“Hey it’s 1979 and you know what was just a really big hit? That Star Wars thing! Lets make James Bond like Star Wars! I’m sure it wont be a big stupid mess at all!” Now I have no idea if those words were ever spoken by Albert R “Cubby” Broccoli but I’d like to think that he would have said those exact words at some point in this film’s production. The end of the credits to The Spy Who Loved Me said the next Bond film would be For Your Eyes Only, but because Star Wars had just been a huge hit Cubby decided to adapt the Bond novel that had something to do with space in the title. Realising the book of Moonraker wasn’t sci-fi enough for him Cubby had the villain retained and pretty much everything else scrapped in favour of what I’m reviewing tonight, Moonraker AKA Bond goes to space and all logic is tossed out the window. Click the link below!!!
As the film opens we see a Boeing passenger plane transporting a space shuttle attached to its fuselage which promptly gets hijacked by two guys who were already in the space shuttle. They just climb out of a wall chamber and fly off with it blowing up the Boeing in the process. The shuttle was made by a multi millionaire industrialist (who are ALL villains) called Hugo Drax (Michael Lonsdale) who was sending that shuttle to the US military. I’m gonna get into the mass of problems with this later. Bond is sent to investigate the suspicious circumstances involving the shuttle’s disappearance and also to see how many women he can shag along the way. I think he bangs 3, maybe 4… I’ve gradually learned to ignore the actions of Bond when in sexual predator mode. Honestly, is every woman in the Bond universe a total slut. If so, that’s a universe I’d like to live in. Anyway, really stupid stuff happens and then Bond goes into space with a CIA Agent Dr Scientist Astronaut in the form of Holly Goodhead (Lois Chiles), like Bond, I’ll get into her later. Well maybe not exactly like Bond. I meant as in I’ll discuss her later. She’s dull as bricks though so… yeah.
How did it all go so wrong? The Spy Who loved Me is a genuinely great Bond film. Upper tier quality stuff. Even Live And Let Die and The Man With The Golden Gun have enough good stuff to outweigh the bad. Moonraker though, oh boy, they went waaaaay off track with this one. The film lacks interesting characters, logical actions and features one of the most boring Bond girls ever. It features a preoccupation with gadgets that makes every action scene for Bond effectively be a series of stuff leading up to him using an unestablished gadget to escape. The villain has nigh on the exact same scheme as Stromberg from the last film, except for substituting the sea for a city in space, but none of the insane bravado to pull it off. Bond has a Gondola that is also a speedboat and a hovercraft. He also has a speedboat which is also a hang glider. Not a single one of those gadget leaden vehicles is established before you see them. They just appear and we’re supposed to accept them like a bunch of clapping seals. Granted the Lotus turning into a sub in The Spy Who Loved Me is a little similar but we at least see the car first in a number of scenes and Bond cuts off Q just as he was about to explain the cars gadgets. Why was Bond on a Gondola with a guy rowing it when it’s also a speedboat? If the guy rowing was another agent and in the know why did he get killed like a chump? Ugh.
So Holly Goodhead. I always say a more interesting Bond girl is the one that’s smarter and less helpless. The basic framework of Goodhead (tee hee) is fine. She’s smart and potentially useful. The problem is that she seems to have no end to what she can do. When introduced she’s working for Drax as an astrophysicist, who’s also an Astronaut. When Bond meets up with her later it turns out she’s also a CIA agent. So she’s a woman that got a doctorate n Astrophysics, trained to be an Astronaut, got employed by the CIA. Is she also a Brain Surgeon? I mean why stop at super space secret agent? What also doesn’t help is that Lois Chiles cannot act. Every single line she delivers is completely devoid of any life, which is kind of apt I suppose considering the characters skills. There’s zero chemistry between her and Roger Moore either which doesn’t help the fact their romance is just a by the numbers cat and mouse style affair. Remember, this comes after Anya Amasova working alongside Bond only to discover that he was the man that killed her former lover. That’s conflict, what happens between Holly and James here is not. It’s fluff.
