Moonraker was, believe it or not, one of the Bond films I was most looking forward to watching. I’m a big sucker for movies about astronauts and outer space (the mere sight of a space shuttle makes me giddy, and there are six in the movie!), so “James Bond in Space” sounded like a real good time.
I knew Moonraker would be bad, and was going into it expecting with the mentality that it would be “so bad it’s good.” Moonraker really is a bad movie, and never quite outruns its goofiness, especially in its overblown, out-of-this-world third act (see what I did there? I’m a regular Roger Moore). I definitely didn’t enjoy it as much as I was hoping, though I’d take this over Live And Let Die any day of the week.
The film begins with one of the series’ most exciting cold-opens, as Bond (again, showing up for the first time with his tongue down a woman’s throat. Freakin’ Roger Moore) ends up falling from a plane without a parachute. He quickly engages in a mid-air fight with his would-be killer, steals his parachute, and escapes. The entire sequence is then undermined and reduced to cheesiness with the appearance of Richard Kiel’s Jaws, and marks the beginning of a very bad pattern.
As it turns out, Jaws is at the center of several corny assassination attempts, and even gets his own out-of-left-field love story thrown in for good measure.
Moonraker‘s biggest crime is not its reliance on camp, but the fact that it’s a complete retread of the previous film, The Spy Who Loved Me. The villains basically have the same plot, motivations, and endgame. Hell, they even share Jaws as a henchman! It’s just the location (the deep sea vs. deep space) that’s changed. Maybe that wouldn’t have been a big deal if I’d watched Moonraker on its own, but the fact that I’m marathoning the films made it all the more apparent and made it even harder to get through Moonraker.
Moore looks incredibly bored through the entire third act, which makes me think he never quite committed to the ridiculousness of the plot. He and the rest of the actors move as slowly as they can to simulate being in deep space, and the effect never works – it made me laugh every time.
Lois Chiles does a good job in the role of Holly Goodhead, but is never given great material to work with, and Michael Lonsdale, who plays the villain, Hugo Drax, is stuck playing someone emotionless and boring. Perhaps in a film that wasn’t so sloppy and rushed, they could have become memorable additions to the 007 pantheon.
Moonraker was clearly a cash grab aping off of the success of Star Wars (which came out two years previously and is the reason the film was quickly put into production), and it shows. There’s no greater evidence of this than in the crazy laser gun fight near the climax. I mean, NASA sends a space shuttle to investigate a disturbance on the radar, and fills the shuttle full of men armed with laser guns?? The movie even ends with 007 having to take manual control of a shuttle’s laser to destroy an enemy probe – clearly inspired by Luke’s X-wing trip through the Death Star trench.
It’s funny, I didn’t have much fun watching the film, but look back on it with a slight bit of reverence. It’s crazy from start to finish, and is yet another Moore film that relies too heavily on campiness, but I still had some fun with it. That or I really do love astronaut movies too much.
Next up: For Your Eyes Only.