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The Spy Who Loved Me proved that Bond was back. However the real sensation in 1977 was Star Wars. As Bond created spy mania, so Star Wars spawned sci-fi mania. Film studios wanted to cash in on the new craze. And so did Bond.
The next Bond film was meant to be For Your Eyes Only, but that film got shelved for Ian Fleming's third novel, published in 1955, Moonraker – the only novel with space connotations. Bond was going to space.
Certainly it made good financial sense, but it reeked of cynicism. Following current cinematic trends, be it blaxploitation in Live and Let Die, kung fu in The Man With The Golden Gun, or now space high jinks in Moonraker, hinted at the filmmakers going for the safe option and creative bankruptcy. At least with Spy the Bond franchise was cannibalizing itself. Still, with Moonraker the filmmakers were almost guaranteed success, securing the long term health of the Bond series.
With United Artists ratcheting the budget to a quite astronomical $32 million, Cubby needed Moonraker to be successful, not only because of the enormous outlay, but also to carry forward the good feelings from Spy. Yet it was the previous film, as Moonraker's running costs mounted up, that convinced U.A. to keep increasing the budget. Judging by Spy's box-office receipts, U.A felt confident of recouping Moonraker's expense.
The film industry was getting more and more expensive by the year. Not helping matters were the British government and their prohibitive tax laws. Therefore the heartbreaking decision was made to leave Pinewood and set up shop in France, whose tax laws were more conducive to creative powers. Pinewood would only be used for the special effects.
Cubby reassembled the crew that made Spy such a triumph: Derek Meddings, Miniatures/Special Effects; Ken Adam, Production Design; John Glen, Editor and 2nd Unit Director; Lewis Gilbert, Director and Christopher Wood as Screenwriter. Making a welcome return was John Barry as composer.
Moonraker is an epic film, both in size and scope. Multiple units shot the film around the world, from Venice to Rio and from California to the Iguazu Falls - Moonraker is the most extravagant, lavish Bond film.
However, too much energy is spent on set pieces and spectacle, and not enough attention is forwarded to the plot. Lewis Gilbert, and an uncredited Tom Mankiewicz, devised the plot. Ever since You Only Live Twice, the story of the Bond films came from a committee meeting, and location scouting, to see what new adventures the filmmakers could conceive for Commander Bond's latest exploits. It was left up to Wood to put these ideas into a coherent screenplay.
For example, Michael G. Wilson devised the thrilling PTS. Several of these ideas were put on ice, the prime one being the micro-star jet, that forms the basis to Octopussy's PTS in 1983.
Essentially Moonraker is Spy, in space. Instead of Stromberg, the villain of Spy who was orchestrating a nuclear war so he could live in peace in his underwater city, Hugo Drax's scheme is to wipe out the human race and repopulate it from the heavens. In two consecutive films, the villain’s plot involves mass genocide - the mad billionaire who wants to eliminate the entire population. The plot of Moonraker is simple, a narrative designed to pull the audience from one set piece to the next.
Moonraker's première was fortuitously in the same month that NASA's space shuttle was to be unveiled. Cubby, marketer that he was, widely announced that Moonraker was “science fact, not science fiction”. As it turned out, the space shuttle was delayed until 1981.
Although Moonraker was grounded in light of other sci-fi fare, it still played fast and loose with both the technology and plausibility of the time.
Moonraker pushed the limits of what was acceptable in a Bond movie, and indeed went over said limits. The days of a lean, Flemingesque thriller were apparently gone, and in its place was an entertaining display of pomp and hardware.
One could argue that Moonraker was merely an evolution of the trend started in Spy, with its hardware and gimmicks. This trend, started out as far back as The Man With The Golden Gun, in which Scaramanga escaped in a flying car. The films were getting more and more implausible. In fact, one could also argue that Moonraker is the culmination of the direction the franchise was heading, starting with Diamonds Are Forever, what with its humour and escapism.
With Spy, the filmmakers got the balance of enjoyable fantasy just right, whilst Moonraker got the balance ever so slightly wrong. It was too over the top, and improbable, which removes one from the cinematic experience. Like You Only Live Twice before it, Moonraker is too grand and fantastical. Both movies are highly pleasurable, but they forgot Ian Fleming's mantra: “Take Bond beyond what is plausible, but never the possible.”
The excessive trend does not end with the plot and hardware. Unfortunately Moonraker also suffers from the curse of sight gags, reminiscent of the early 70's Bond films. This unwelcome return to overt humour mars the picture. For every entertaining set piece, one can almost guarantee a cringe-inducing moment to spoil it.
