Moonraker

When Bond is dreadful…
Released:
1979

Director: Lewis Gilbert

Starring: Roger Moore, Lois Chiles, Michael Lonsdale, Richard Kiel

The Setup:

James Bond etc. the space shuttle.

Discussion:

I can’t imagine why I became interested in seeing this again, but I quite did, and was looking forward to it as one of the things I would watch while trapped in my apartment while recovering from foot surgery. I even hobbled down the five flights on stairs on one foot [and back up, thank you very much] to fetch it from the mailbox. And then it laid big turd all across my new TV screen!

So we begin with a space shuttle being stolen off the back of an airliner, destroying the plane in the process. Then Roger Moore as James Bond is being held at gunpoint by some woman in a jet, and Jaws is there from the previous Bond film, and they fight for a parachute in mid-air. It’s a good stunt, but the whole thing is never explained and ends up having nothing to do with anything.

Lets have some context. This came out in 1979, two years after sci-fi and space mania had come to rule the public’s consciousness in the wake of the one-two punch of Star Wars and Close Encounters. This was also the time when Bond films had become totally rote and formulaic, as evidenced by the obvious lack of concern shown by anyone involved in this production, for everything from story to execution. This film represents almost everything the current Daniel Craig Bond films are trying to get away from.

So Bond goes to California to Drax industries, who makes the space shuttles. Drax tells some shifty-eyed Asian [foreign = evil] to “make sure some harm comes to him,” and they spin him really fast in a high-G simulator. Then he escapes. Then this woman he just met has sex with him. Then she lets him crack open the safe and photograph the top-secret plans and—Bond hasn’t even explained who he is! The filmmakers just assume we’ll swallow anything [and we obviously will!] and this is what they mean by “contempt for the audience.”

So 30 minutes has elapsed and not the slightest best of momentum has been achieved. Bond runs into this woman, Holly Goodhead, in Venice. She’s from Drax’s lab. Then there’s a gondola chase in which there is much silly sped-up footage and a DOUBLE-TAKE BY A PIGEON, accomplished by running footage backward and forward. By now the film has fallen into this pattern on Bond goes here, finds this clue, someone tries to kill him, repeat. But where is he going? What is he after? Who are these people? The movie doesn’t think those things are important to tell us.

So they go to Rio—and you KNOW if a Bond film is in Rio, it MUST be during Carnival—and more people try to kill him, etc. Then Q dispenses gadgets, because at the time we expected that scene in all of our Bond films, and more people try to kill Bond, etc. In the meantime, Goodhead, played by Lois Chiles, who is unable to utter one convincing line, has been revealed as a CIA agent and come to Bond’s side. Literally.

Eventually they all end up in space. God, I can’t even go into it. Drax’s plan is kind of a corker, though—he’s going to kill everyone on Earth and start a new race of supermodels in space, and return to re-populate earth with the beautiful people. You kind of have to admire that. Anyway, there’s a space shootout, and a whole space station, and all that, but I actually don’t think I ever saw Bond fire a laser. It’s really obviously pandering to Star Wars interest, and there’s one really good part where Bond steps through and airlock and then activates the gravity in that PART, as though gravity is a gas you can just pump in. It continues perfunctorily, then finally ends with a disco version of the not-bad theme song by Shirley Bassey.

It’s just too awful. I think this is a serious contender for worst Bond film ever. I watched A View to a Kill fairly recently, and I know that is held in low esteem by many, but at least some of the quiet scenes with Tanya Roberts had some spark, and it had a big, bang-up climax. This is just a series of bland chases and assassination attempts, ‘til finally we have the space climax, and it ends. We hit every single expected point in the formula dead on, and then just continue to the next one. Yeah, I had hoped for better, and I really didn’t expect to be handed such a crassly-made, perfunctory piece of product. If anyone involved gave the tiniest shit about how this movie turned out, it certainly doesn’t show on screen.

Should you watch it?

I wouldn’t, unless you have to watch every Bond film.

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