- Year: 1985
- Director: John Glen
- Series Rank: #23
- Year Rank: #126
- Nighthawk Nominations: none
- Bond Girl: Tanya Roberts (Stacey Sutton)
- Bond Villain: Christopher Walken (Zorin), Grace Jones (May Day), Patrick Bauchau (Scarpine)
- Bond Support: Robert Brown (M), Lois Maxwell (Moneypenny), Desmond Llewelyn (Q), Patrick Macnee (Sir Godfrey Tibbett), David Yip (Chuck Lee)
We were a few minutes into the film when Veronica asked me about something that was going to happen. “I don’t remember anything about this film that isn’t in the Duran Duran video,” I told her. I like the song a lot; it’s my favorite Duran Duran song and I grew up with it. It might seem odd then that it doesn’t earn a Nighthawk nomination for Best Original Song, especially since I rank it as the best Bond song ever. That’s because 1985 is a great year for original songs and it doesn’t make it higher than 7th. And that’s a shame because the song is the best thing about this film, by a long way.
Actually the film doesn’t start out so bad. There’s a chase on skis and a snowmobile (which would be better if it weren’t at least the fourth ski chase in the last nine films) which ends up with Bond bedding his assistant in a submarine (rather ridiculous). Then the music kicks in, with that awesome keyboard and drums and you think, hey, this could go somewhere. But, unfortunately, as Veronica points out, you hit 80’s art direction as you are watching the main titles and you want to just close your eyes and listen to the song and forget what’s actually on the screen.
The plot of this outing is outlandish but not too ridiculous. It involves triggering an earthquake on the San Andreas fault and wiping out Silicon Valley. It would be kind of interesting if 1 – it hadn’t already been done in the first Superman film, 2 – it had any chance of being as good as what was done in Superman, where the bomb actually goes off and Superman flies into the damn fault itself and props it up, and 3 – if there weren’t so many other ridiculous things going on.
Here are some of the ridiculous things going on at the same time. First, our primary Bond girl is running around wearing heels, even when she climbs out of a zeppelin and onto the top of the Golden Gate Bridge. Second, our secondary Bond girl, who is also the villain, sacrifices herself after being pretty thoroughly evil. More on that below. Third, Christopher Walken is acting off his damn rocker just slaughtering people with an Uzi and sacrificing his own men. He’s determined to kill all the witnesses, but given how many there are, I don’t see how that’s possible. Veronica asked me “Was Walken already known at this point as a lunatic?” My reply: “You’ve seen Annie Hall.”
Now, on to Grace Jones. I don’t particularly like Grace Jones and don’t find her particularly attractive, so she was never going to really work as a Bond girl for me, but that’s a personal thing. I also don’t think she works in terms of the film. She’s completely evil – she killed Patrick Macnee earlier in the film, something which Bond says the villains will regret and she has tried to kill Bond multiple times. Yet, when she realizes she has been betrayed she suddenly decides to team up with Bond and even sacrifice her life to do the noble thing. It doesn’t work for the character at all, and is a pale reflection of what already hadn’t worked that well with Jaws. She sleeps with Bond after she already knows who he is even though it’s his pathetic ploy to keep from being discovered at not being in his room. There’s no explanation for why she would go ahead and sleep with him – she should have just kicked him out of bed like he did to Lynn-Holly Johnson two films before, or, you know, KILLED HIM! Then there’s the super-strength. Yes, she has super-strength. At one point she lifts a KGB goon over her head. The implied explanation is that she is the product of Nazi-KGB science like Walken (don’t ask). Yet, why would they create a super woman who is black and British and has hair and height (and outfits) that make her the most noticeable person in every room she’s ever in? Nothing about her works – not her character and certainly not her performance. She is terrible.
When you watch the film as a whole though, you realize it’s actually the direction that is terrible. Veronica said at one point “That was pretty ominous music for a carwash.” The direction and editing were so bad that I had to rewind to point out that a supporting character had just been killed. Nowhere is the poor direction as evident as it is during the firetruck chase scene through San Francisco. The chase is intended to be funny, with Bond flying around on the ladder. But in a chase through one of the best cities in the world to have a chase (see Bullitt or The Rock) you can’t help but just cringe at the attempts at humor. There’s a police captain who’s clearly meant to be funny in the way that Guy Hamilton clearly thought C.W. Pepper was but he’s not any more funny than Pepper was. The best thing about the chase was the chance for me to pause it and point to the screen and say “That building’s not there anymore because there’s a baseball stadium there.”
And for all that, I have barely discussed the main Bond girl, Stacey Sutton, played, with no acting ability whatsoever, by Tanya Roberts. She’s just another generic blonde, except she’s so bad in this film that she was actually nominated for a Razzie. She didn’t actually win the Razzie, which I suppose says something good about this film, since two later Bond girls would win.
By this point, Roger Moore was far too old to play the role anymore. Even Moneypenny had gotten too old – she was the same age as her co-star and in this film she wears an outfit and matching hat that are so bad that I don’t think Queen Elizabeth would be caught wearing them. The writing had gotten stale and complacent. The direction had gone completely flat. When the Duran Duran video for your theme song is better than your film you know things have gotten bad. A whole new world is what was needed for Bond. Or, you know, how about a whole new Bond. Like, say, Timothy Dalton.