Thursday, 2 December 2010

Moonraker (1979)

Moonraker seems to have a fairly mixed (although mostly negative) reputation even among aficionados of the Roger Moore James Bond films. That seemed reason enough to see it.

The movie opens with the hijacking of an American space shuttle on loan to the British government. Her Majesty’s government is understandably embarrassed, so Agent 007 is assigned to find out what happened.

His first port of call is the gigantic industrial complex where Drax Industries manufactures the Moonraker space shuttles. Almost immediately attempts are made on his life. Bond starts to wonder if perhaps the fabulously wealthy Hugo Drax isn’t all that keen on having this particular mystery solved.

Bond quickly makes contact, contact of a rather physical nature, with two glamorous women who work for Drax. One is a helicopter pilot, played by Corinne Clery (a French actress probably best known for the arty S&M epic The Story of O. The second is a NASA astronaut/scientist, Dr Holly Goodhead. This time Agent 007 gets to bed both of them. It soon becomes obvious that Drax’s business empire is not quite what it appears to be. He has an enormous number of employees who seem to be just a bit too physically perfect, and who don’t seem to have any particular duties. Bond also encounters his old enemy Jaws, and survives various additional assassination attempts.

It all leads up to a climactic space battle which could be seen as the Bond franchise’s attempt to jump on the Star Wars bandwagon.

There are some very silly gadgets. The hovercraft gondola that Bond employs in Venice may be the silliest Bond gadget of all time, but the Bond movies are all about silly gadgetry and camp fun. The space shuttles themselves suffer from the same problem that NASA’s real-life space shuttles suffer from - as spacecraft go they’re petty boring.

Despite these reservations Moonraker has most of the elements you want to see in a Bond movie - spectacular stunts, explosions, outlandish gadgets, more explosions, and glamorous women. There are exotic locations, some fairly impressive sets (although perhaps not quite as impressive as in some of the other Bond movies). The action sequences are done with the panache you expect in a Bond film. As always the violence and the sex are toned way down to ensure a PG rating, which in box-office terms was probably essential.

If it’s a little sillier than the average Bond film then that probably just reflects the difficulty the producers saddled themselves with in having to come up with more and more unlikely gadgetry.

Roger Moore is in good form and Lois Chiles makes a pretty reasonable Bond girl who turns out to be a bit of a kickass action heroine in her own right. Michael Lonsdale as Hugo Drax is a good creepy villain. Richard Kiel makes yet another appearance as Jaws, and this time he finds love!

I really didn’t have any major problems with this movie. The Bond franchise was based on campy fun and it delivers both.


Ivan said...

And I for one love Derek Meddings special effects in this flick.

venoms5 said...

This is one of my favorite Bond movies. It was one of the very first I remember seeing and got to catch it in the theater as a kid. It also sports one of the most amazing opening sequences of the entire run. I didn't mind the silliness at all and didn't think the playfulness wrecked havoc with the more serious tone of the rest of the picture. I remember at the time there was another movie called MOONRAKER that premiered on television, or something with a very similar sounding title.

Shaun [The Celluloid Highway] said...

MOONRAKER is a lot of fun, unjustly despised by hardcore Bond fans who lack a sense of humour. Some brilliantly memorable lines: "James appear with the tedious inevitabillity of an unloved season", "Look after Mr. Bond, see that some harm comes to him" and some hilarious set pieces; especially the G Force sequence and anything involving Jaws. The look on his face after tearing off the stearing wheel of his powerboat seconds before plunging over a waterfall is priceless.

dfordoom said...

Shaun, I totally agree on the sense of humour thing. I think the taking-Bond-too-seriously thing reached its apogee with the totally fun-free 2006 Casino Royale.