Posts Tagged ‘Moonraker’

Shuttle diplomacy

If you look at it from a certain angle, you could probably argue that Moonraker is one of the greatest Bond movies ever made. It made a heap of cash at the box office and it certainly ticks all the boxes for stunts, girls, gadgets and villains. The globetrotting is relentless, the production values lavish, and the special effects excellent. Obviously, I don’t have very much time for it. Well, most of it.

Roger Moore’s late-80s biography doesn’t think much of it either, arguing that it’s bereft of any kind of serious threat and actually commits the cardinal sin of making Bond look stupid at one point. I would agree with all this and go on to add that it’s essentially a series of overblown and often incoherent set-pieces strung together by a rather implausible plot, and always has one eye on where its next punchline is coming from. No-one gets taken very seriously in this film with the possible exception of main villain Hugo Drax (played with an admirably straight face by Michael Lonsdale), and even he’s a cookie-cutter Bond mastermind intent on executing Bond Plot No 2 (use orbital installation to cause mischief/get rich/both).

And yet, and yet… it’s playing about two feet from my right elbow even as I type – oh, hang on, an ad break’s just started, but you know what I mean. We’re heading towards the final act – Bond has just escaped from the pit underneath a launching space shuttle, he and the foil are blasting off into outer space, and whole film is about to undergo a rather remarkable transformation – from a silly and incoherent spy spoof into an extremely technically proficient, if rather daft, SF movie.

The miniature effects are superb, John Barry’s score soars to heights he would never again reach within the Bond franchise (still have a soft spot for his score for The Black Hole, but that’s another story), and the movie has at least a vague crack at getting the science right, even if it gets all the details completely wrong.

Rather embarrassingly, 007 and his friend had both decided to go to the party as Uma Thurman in Kill Bill.

You could argue that in this brazen attempt to cash in on the success of Star Wars (no shame in that, around this time everyone was doing it – cf. Flash Gordon (1980), Star Trek – The Slow Motion Picture (1979), and, yes, The Black Hole (1979)) Eon were basically doing the same thing as in Moore’s first two Bond movies and just following the market. Maybe they were, but the rest of the movie mechanically apes the style established in The Spy Who Loved Me so closely that you don’t really notice this. One also gets a sense of confidence and swagger from watching this movie that isn’t there in some of the early-70s Bonds.

The last half hour or so is so watchable that I’m almost willing to forgive the rest of Moonraker for the succession of silly references to other films, for Corinne Clery’s jarringly nasty death scene, and for the Bond-looks-stupid bit. Just don’t ask me to watch any of them.

And it does have the best closing gag of any Bond movie, too, of course.

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