R0BTRAIN's Badass Cinema: Total Bond-age, Part 8: The End For Moore

In the mid 1980s Bond had gone through many incarnations. He had come on strong in the early 1960’s to become a worldwide phenomenon. Defying spy movie conventions, Bond brought a new sense of adventure to the screen that had not been there before. With hard hitting action and tons of lovely ladies on screen, Bond was able to strike a chord with audiences.He offered a chance for audiences to live their fantasies like no adventures had done before. Goldfinger and Thunderball set the bar even higher with an onslaught of merchandising and marketing that made them the most popular films of their era. Bond had survived the changing of the guard as Sean Connery had left the role that made him a star, come back, and then left again. Roger Moore had fit into 007’s shoes comfortably for over a decade, and indelibly had left his mark on blockbuster hits such as The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker.

Finally, the series had survived a host of competition from a new generation of adventure films and even a struggle with a possible doppelganger Bond series. Now Bond had to look to the future. Bond had stayed relevant during the sixties and the height of the Cold War, had ignored the turbulent ’70s to become as popular as ever, and then had become a shining example of what a Cold Warrior should be in the 1980s. Bond was going to have to continue to evolve to stay relevant. The 1990s were just over the horizon, and film makers wanted to still be on top when that time came.

A View To A Kill Starring Roger Moore and Christopher Walken. Directed by John Glen

Bond’s 14th big screen adventure begins in the frozen tundra of Siberia. After pulling a secret microchip off of a dead British agent, Bond must ward off a squadron of Russian agents. The rest of the pre-credits sequence sets the tone for the entire film.

After losing a ski while trying to avoid the Soviet troops, Bond steals the front ski off of a snow mobile, turning it into a snowboard. Set to the Beach Boys’ California Girls, Bond makes the Russian soldiers look silly trying to catch him as he surfs to freedom. Once back to MI6, Bond learns that the chip was a British prototype stolen by the Soviet Union. Bond is sent to investigate the manufacturer of the chip, Max Zorin, who may be leaking the prototypes to the Russians.

Once on Zorin’s estate, Bond learns that Zorin is not only betraying the British, but his Soviet contacts also. Zorin’s ultimate plan is to flood Silicon Valley, allowing him to corner the market on microchips and become the richest man in the world. Bond must do what he can to stop the madman and save the people of Silicon Valley from a watery grave.

A View To A Kill is notoriously viewed as one of the worst Bond films ever. In Roger Moore’s seventh adventure as 007, the old pro just looks tired out there as he tries to save the world yet again. The most diehard of Roger Moore fans have to admit that A View To A Kill may have been one Bond film too many for him. Unfortunately, fatuousness had gotten the better of Moore at this point in his career. There just comes a point when the stuntman for Moore can’t hide the fact that Moore is doing very little of his own stunts.

But all was not lost on this production.

Bright spots can still be found as the stunts for the film are very impressive. The film’s premiere stunt features a jaw dropping jump off of the Eiffel Tower. The stunt took months of preparation and permits from the city of Paris to make the jump a reality. Fearing copycats, city officials were skeptical of letting the Bond crew jump off of one of the world’s greatest landmarks. Months of lobbying for the stunt proved fruitful and the stunt went off without a hitch. A car chase sequence on the streets of Paris is brutally packed with crashes and ramps as Bond literally tears a car in two. Taking a page from the manic style of the car chases of The Blues Brother, a fire engine chase through the streets of San Francisco ends with Bond wrecking a precinct of Police Cars. Most impressive in the chase is Bond taking a fire truck and ramping it over an ascending bridge. Lastly, a stunt sequence atop the Golden Gate Bridge is an acrophobic person’s nightmare, with 007 dueling with Christopher Walken’s Zorin thousands of feet above the Pacific Ocean.

In fact, the film’s most memorable elements are its villains. Walken seems right at home in amidst the mania of 007’s world. Bond villains are usually quirky madmen and Max Zorin is no exception. Zorin’s quirkiness takes a backseat though, to Grace Jones’ May Day. As Zorin’s henchwoman, May Day may just be the scariest villain in the history of the franchise. From the weird outfits and imposing physical presence, Jones’ May Day is completely over the top and never lets up. For better or worse, Zorin and May Day both take their place as two of the most memorable villains in Bond films.

The “Bond Girl” category is filled by Tanya Roberts as Stacey Sutton. Playing a geologist trying to stop Zorin’s cataclysmic plot, Roberts’ dialogue is filled with technical geological terms, but she’s still quite alluring in a black dress. The future “sexy neighbor” on That 70’s Show is quite potent as the film’s object of desire and is the polar opposite to Grace Jones’ gaudy antics. The film also is able to incorporate some fun little casting victories for smaller parts in the film. Patrick Macnee, most famous for his portrayal as Steed on TV’s The Avengers, seems to be having a whale of a time as Bond’s sidekick Tibbett. Later on in the film the role of CIA agent Chuck Lee is filled by David Yip, formerly known as The Chinese Detective on television and, who was also featured as Wu Han at the beginning of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

Unfortunately, A View To A Kill marked the end of the line for Roger Moore as 007. Through seven films and over a decade as the world’s greatest secret agent, Moore was able to BE 007 for a generation of Bond fans. Turning away from the brute force of Sean Connery’s 007 portrayal, Moore brought a classier feel to the role.

Moore did not see Bond as a man that abused women, but loved woman and admired them. Even when one looks at the themes for Moore’s films, the majority of them turn away from the brassy swank of Goldfinger or Thunderball to give them a more romantic feel.

While the action of Moore’s did not have the edge that Connery’s typically did, Moore was able to make the ridiculousness of some of the action very believable or at least not make the audience care that something so over the top had just taken place. Moore took the series to highs that many felt the franchise could not go to after the departure of Sean Connery. Now film makers had to replace another Bond who fans had grown to know as the carrier of the role. The new Bond had to be a man who could carry the role into the next decade.

The man Bond producers had chosen to carry the Bond mantle seemed perfect for 007. He was dashing, young, but had the suave sophistication it took to play 007. That man was Pierce Brosnan.

Star of TV’s Remington Steele, Brosnan was the overwhelming choice to play 007. In fact, Brosnan became such a popular choice that NBC, who was producing Remington Steele, was reluctant to give the actor up. At the eleventh hour NBC extended Brosnan’s contract, which would not allow him to take the coveted role.

Producers had to look further. In the end, film makers chose a man who had actually tried out for the role in 1968, Timothy Daulton. Daulton seemed a good fit for the role. He was debonair and eager to get the role back to its roots in the Fleming novels. But would he be the type of 007 that could make a lasting impression on the public or suffer the fate of George Lazenby? 007 was getting ready for the 1990s and Bond producers were hoping Daulton was the man who could take them there. The series had a new Bond and a new world to deal with. The longest running series in Western Cinema had kept evolving and fought to stay relevant. Through all the ups and downs Bond had always managed to stay on top. Daulton would have to bring a strong performance to keep Bond there.

Once again I’m stepping away from 007 before this becomes ROBTRAIN’s Badass Bond column. But Britain’s best Secret Serviceman will once again return in The Living Daylights and License to Kill. Until then, I’ve got some other cops and heroes ready to kick your teeth in.