For example, take the much maligned PTS. It features Bond pushed from a plane, sans parachute, by the returning Jaws. The only recourse available to Bond is to free fall, catch up with the pilot, and battle him for his parachute.
It is a truly breathtaking stunt, ingenious in its complexity and daring, and performed quite brilliantly by B.J. Worth and Jake Lombard. The scene took 88 skydives above California.
Without a doubt, Moonraker's stunt work is right up there with Spy's. As so often with the case with Moonraker, it is tainted by an inexcusable sight gag. In this case, Jaws rips off his ripcord, while deploying his parachute, and plummets to the ground, only to be saved by improbably landing on a circus tent. All that magnificent stunt work is almost negated by a sight gag.
Another instance is the diverting cable car scene, which takes place on Rio's Sugar Loaf Mountain, in spite of some rather shoddy blue screen effects. The sequence - which has Bond and Holly Goodhead being menaced by Jaws - required Bond, while on top of the cable car, to slip and hang on for dear life. Stuntman Richard Graydon courageously completed the stunt, without a safety harness; a superb piece of skill and bravery.
Again this amazing stunt work is undermined by the follow up gag. Jaws, after having crashed through the cable car station, finds himself trapped. Jaws is rescued by Dolly, surely the most out of place character to appear in a Bond film. Naturally, Jaws is grateful to Dolly. The scene in which they fall in love is painful for a Bond purist to watch.
The tendency for over the top humour reaches a peak in Moonraker when Bond converts his gondola to travel on land … in St. Mark's Square, of all places. The entire sequence is played for cheap and unnecessary laughs.
Living to die another day is the indestructible Jaws, returning to terrorize Bond once again. As engaging as Richard Kiel is, the screenplay has Jaws being the victim of sight gags, which is a shame, as given the right material Jaws is a worthy foe – see Spy.
The one truly frightening moment is when Jaws is left face to face with Manuela, Bond's Rio contact. This beautiful actress is Emily Bolton. Despite having only a few scenes, Bolton is one of Mr Bond's most delectable trysts.
Using the Rio Carnival as a cover, Bond and Manuela are investigating Drax's warehouse, when Bond leaves her to inspect the premises further, leaving Manuela alone, in an ally, with only the distant sounds of the carnival to comfort her. Detaching himself from the procession is a costumed man, a massive, grotesquely costumed man. He approaches Manuela. Taking off his costume head, the man turns out to be Jaws, revealing a real life giant; terrifyingly macabre. The sound and life of the Mardi Gras is juxtaposed superbly with the silence, and almost certain death, in the ally, not 200 metres away from the bustling streets.
Interestingly, Jaws is invaluable in helping Bond and Holly escape Drax's doomed space station. While listening to Drax's speech, Jaws realizes that he, and by extension Dolly, do not meet Drax's requirements of a perfect master race. Thus he allies himself with Bond. (Drax himself does not live up to the standards of a perfect human specimen either, a blind-spot that he and Hitler shared it seemed – the similarities between Hitler's Aryan race and Drax's master race are readily apparent.)
One of the conditions of filming in France, was the hiring of a French actor. Luckily, the filmmakers chose Michael Lonsdale, a quite gifted actor, to play the miscreant billionaire Hugo Drax. Lonsdale portrays Drax as dry and nonchalant.
Despite his rather novel ways to “bump off” Bond, Bond keeps disappointing him. Which leads to this classic line: “James Bond. You appear with the tedious inevitability of an unloved season.” Lonsdale has a deliciously droll way of delivering a line, making Drax one of Roger Moore's most memorable villains.
Another French national is Corinne Clery as Drax's personal secretary, Corinne Dufour. She plays the part with a good natured naivety. Tragically, Corinne is hunted by Drax's Dobermans in a powerful, traumatic scene, heightened by Barry's imperious input.
Continuing the trend for self sufficient heroines, is the absurdly named Dr Holly Goodhead, both a CIA operative and a trained NASA astronaut. Holly is played haughtily by Lois Chiles. Certainly capable, both as an actress and a character, Chiles is, unfortunately, one of 007's most forgettable romances.
Poignantly, making his final appearance as M, is Bernard Lee. Over the course of eleven movies, Lee made the role of M his own, imbuing M with stiff demeanour, cool detachment, professional authority, and just a hint of fatherly concern in his dealings with 007 - all hallmarks of Ian Fleming's literary counterpart.
In the hands of a lesser actor, the character of M may have been one dimensional, but Lee managed to make M a subtly nuanced person. Lee's M made a significant contribution, belying his often limited screen time. Bernard Lee passed away in January 1981, during production on For Your Eyes Only.
The three picture deal that Moore had signed, expired with the completion of Spy. Shrewdly, Moore would negotiate one picture deals until his retirement from the role. After the success of Spy, Moore's stock had never been higher, and he and Cubby reached a deal relativity promptly.
