Moonraker (1979)

Moonraker (1979) – There is a certain logic that Hollywood likes to employ: if something works, do it again, but more so. This is a philosophy that sometimes works very well and that at other times backfires spectacularly. I said in my review of The Spy Who Loved Me that I considered one of the better Bond flicks and easily the best of Roger Moore’s tenure in the role. Many at the time felt the same way, so the next Bond film takes a lot of its cues from that film. Initially, For Your Eyes Only was to follow The Spy Who Loved Me (it’s even name-checked in the credits during the “James Bond will return in…” bit), but then Star Wars happened. So they decided to do Moonraker instead borrowing the title and little else of one of Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels. It basically became The Spy Who Loved Me but instead of the villain’s massive underwater lair… SPACE! Keeping with the whole theme of repeating what works they even got Shirley Bassey, the singer who did the great songs “Goldfiner” and “Diamonds Are Forever,” to sing the title song (it ranks a distant third as far as her Bond songs go). This philosophy worked very well for the producers as Moonraker was the highest-grossing James Bond film until GoldenEye in 1995. But my reviews aren’t about box office, they’re about quality (or just how much I personally like the movie anyway). So how does Moonraker rate?

The movie starts with Bond (Moore) being attacked by Jaws (Richard Kiel), the giant unkillable henchman with metal teeth from the previous film. Bond survives, as does Jaws improbably. A space shuttle is stolen and Bond is sent to investigate the man who owns the company that made the shuttle, Sir Hugo Drax (Michael Lonsdale). Drax seems on the level at first but Bond pumps Drax’s personal pilot Corinne (Corinne Cleary) for information (results: turns out well enough for Bond, not so much for Corinne). He also meets astrophysicist Dr. Holly Goodhead (Lois Chiles). It soon becomes clear that Drax is trying to have Bond killed, but what his plan is is not immediately clear. Bond’s investigation takes him first to Venice with Dr. Goodhead (hehe). There is a big gondola chase. Then they go to Brazil, where is a great action set-piece where Jaws tries to kill Bond and Dr. Goodhead (hehe) on a cable car taking them up Sugarloaf Mountain. Then, as if that wasn’t enough exotic locations for you… SPACE!

In many ways, Moonraker is just a pale imitation of The Spy Who Loved Me. However, the end result is one of the stupid fun Bond movies. They’re not all high-quality cinema, but some Bond movies achieve a sort of mindless entertainment and Moonraker definitely hits that mark and hits it well. There is some very silly stuff in this movie. When Bond drives his gondola onto the streets of Venice, a pigeon does a double take. There is no part of that sentence that is not completely ridiculous. I must again extol the virtues of Sir Roger Moore in the role. His sly sense of humor helps bring the audience along for the sort of espionage wackiness that a movie like this indulges heavily in. Drax is not the most colorful Bond villain ever, but that is more than made up for by the return of Jaws. The space scenes are very impressive for 1979, particularly the very large-scale weightless scene which involves a whole ton of people on wires. You can see smarter movies than Moonraker but it’s still enjoyable and a testament to just how flexible this film series can be…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: