20 February 2012

BlogalongaBond- A VIEW TO A KILL Review

He looks knackered, doesn't he?
Last year, there was a lot of buzz to say that Jeremy Renner's character in Mission: Impossible- Ghost Protocol would be set up to replace Tom Cruise's Ethan Hunt as the franchise went forward, on account of Cruise's somewhat diminished box office pulling power. The film went on to be a big hit, and it appears that the 50-year-old Cruise might stick around in that franchise for a little longer.

But for fuck's sake, he's still one of the most charismatic action stars in the world, and he does all of his own stunts, neither of which can be said of Roger Moore in A View to a Kill. Grandpa Bond returns for one last gasp, taking on microchip industrialist Max Zorin. Zorin is behind a really, really boring racket in running performance-enhanced horses in races and reaping the profits, but his masterplan is to destroy Silicon Valley and secure a monopoly in the microchip market.

So it's a Bond film that's at least partly about technology, in the same way that Superman III suddenly decided to take on com-pooters two years earlier. I have to hand it to the film, for not being as vague and outlandish in its tech-infused plot as Superman III, and, I suppose, for teaming Bond up with Patrick Macnee rather than Richard Pryor. But Bond's particularly British brand of patrician authority was beginning to seem obsolete, alongside the hard bodies of popular Hollywood action stars, and from the stonking Duran Duran theme song onwards, everything about this film just reeks of the series striving for some sort of renewed relevance, without having to replace any of its clunky old components.

It's to the film's advantage, that Christopher Walken plays one of the series' most memorable villains, and by even more than the virtue of simply being Christopher Walken. Zorin is rather more physically imposing than many of the Big Bads of recent Bonds, he has a classic villainous masterplan, ties to Nazi experimentation, and even an airborne evil boardroom, from which he can drop dissenting collaborators to their deaths. What could be better? But even Walken cannot do all that much, up against the exhaustion of Moore. If a different actor had been found to play Bond at this point (I'm thinking Welsh, in his 40s, considered for the role before), then we could have had some classic interplay, but alas, it's lifeless.

Still, the villain role was offered to David Bowie, and then Sting, before Eon went to Walken. Just try and wrap your head around that for a second, because I know it took me a little while to properly grasp how shittily the series was being managed at this point. You should have got that from the fact that Moore is still around, dallying with women half his age and generally being given less to do than his stunt doubles. I could understand it if he didn't want to close out his run as Bond with Octopussy, but damn, isn't it even worse to have finished on A View to a Kill?

This same fate befalls Lois Maxwell too, who makes her final appearance as Moneypenny on what appears to be an office trip to the races for MI6. Her unrequited affection for Bond was never much more than a running gag, but Maxwell always brought much warmth and personality to the character. It's unfortunate then, that she's part of the film's initial refusal to get off the blocks and do something vaguely modern, fucking about for a whole hour with equine performance enhancement that really makes no odds in the overall plot. When it pads the film out to 135 minutes, it's just a colossal waste of time.

As ever, the action scenes are pretty spectacular, but they're undercut by the blathering "And then" storytelling, and the terrible likeness of the aforementioned stunt doubles (think of that one scene in Spaceballs). The staging has always been illogical, and I reckon this is the first film where Bond actually does less good than property damage, or at least until the devastating plot to destroy Silicon Valley is explained. When you shoot in all directions, you're bound to hit the mark every now and then, but editor-turned-director John Glen fails to find any life outside of fire engine chases and battles atop the Golden Gate Bridge. The traditional travelogue format gets especially erratic, and with the overall inertia of Moore, the whole thing resembles a particularly chaotic edition of Wish You Were Here.

I would struggle to say that A View to a Kill is the worst Bond movie- it's not even Roger Moore's worst, as long as Moonraker still exists. But it is incoherent, and over-long, and it wastes the best adversary the series has seen in a decade. The film represents a series in entropy, with the creative impetus behind the series having long since fallen under the changing representations of masculinity and Britain's ever-declining influence as a world power. Many of my fellow reviewers are pointing out that it's not Roger Moore's fault, and I agree with them, because for all of the jokes we've made about his age, it's the series itself that looks more like a dinosaur.

#14- Roger Moore's appearance on The Muppet Show was actually better than five of his seven Bond movies.

For a full list of everyone's work on BlogalongaBond so far, click here.

The Mad Prophet Will Return, With The Living Daylights... in March.

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