Filming Moonraker would take its toll on Moore. He had a recurrence of kidney stones in Rio, and the exhausting march up the Amazon left Moore drained. Shooting Moonraker was an arduous task, and in an echo of Sean Connery, Moore was disgruntled about the time spent filming the Bonds, as well as the constant press coverage.
Whatever discomfort Moore was feeling shooting Moonraker, the performance was right on the money - laconically understated and elegantly composed. Although the screenplay does not give Moore any introspection, he has a quite brilliant scene in which Bond is trapped inside of an out of control centrifuge. When he emerges from the centrifuge, Moore's Bond, uncharacteristically, is rather shaken and very stirred, brushing aside Holly's attentions and not even quipping.
Despite Moonraker's drawbacks of the twin evils of implausibility and overt humour, the film itself is never dull, and under Lewis Gilbert's masterful direction zips from one gorgeous location to the next. Like Spy before it, Moonraker has a charm about it, borne out of the fact that the film was conceived by master craftsmen, all at the height of their game. Key crew, such as Gilbert, Adam, Barry, Meddings and the cinematographer, the debutant to the Bond family, Jean Tournier, make Moonraker such a treat. Claude Renoir, Director of Photography on Spy, was meant to work on Moonraker, but failing eyesight precluded him from taking part.
Cubby always boasted that one can “see every dollar up on screen”, and in the case of Moonraker it was no idle boast. The extensive location shooting, the breathtaking cinematography, the amazing sets, and the exceptional special effects - all give Moonraker an epic, visual sweep.
From the Venice Canals to the oppressive heat of the Amazon Jungle, from the splendour of Sugar Loaf Mountain to the teeming streets of Rio, Tournier captures the locations quite magnificently. Moonraker is, without a doubt, the most beautiful film in the Bondian canon.
The special effects were worthy of an Oscar nod, and those were helmed superbly by Derek Meddings. From the shuttle launches to the climatic space battle, Meddings' work is admirable in its realism, and balletic as well, regardless of one's opinion on space battles in a Bond film.
The filmmakers approached George Lucas' Industrial Light and Magic effects, but couldn't reach a deal. Instead Cubby turned to Thunderbird's veteran Meddings. For the special optical effects in the climactic battle, Meddings shot one element, wound back the film in the camera, then shot the next element. Any piece of grit, dust, or any problems with the film, would render it unusable. Meddings put the film through the camera over 100 times, but thankfully there were no issues. That high risk strategy paid off.
As it turned out, the climactic battle, though impressive as it was from a technical standpoint, fails to excite. Perhaps it was too “sci-fi” for Bond, or maybe the sequence does not have the tangibility required when compared to similar scenes in You Only Live Twice and Spy.
More successful is the sequence where Bond and Holly, inside of Moonraker 6, hunt down the orbs released from Drax's space station. The scene is actually quite tense, despite its ridiculousness.
The filmmakers should have had Bond destroy the Amazon Launch Pad and defeat Drax. But it was too irresistible to have Bond go to space. One could say that it would have been anticlimactic to end with the battle on terra firma.
After his tour de force on Spy, Adam comes up trumps with his last Bond film, his seventh overall. Adam booked all the available studio space in France. After complaints from his French crew, as they were unaccustomed to working the longer hours of their British counterparts, they were mollified by the sheer artistry of Adam's splendid sets.
One highlight is Drax's control room, with its sheer banks of screens. The space of this particular set is diagonal in its proportions, leading to some very clever shooting angles.
Through the years, Adam created sets that were futuristic and iconic. The Bond films were never the same after Adam had laid down his pencil.
From a treat on a visual level, one has John Barry to thank for Moonraker's audio delights. Barry delivers a haunting, ethereal score, befitting Moonraker's space themes. Of particular mention is Barry's “Flight into Space”, the piece of music that reveals Drax's space station – simply stunning. Barry combines the ominous, impressive, and serene feel to the space station with his usual ingenuity, via strings, horns, and a choir. Truly mesmerising.
“Flight into Space” is a very bare piece of music, quite minimalist in its construction, beginning with ostinatos, before moving on to give Barry's consummate skills room to sparkle, creating a rich, lush, and grandiose sound.
The “007 Theme” makes its long awaited return in Moonraker, during the Amazon boat chase. The last time Barry used his “007 Theme” was in Diamonds Are Forever in 1971. This time, Barry deploys his “007 Theme” at a much slower tempo, as with much of Barry's work on Moonraker. The music is often dichotomous, being slower and magisterial in comparison to the on-screen fare. Moreover, the “007 Theme” provides a vital link back to the 60's Bond pictures.
Moonraker is an end of an era, in many respects, being that it was the last time that Adam and Barry worked together. The contributions of Adam and Barry cannot be overstated.
Moonraker, then, is a rather paradoxical film: on one hand, Moonraker is too fantastical and riddled with sight gags; but on the other hand it’s full of the chutzpah that defined Spy, with invaluable contributions from Barry, Adam, Meddings, B.J Worth and his aerial team, and the cinematography by Tournier - all at the zenith of their creative powers. Not to mention Lewis Gilbert, in handling such a mammoth production, plus key cast such as Roger Moore and Michael Lonsdale.
The shame is, with a careful editing, Moonraker has the potential to be a very good, if a little outlandish, Bond film. As it is, Moonraker tries to overcome its shortcomings with valour, being fun, breezy and entertaining.
Moonraker had its world première on the 26th of June, 1979. Moonraker's box office takings, at over $203 million, and $62 million in the U.S alone, made it yet another Bond blockbuster. Although, outside of the U.S, Moonraker did not have the staying power of Spy.
There were dissenters, however, calling for Ian Fleming's James Bond, 007, to return. This left Cubby with a slight quandary: Does he continue with the high-tech, fantasy-laden Bond, that served him well in Spy and Moonraker, or should he bring Commander Bond back down to Earth?
With the success of the The Spy Who Loved Me in the summer of 1977, producer Albert R. Broccoli, director Lewis Gilbert, executive producer Michael G. Wilson, and screenwriter Christopher Wood began work on the next James Bond film, For Your Eyes Only. But with the success of Star Wars that same summer, a decision was made to send 007 into outer space with an adaptation of Ian Fleming's third novel, Moonraker. Although Broccoli insisted that Moonraker would be "science fact, not science fiction”, Moonraker turned into one of the biggest missteps in the history of the series, despite what it did at the box-office.
Roger Moore's performance in this film is filled with his strongest attribute: humor. Throughout Moonraker, Moore is spitting out one liners at every possible opportunity. This leaves Moore in sleepwalking mode: he simply seems to show up and deliver his line, doing little else in between. Only once in the film does Moore show any vulnerability and that's in the most effective sequence: the out of control centrifuge scene. He is battered, lucky to be alive, and suspicious of everyone at Drax's plant. Because of the film's lack of character depth, and a focus on humor, action, and special effects, it ruins the film's main character and what should be the focus of the film.
The lack of character depth continues on the film's leading lady, Holly Goodhead. Her introduction at the plant and her actions before, during, and after the centrifuge sequence show her to be a mysterious and possibly threatening figure. But from the point that Bond meets her in Venice till the end of the film, Holly loses all of those attributes she had previously and instead becomes little more than an Americanized take on Anya from the previous movie. That is minus the interesting character development that Anya was given. While intelligently performed by Lois Chiles, the writing makes Holly Goodhead one of the most forgettable Bond Girls of the series.
Of all the main characters, perhaps the worst of all is the villain, Hugo Drax. He is an aristocrat held in high regard by the entire world, a man who stands (or rather sits) back and issues orders, and delivers some of the worst written lines in the entire series. Michael Lonsdale is a fine actor but this badly written role is only further ruined by Lonsdale's low key style of acting. Drax has no menace at all and as a threat is laughable.
The supporting cast is of middling quality. Leading it is Jaws who is reduced from the menacing henchman seen in the previous film to a level that leaves him only behind J.W. Pepper in terms of cringe worthy comic relief. The film's best character is Drax's assistant Corinne Dufour, who comes across better in her few moments on screen than any other characters in the entire film. In fact, her death at the teeth of Drax's dogs is an incredibly well done scene that stands in stark contrast with the rest of Moonraker. The film wastes two characters in the form of Drax's servant/henchman Chang and Bond’s Rio contact Manuela, a character who shows up in Bond’s hotel suite long enough to sleep with him before getting threatened by Jaws in a Rio alleyway and disappear out of the film. As for the staff at MI6, Bernard Lee gives his best performance as M in a decade, Desmond Llewelyn gives a good performance as Q and gives the film's best line and Miss Moneypenny is once again given a massively downgraded part. It’s a less than stellar supporting cast all around.
The action sequences are a mixed bag as well. Take the mid-air fight in the teaser for example. It is one of the best teaser sequences to appear in any Bond film with its combination of well filmed and performed action and John Barry’s score. Yet at the end of the sequence it is ruined by the appearance of Jaws flapping his arms trying to land on a circus tent. The boat chase in Venice is rather bland and stoops down to the boat chase a couple of films back in The Man With The Golden Gun, even copying it at times. If indeed the Bond films as a series bear no resemblance to reality most of time, then this is one of the cases where it stooped lower than the deepest spot on the ocean floor. The boat chase in the Amazon is a great action sequence and is one of the easiest to watch simply due to it being played straight until the very end. Even the battle on board the space station is lacking what made similar sequences in other films so memorable.
