked off the set.
Ultimately, A View to a Kill is a tarnished and prime example of a Franchise Implosion. Unfortunately, this film brings an inauspicious end to Moore’s run as 007. As opposed to merely flirting with silliness as the other movies in Moore’s era did, A View to a Kill has a full-blown, hair-brained love affair with absurdity. Thereby, this entry makes it easy to forget all that Moore proved he was capable of in this role. For me, the cast of A View to a Kill keep it from being as disappointing as Moonraker (1979), but it is undoubtedly just as ridiculous. As the franchise tends to do, the next film and leading man in the series will attempt to over-correct by embracing a darker ethos.
A View to a Kill s Available on Home Video
James Bond Will Return For Another Installment of Franchise Expansion or Implosion with The Living Daylights (1987)!
007’s Newest Mission, No Time to Die, Will Be in Theaters on November 25th!
Read About Bond’s Past Franchise Endeavors-
From Russia with Love:
You Only Live Twice:
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service:
Diamonds Are Forever:
Live and Let Die:
The Man with The Golden Gun:
The Spy Who Loved Me:
For Your Eyes Only: