If Eon Productions took the goofy route that edged on self parody for The Spy Who Loved Me, Moonraker is a farce.
It only made sense to send Bond into outer space in 1979. Star Wars made such huge waves in ’77, all of the studios were getting in on it. Even Disney. So why wouldn’t MGM set the backdrop for their biggest franchise among the stars?
James Bond (Rooger Moore) is stacked against another cookie cutter and forgettable main antagonist, Hugo Drax (Michael Lonsdale). Instead of planning to create a new civilization under the ocean like the last guy, Drax is creating one on a space station orbiting earth. His plan is very Nazi in nature, to have a smart, strong, and beautiful master race of humans living on his station, while the rest of us are taken out with a toxic nerve agent on Earth. Very dark stuff for a light hearted movie.
Much of the film doesn’t make sense, especially when Drax steals his own Shuttle, then tries to kill the spy MI6 sends to help him find it… but really… the plots for these films have become moot at this point.
As bad as most of Moonraker is, there is some fun packed into it. The cold open is one of the best in the series. I haven’t mentioned directors often because they have not made much impact on the films overall. Outside of Guy Hamilton introducing humour with Goldfinger, for the most part they are hired to do Eon Productions’ bidding. Moonraker is directed by Lewis Gilbert (You Only Live Twice, The Spy Who Loved Me) who is input has always been hammy and weak action scenes. His over use of green screens for close ups during car chases and speeding up footage that was shot in 24 frames to make moments… “exciting” has always been jarring.
So, I wasn’t surprised to find out how John Glenn, who was the 2nd Unit director and the film’s editor, was in charge of the cold open. He really shows off his skills at putting together action and you can see why Eon locked him up to do the next FIVE films.
I really liked Lois Chiles who plays Dr. Holly… Goodhead. Yes, that is her name. Despite the character’s terrible name, she is the most solid “Bond Girl” since Diana Rigg in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. The character is smart while written well, and Chiles is a strong actress to pull it off. She makes the film better.
Moore has also come into his own as Bond as well. He found his groove in The Spy Who Loved Me and he carries on flawlessly here, but it is not enough to save the movie from itself.
Moonraker is one of those films that wants you to laugh during parts that make you cringe instead. The Gondola Chase, with the infamous “pigeon double take” (see it in the video at 2:35) has to be a low point for the series. The slide whistle during the car flip in The Man With The Golden Gun seems quaint in comparison.
If you watched the clip, you get a taste of Gilbert’s weak action sequences, but the bigger problem is how the entire boat chase is completely unnecessary. It is thrown in because all of Moore’s previous Bond pictures had one. So, Moonraker needs one too.
Not even the return of Jaws (Richard Kiel) is done very well. Introduced in the previous film, Jaws became very popular and reason why so many got off their duffs to see The Spy Who Loved Me. This time he gets his very own side story with stunning girlfriend played by Blanche Ravalec, but she wears glasses so she is a nerd. 🙄
It is unintentionally funny when Dr. Goodhead (😬) asks Bond if he knows who this strange large man with metal teeth is.
Bond answers, “Not socially. His name is Jaws. He kills people.”
He is not an assassin, a solider, or a psycho. He is just “kills people.” lawls, as the kids would say about 10 years ago.
Now, for the continuing competition with my wife Sarah to correctly guess how long it would take Bond to first get laid during each of these films. As I mentioned last week, the rules have been tweaked to eliminate scoreless rounds. We decided to roll dice to determine the “over/under” number of minutes for which will take Bond to get laid. I rolled a four and a six, making the number 46 minutes. Sarah then had to choose if Bond would get lucky before or after 46 minutes. If she is right, she will get a point. I would get one if she is wrong. She wisely choose before as Bond got the deal done within 24 minutes.
It turns out that the dice will not work well since the numbers they generate will more often than not be too high. Bond has only taken over an hour once. So, for next week I have set up an app on my phone that will randomly choose a time between 15 and 25 minutes. This should be fun. But, playing by this week’s rules, point goes to Sarah:
Sarah – 6
Mars – 1
Moonraker is objectively bad, but I have enough nostalgia for Moore’s version of Bond to have some fun with it. The cheesy way the actor’s all slowly move to give the illusion that they are weightless (Thanks, 2001: A Space Odyssey) or how Bond goes full Luke Skywalker towards the end by switching to a manual laser to take out Drax’s space station. It had me laughing at all the wrong moments, but I was still laughing.