There are two things which really hurt the film, both found in the script. The first is that Moonraker simply rehashes the plot of The Spy Who Loved Me, just changing the character’s names and the obsession of the villain from the ocean to outer space. It makes the film predictable to the nth degree. Yet that isn’t the biggest problem. That would be the sci-fi element of the film, this is what ruins it. As a fan of science fiction that seems weird to say, but I feel safe in saying it has no place in a James Bond film. Or rather it has no place being done in such a nonsensical a manner as it is done here. The whole plot of stealing a fully fueled space shuttle off a 747, and the space station that can't be seen on radar are among the dumbest ideas to ever appear in a Bond film. The battle sequence and the finale sequence, as I discussed above, are all you need to realize that while Broccoli was aiming for "science fact, not science fiction" the film is sci-fi.
In fact, just look at the film's last action sequence. It has Bond trying to blow up a globe containing poison with a laser. Sound oddly familiar? For me, it is proof that this film was doing its best to copy Star Wars, as this scene is just like the famous finale of that film minus Sir Alec Guinness telling Roger Moore to "Use the force." If indeed the Bond films as a series bear no resemblance to reality most of time, then this is one of the cases where the series threw logic overboard.
If there is a bright spot in this film it is John Barry's score. The score proper is never played for laughs and helps to add some much-needed tension to the film, particularly during Bond's sneaking around Drax's plant in Venice. The action music makes some of the series best use of the James Bond Theme and the romantic cues are very fitting. The score though just doesn't quite seem up to par with Barry's other scores, but it does elevate Moonraker up a bit. That might simply be because there is also the use of the Close Encounters Of The Third Kind theme, The Magnificent Seven theme, and other music, which is cringe worthy at best and proof of the emphasis on humor. Barry’s scrore might be straight but it is undermined by what is added onto it.
Even with a decent supporting cast and a good score, Moonraker is hampered down by bad main characters, mixed action sequences, bad humor, and overly emphasized sci-fi elements. Moonraker tapped into the taste for science fiction that Star Wars had reawakened but in doing so did what Bond had always tried to avoid: to imitate its imitators (or in this case imitate another major event film). As a result, Bond left the 1970s as he came into it: filled with bad jokes and nonsensical in terms of plot.
The reappearance of the preposterous Jaws does not bode well. Any hope this can be made serious evaporates with Jaws surviving a fall into a circus tent. Anticipating the numerous science fiction motifs to follow, the PTS announces this will be yet another comedic entry into a series that has lost its way.
Rather than meeting up with Gala Brand, Bond meets Holly Goodhead, a named intended to make school boys giggle. Reprising her role as Jordan Baker from The Great Gatsby, Lois Chiles portrays Goodhead as dull, lethargic, and monotone.
As Drax, Michael Lonsdale's talents are mostly wasted. He is given a few good lines, but somehow he never really seems to be present in the film. Like Chiles, he is too cool, too distant to fully connect with. We actually have to like the villain in a sort of perverse way.
As timdalton007 noted, the series now just imitates its imitators. What's new and bigger than Bond, 'we'll just rip it off.' Rather than trusting the source material, the writers concoct an outrageous scheme to get into space so we can be reminded how superior Star Wars was to this silly Bond film. Lay on the unforgivable gondola sequence and the double-take pigeon, and the series has become the bastard child of the Charles Feldman Casino Royale.
I had hoped I would grow to like RM as Bond, but I never did. For me, his best Bond is LALD. It was darker and more serious than what was to follow. The single bright spot in MR and the RM series is John Barry. He did some of his very best work.
For me, MR misfires. It never gets off the launch pad. The best Bond films can be watched over and over. This is not one of them.
1) The slam dunk was Barry's score. Arguably his last fully textured Bond masterpiece before it seemed like he started calling it in. (i.e., Octopussy and AVTAK). Shame they weren't able to get the rights for a complete score on CD (attempted earlier this year).
2) Missed opportunity: The underlying plot wasn't really all that bad. The discovery of a clue that leads to the next part of the puzzle and so on, until we realize a complete chemical weapon. And the trigger device which involves a space station. It's a missed opportunity, IMHO, because the filmmakers didn't take it seriously. Everything leads to a sight gag, a bad pun, a riff from (then) recent sci-fi culture. Almost all of the humor was off-target. Sophomoric. Less funny, and more sad that the Bond series had come to this.