So issues with Drago’s scheme. Lets start with the shuttle. It’s being transported to NASA for use in their space program, I’d guess because there’s a deal going between Drago’s business and them. It’s being transported on the back of a British passenger airliner… why? Drago’s company is in the US. His shuttles are in the US. Why is a plane piloted by British pilots carrying a shuttle to the US that was already in the US? He steals his own shuttle because, and I’m not joking, he needed it after one of his at the factory developed a problem. If you only had a finite number of shuttles with which to complete your scheme why give the only spare to NASA? Surely that would just alert the CIA and MI6 (British plane remember) to go see what’s up. When MI6 send Bond why send your henchman after him to kill him? Drax sends him on a tour of the plant. Surely if you kill Bond at the plant MI6 will notice and you’d have more agents on your door. And then comes the space station itself. The space station has apparently gone unnoticed because it has a radar jammer. Does a radar jammer make satellites invisible to anyone with a telescope, or vision? Does NASA not have any telescopes? That station would have taken years to build. Did no-one notice the massive amount of shuttle launches coming from Drax’s secret South American base? I know there’s a level of suspension of disbelief you’re meant to employ when watching films like this but there’s suspension and dangling by a thread, and this thread snapped long before we reach space. There has to be a level of logic to a villains scheme. It’s like how the volcano base in You Only Live Twice was going a bit too far because how did no-one notice all that construction going on at the volcano. Except this is at least 100 times more illogical. Drax plans to release a chemical weapon all over Earth to wipe out life and start again with collection of perfect humans. Obviously the perfect humans are a bunch of dicks because not one of them must have asked “You want to do what? Screw that! I’m calling the CIA”. Ugh.
So what does the film do well? It’s shot decently enough, which is to be expected from Lewis Gilbert. He’s a daring director when it comes to allowing some insane levels of scope and action but has the sensibility to make each location look great. Although there is one great set that was wasted. The set where Bond and Holly escape being burnt to a crisp by a launching rocket was also a conference room. When you see it first it has a circular table with monitors and chairs. There was originally a scene with Drax shot in there but it was cut at the last minute. So now when you see the film you just end up questioning why the room below the rocket has massive table with chairs. Is a cool moment when they fold away into the ground though. Hang on, this paragraph was meant to be about the good stuff. The model shots and effects are genuinely very well done. They used a clever, but old fashioned trick, of doing multiple exposures to piece together all the elements needed for the space scenes. This creates a seamless image which even the original Star Wars films, in their true form, never managed. There’s a sequence as the station is exploding where special care was taken to avoid any flames in its explosions, as fire cannot burn in space, but that’s all undermined when the station explodes fully in a fiery supernova of explosive… er… boominess. Decide on the logic of your science and stick to it movie!
The film also features the return of Jaws who was brought back to fulfil the demands of the child Bond fans. Apparently they all wanted to know why Jaws had to be a villain. Because he has big metal teeth and likes to bit peoples necks open. That’s why. Stupid kids. Jaws displayed some superhuman levels of pain tolerance in the last film but here it goes way beyond too far. In the films pre-credits opener he sky dives from a plane after Bond in a sequence that’s actually a very impressive stunt. Bond was thrown from a plane without a parachute so he steals one from a goon after a mid free fall scuffle. After Bond opens his chute Jaws pulls the chord on his and it fails to work. Jaws then falls into a circus tent and survives. Now there’s been a few instances of people surviving a fail parachute opening but this is kind of ridiculous. He also crashes a cable car through a building and his superhuman survivability extends to people around him at the films final scenes when he and his girlfriend Dolly, yes he gets a girlfriend, survive the space station blowing up even though any section he’s in would have to have been riddled with holes by then. It’s just going too far.
Overall the film has a handful of decent elements going for it, but then again so do the Resident Evil films but you won’t catch me cutting them any slack. A film is the sum of it’s parts and Moonraker is a pants on head stupid film filled with lifeless characters and a romantic story that feels like it’s in a vacuum. Easily the most preposterous of all the Bond films and one purely for kids to enjoy. Like really stupid kids that think it’s OK for Bond to go into space. It is debatable what is the worst Bond film. It is not debatable that this is the worst so far. What’s next? For Your Eyes Only. Meh.