(Second Viewing, On Blu-ray, November 2018) Roger Moore is the Bond through while I discovered the series, so he’ll always remain my definitive take on the character … but he was clearly far too old to play the role in A View to a Kill. Bond’s tendency to date far younger girls gets overwhelmingly uncomfortable here, especially after the somewhat more mature heroines of the previous films. Various other structural mistakes, such as passing far too much time on the opening penny-ante villain horse-doping scheme rather than his ultimate evil plan, further damage the picture. Still, I still enjoyed quite a bit of the movie. There’s something about the action scenes that feels more modern than previous instalments, and both the chase sequence through Paris and the other in San Francisco feel well-handled. Then there are the antagonists: Christopher Walken is typically indescribable as genetically-engineered villain Max Zorin, his line delivery being much better than the actual lines. Then, of course, there’s Grace Jones: Not a gifted actress, but a spectacular evil Bond Girl more than capable of taking on Bond and make him sweat a little. Goody-two-shoes Tanya Roberts doesn’t compare, and there’s a fantastic lost opportunity here to bring back a recurring KGB agent character. Patrick MacNee shows up in a supporting role as a fellow agent, with some fun banter between him and Bond. Duran Duran’s title song is terrific, and it does underscore the peak-eighties nature of the film. Still, it’s hard to watch the film and not wonder about the wasted occasion of what a younger Bond, a tighter script, and a more daring director could have done with the raw material of the film. Still, as a swan song for Moore in the role, A View to a Kill is not quite bad. There have been far, far worse movies in the franchise and even in Moore’s tenure.
(On TV, April 2017) While a let-down from the original barbarian epic, Conan the Destroyer does have a few things going for it. It embraces a more team-oriented plot than the first film, bringing a bit of diversity to the adventure while decently presenting a kind of quest fantasy Dungeons-and-Dragons dynamic on-screen. Arnold Schwarzenegger remains the anchor of the cast, but nearly everyone gets a good moment to play or two—Wilt Chamberlain and Andre the Giant show up, Olivia D’Abo is cute as the nominal love interest, but Grace Jones is a special effect of her own even if her acting talents are, well, not up to even Arnold’s standards. Much of the plot is a loose succession of adventures, reinforcing the impression of seeing a quest story on-screen. Lighter on the violence, heavier on humour, Conan the Destroyer may be a bit more accessible even if it loses much of what had made such an impression during the first film. Still, much as the first film remains noteworthy for being an almost-definitive adaptation of barbarian fantasy on-screen, this sequel gets a lot of things right in portraying classical group quest fantasy as well. It doesn’t quite have as much wit as it should, but that’s how sequels go.