The world we live in is, unfortunately, a dark place. Just one look at the news and stories of economic gloom, terrorism and war and crime are reported one after another in a relentless fashion. A story that has captured the imagination of the world over the last few years, however, has been the exciting and stunning freefall from the very edge of space. The stunning fall by the Austrian dare devil was almost unbelievable and yet beautiful at the same time. To suggest such an idea a few years ago would have been dismissed as wholly unrealistic and has left many questioning humanity's possibilities with regards to space exploration and conquer. Space may be the final frontier but man's ambition needs to match that. Man needs to dare to dream and to think, to push what is possible to achieve the seemingly impossible. In 1979, buoyed by the success of Star Wars, Bond Produced dreamt that dream and produced an outlandish Bond movie in Moonraker.
First things first, what I dislike about the movie. The return of Jaws was poor and gimmicky - it didn't really fit. Jaws was portrayed as a Tony Pulis like henchman, the emergency button because plan A failed. His relationship with Dolly was slightly weak. Having said that, both played a crucial role in the events at the end of the film.
The pre credits teaser was spectacular. After the iconic one in TSWLM, something special was needed to match that and I think this did the job. Moore's humour shone through and it was an excellent set-piece well performed by the stuntmen. This is where Jaws should have been killed if the producers wanted to include him. This was his goodbye, as it were, or at least should have been. Moonraker, as sung by Shirley Bassey, is a haunting tune but a beautiful song. Fun fact: I sung Moonraker in a karaoke bar once...and got a girls number because of it. I love the song, I think it's very atmospheric (pun intended) and one of the better Bond themes. The disco version is utterly sublime - just terrific and I would urge you to give it a listen if you haven't done so already.
Moonraker shows once again what a great Bond Roger Moore was. He was strong, confident, fully assured in the role and this is one of the few times where Bond is this throughout the series. Moore delivers the lines very well and is good in the action pieces he is involved in. You cannot fault Moore's enthusiasm and his zeal for a role he clearly loved. Dr Goodhead is a satisfactory Bond girl. Though the voice grates and she can be silly, she's smart and knows her stuff, an alpha lady if you like. I did think she became to rely on Bond too much but she wouldn't be the first Bond girl to do that. Hugo Drax is a formidable,calculating and cold villain, much stronger than Stromberg before him and is quite intimidating. I enjoyed his dialogue scenes with Bond and he has some good lines else where. I feel Moonraker would have been better if there were stronger henchmen - dare I suggest the twins from Octopussy?
The plot, a madman wanting to destroy the world, is a familiar one yet Moonraker takes it further by including the element of space. Now for some, this is preposterous. Why? Space was a huge geopolitical feature of the Cold War, especially between US and Soviet Union. Space was an interesting set piece: they could have simply have the final battle in Brazil yet the writers chose to send Bond into space. People may say it is unbelievable and unlikely yet this scenario now isn't entirely Implausible now. It highlighted that our enemies are everywhere and lurk in the darkest shadows. How the movie didn't get acknowledged with a couple of oscars for special effects I will have no idea. Stunning is an understatement. Even in 2015, I am impressed with the quality of the miniatures and models displayed in the movie. They are truly outstanding and are a huge part in why this movie is so great.
I make no apologies for saying I love the gondola scene. I thought it was an interesting idea to have the chase through the canals of Venice and it worked quite well. But the ending of it is absolutely fantastic. I love the pigeon - it's a great moment. Give me the Pigeon over the brooding sloppiness of Craig in Venice in Casino Royale any day. It's the perfect ending to a fantastic action set piece. Moonraker
Moonraker is often criticised as being a joke movie. I disagree. I think the movie contains one of the darkest moments in a Bond movie. The scenes with the dogs on the Drax estate is incredibly dark and powerful. It shows the ruthlessness of a man and is one of the most brutal and feral methods of death in the entire series. Another dark aspect of Moonraker that often gets overlooked is the idea of a superior race. Harking to eugenics and the Nazis, Moonraker has a serious and dark tone underlying it about what we find as acceptable. When I saw the "beach body read" adverts that caused quite a stir in London earlier this year, I thought of Drax and Moonraker. The irony is that Bond and Goodhead would probably have fitted into the idea of a master human race yet shows that people have choice ultimately in the end. Moonraker is a dark tale, not just of world domination and genocide but for the reasons I've explained above. The idea of bioterrorism is also fascinating, about using natural vegetation to such deadly effects.
Overall, Moonraker is an excellent movie. It's definitely a top ten for me and I think includes a lot of what makes the series so enduring and successful. The ending and the comment from Q is utter brilliance and just truly fantastic. What makes Moonraker bittersweet though is that it is the last appearance of Bernard Lee. A truly magnificent actor, Lee remains a huge part of the James Bond myth and is untouchable in what he brought to the character of M.
Imma go straight into the positives full force. First of all Amazing score here by John Barry, it is imo his best score that he ever composed (A View To A Kill comes close) as every track is just full of energy, suspense, tension and emotion and they fit so well into the scenes they accompany. The cast of characters as a whole here is very very good with the imo great Bond girl in Dr. Holly Goodhead (even if she is a bit meh at times), the return of the fan loved henchmen Jaws who has some extra layers added to his already great character from The Spy Who Loved Me and Kiel just kills it again as him. There is also the really amazing and legendary Michael Lonsdale who delivered one of the best villain performances in bond history with his role as Hugo Drax who is always serious, straight to the point, amusing to watch with his schemes and constant attempts to plan an amusing death for bond and he just has the villain look down with that Goatee, sure his plot may make him like a space version of genocide leaders from years past but something about Drax is just awesome and every second of his screentime is pure genius.
I also liked the henchmen Chang who while not exactly great and he may have had a foolish death, I do very much like his mostly silent but deadly type nature and the sad face he makes when the Centrifuge machine goes bust is just hilarious honestly. The usual MI6 crew of Benard Lee, Lois Maxwell and Desmond Llewelyn are great as they usually are. Now this movie houses one amazing performance by the Legendary Sir Roger Moore as James Bond imo, his action scenes were on point, his class was stylish, his one liners were great and witty, and his wardrobe and just character here was just perfect for Moore and it is my favorite performance of his.
Other great factors in Moonraker include really nice set pieces and locations, some of my favorite set pieces include Drax’s Space station, the Aztec base, and Drax’s Chateau just to name a few. I also just love the wacky space theme of this film, but what I think this one does best is that it saves all the wackiness for the finale and the space battle finale just has me at the edge of my seat filled with excitement and joy the whole time and the tension felt when Moore and Goodhead had to take out the Gas bomb’s that Drax left in the atmosphere was extremely tense and very well done (John Barry’s Music helps here) bond surely saved the world this time. Last but not least i think the pacing here is quite solid and it has a good build up with Drax’s plot
As for the negatives...well truth be told I myself have no issues with this film and I love everything in here, but I suppose there is one thing that I could critique. And that is that the plot is an obvious rehash of the previous film, The Spy Who Loved Me. while it may be a little lazy to rehash the same plot I feel this movie still does it pretty well and it doesn’t feel 100% the same to me even if it takes place in space instead of the sea.
So yeah in conclusion I absolutely love this film, if you're looking for an absolute wacky and over the top bond film that will provide 2 hours of fun I highly recommend watching Moonraker, fans of a more realistic bond may hate this one but fans of an anything goes Bond will more than likely enjoy this one a whole lot.
This may be controversial but my final Rating would be a 10/10
Then Star Wars came out and the producers must have thought, if people liked Star Wars and they liked The Spy Who Loved Me, then surely they're gonna love a carbon copy of The Spy Who Loved Me with space battles!
So they dusted off the one Fleming novel with a vaguely space-related title and off they went.
For the most part, Moonraker is a fine Bond movie: John Barry is in form, cinematographer Jean Tournier makes the many exotic locations look gorgeous, and production designer Ken Adam does some of his best work on the series. Sure, the Venetian gondola chase isn't half as funny as the makers think it is, and while Jaws was a formidable henchman in Spy Who Loved Me, this movie proves you can have too much Jaws.
They're flaws but not insurmountable ones and the movie is never not entertaining.
Then Bond goes to space and it all becomes a childish fantasy. Seriously, it feels as if one day screenwriter Christopher Wood left his typewriter unguarded and his ten year old son snuck in and wrote the final act ('... and then space marines show up firing laser guns!').
It turns what could have been a decent Bond movie into one of the worst in the series.
My life as a Bond fan has really been a strange journey. From my very exposures to Bond being through the video games, to first witnessing Pierce Brosnan in both Goldeneye and Tomorrow Never Dies, 7 year old me was enthralled with everything that was 007. The year is 2004, the day is Thanksgiving, and I can remember my family putting on a Bond film to watch. Expecting to see Brosnan, I was quite shocked to see someone else in the role. I thought “What the Hell, this isn’t James Bond.” That was my introduction to Roger Moore.
Moore is currently sitting at #3 in my Bond actor rankings, below both Brosnan and Sean Connery. Quite a leap for someone who used to be at the very bottom of my rankings because he didn’t fit the mold of how I thought Bond should look. But with the casting of Daniel Craig, that problem became non-exsistent, and now Sir Roger is probably the Bond actor who I’d rather go watch the most out of all of them. His era was so many things, and aside from perhaps AVTAK, every single Bond film he made is at the very least watchable. LALD was an excellent introduction to Moore in the role. TMWTGG isn’t perfect, but it’s still entertaining. TSWLM is amazing. FYEO is a god-send. OP is great campy fun with a dash of serious stakes thrown in. Then you have Moonraker, the film derided by many Bond fans as being one of worst films in the series. In my opinion, that’s a bit of a harsh statement. As of this rewatch of the film series, and keep in mind I’m watching them in random order, only 3 Bond films have really stuck out as being overtly bad films, and they are AVTAK, QOS, and DAD. Moonraker doesn’t deserve to be on the level of those films, in fact, I’d actually argue that Moonraker is quite underrated in many aspects.
To start, I think Michael Lonsdale is superb as Drax. He’s very understated as a villain, but every time he’s on screen, he’s just a delight to watch. I just love how Lonsdale delivers the lines in such a calm, smoothe voiced manner, which all the more makes his intentions seem much more dangerous. Even the one bit near the end of the film where he loses composure and shouts at Jaws comes across as very menacing. I much prefer Drax as a villain to Stromberg, who virtually had a similar plot in the previous film, mainly down to Lonsdale’s performance. In my opinion, Drax is a top 10 Bond villain, and one of Moonraker’s strongest elements!
I also quite like Lois Chiles as Dr. Goodhead. I don’t think that the filmmakers do a great job at trying to convince the audience that perhaps she’s a femme fatale in the beginning, because I’m fairly certain that is what they’re trying to do, and perhaps the character isn’t deeply written or anything like that, but she’s still a lot of fun. I actually think that I prefer Dr. Goodhead to Anya from the previous film, mainly because she doesn’t come across as wooden as much like Barbara Bach does. She’s also the most memorable female character in the film, as a lot of the other females they get for this film really aren’t memorable in the slightest. Having said, this film does come across as the most egregious when it comes to having models will very little acting experience, which is why they all come across as bland. I ultimately point to the assistant that Bond has while in Rio as the biggest example. She’s there following Bond after he gets off the plane; she’s seen in his suite mixing a Martini for him; then she’s seen with him at the Carnival where she fends off Jaws in an alley (a tense scene but more on that later), but then she’s gone. Also think of the numerous beauties Drax is seen with; the last time we even have a glimpse of them is on board the space station, but they’re absent from the climax battle, so did they all just end up dying at the end?
One of Moonraker’s biggest criticisms has been its inclusion, and treatment of Jaws. Gone is that threatening menace from TSWLM, and instead replaced by a buffoon of a character who is no where near as menacing and intimidating as he was previously, or at least that’s what some people would have you to believe. The actual truth here is that Jaws is largely the same as he was in the previous film. People tend to forget that TSWLM had its share of goofy moments featuring Jaws, like him dropping the Boulder on his foot, and yeah, Moonraker does take those comedic elements found in Jaws to the next level, but they also don’t tone down how frightening he can be. The scene where he’s walking down an alleyway in Rio whilst wearing that creepy clown costume always sticks with me, and the slow removal to reveal Jaws underneath is just the icing on the cake; it’s a way of making this character incredibly frightening without just resorting to showing his teeth to get the point across. I’ll agree that perhaps the addition of Dolly as Jaws’ love interest is largely a dumb gimmick played for laughs, but at least it’s some attempt at setting up his redemption later in the film rather than having Jaws’ suddenly turn good for no reason.
Moonraker does a lot of things right. It has great sets, a great score, great stunts, it’s everything that I want in a Bond film. For a while, it did rank towards the bottom of my series ranking, with my opinion previously being that it was nothing more than a generic cash grab on a trend that was incredibly popular. But as an adult, it’s a movie that I can appreciate for its goofiness, for its unique tone and style, for its extravagance. It was no longer this generic sci-fi film that just so happened to feature James Bond in it, it was an attempt to really bring the franchise into a whole new stratosphere. The back to back smash hits of both TSWLM and this film, put the series back in full swing, which it hadn’t been in since perhaps 1967. I often wonder if Moonraker would still remain as the series highest grossing film to this day had Goldeneye not come and dethroned it for that title, but the smash success of Moonraker should not be overlooked, as I view its success just as important as TSWLM’s success, and would at least close out what would’ve been a decade of uncertainty for the franchise on a somewhat good note, and all those reasons, I respect and admire Moonraker for everything it does. My final rating is a 6/10.
I’m also happy to say that the enthusiasm will continue onto the next review in the series, as I take a look at 1989’s Licence to Kill.