Moonraker Review

Moonraker

“Hey, you know what’s really popular right now?” “What?” “Star Wars! Let’s do that!” “But… we’re doing Bond films, do you want to shoot Bond into space and have him firing lasers?” “Why not? It’ll be big!” “Why n… *sigh* fine. Let’s have Bond fire some space lasers.” “Hooray!”

Official Synopsis:

When Bond investigates the hijacking of an American space shuttle, he and beautiful CIA agent Holly Goodhead are soon locked in a life-or-death struggle against Hugo Drax, a power-mad industrialist whose horrific scheme may destroy all human life on earth!

*spoilers appear from here on out!*

Cast of Characters:

Moonraker 3

This is probably what Roger Moore looked like when he first got the script…

James Bond (Roger Moore) – Agent 007, with a license to kill and permission to go into outer space if his job calls for it, apparently!

Holly Goodhead (Lois Chiles) – Ms. Goodhead (Yep… Goodhead.) is a CIA agent and trained astronaut who has been planted inside Hugo Drax’s company to spy on him…

Hugo Drax – Super-rich industrialist who wants to restart the human race by taking himself and a bunch of hand-picked people to space and then wiping out everyone else left on Earth, with the idea that several generations later the planet can be repopulated… so he’s a little bit loony, really.

Jaws (Richard Kiel) – After failing to kill Bond several times while under the employ of Stromberg, Jaws has returned to once again try and kill the 00 agent for his new, equally insane employer Drax.

M (Bernard Lee) – Long-time head of MI6, M is getting ever nearer retirement, but that doesn’t mean he can’t help prevent another world-ending catastrophe or two.

Q (Desmond Llewelyn) – MI6’s Quatermaster, Q has outfitted Bond with many a vehicle and gadget, often exactly what he needs for an up-coming mission! Handy.

Plus more!

The Good:

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Not just Hugo Drax being a great villain, but look at all those space monitors!

Say what you want about about this films tone and storyline (and I will!), but it does have a lot of impressive set pieces. The opening scene with Bond, two unknown villains and Jaws falling out of a plane that includes Bond stealing a parachute mid-air, a fight with Drax henchman Chang and Bond in a glass factory, the fight between Bond, Goodhead and Jaws on the tops to two cable cars high in the air, a boat chase in the Amazon River, and finally the scenes in Drax’s launch pad and space station, are all really well shot, thrilling and generally enjoyable. It therefore makes for a fun film, so long as you shut your brain off for it, as the linking narrative between all these scenes are weak to the say the least…

Drax is a really fun Bond villain, even though his plan is very similar to Stromberg from the previous film, only with space rather than under the sea. He’s very good at the no-nonsense monologue and refusing to fall for Bond’s jabs. Holly Goodhead, despite having the worst and most on-the-nose name for a Bond girl ever, is good as well, being more knowledgeable and capable than a lot of girls previous. Moore is starting to look his age (especially on the HD blu-ray print…) but he can still be amusing and suave.

For a film that has so much comedy, Drax’s personal pilot, who had the misfortune of siding with Bond’s idea of looking into Drax’s safe, being told to run into the forest as he then set his dogs after her was quite harrowing, really. We even see the dogs take her down to the floor before cutting away. That was right after Bond comically shoots a would-be assassin out of a tree as well…Not sure what it’s doing in this film, but it deserves credit for getting Hugo Drax over as a cold-hearted bastard.

There is something strangely fun about seeing a bunch of US astronauts fight a bunch of Drax henchmen is the vacuum of space using only blue laser guns. I mean, it’s not even remotely Bond-like and doing this in-release-order, on-and-off marathon it sticks out even more, but I can’t say it wasn’t entertaining… Bond having to use the space shuttle’s laser gun (Turbo Laser?) to destroy the world-ending pods right at the end was a little tacked on and even more Star Wars-y, but I don’t know if I’d put it as a bad point either…

The Bad:

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*sigh*… Not the end I would have chosen…

I don’t mind a bit of humour here and there in Bond films, but this does occasionally dip towards Diamonds are Forever / Man with the Golden Gun territory of unfunny “comedy”, and I’m not talking about all the space stuff either! The main one is taking Jaws, who has been great fun as the seemingly invincible henchman for two movies, and making him fall in love with a short blond-haired girl (complete with cartoony romance music when they first meet) and eventually turn into a smooth-talking goodie. It ruins what had been a great string of fight scenes between Bond and him. I don’t mind him turning against Drax because Jaws himself doesn’t fit the ideal mould the crazy industrialist has chosen for his next generation of humanity and so he would probably have been killed anyway, but the whole romance and having him talk with a posh voice… nah, didn’t like that, still don’t like it.

The other scene that sticks out is in Venice, where Bond is riding a gondola and another gondola with a casket rides by, only for a man to pop out of the coffin and try and throw a knife at the 00 agent, only for the blade to get caught and thrown back at him, leaving him to drop dead into the casket. Now I’m sure a man with a gun on one of the bridges above the canals would probably have been better than such a intricately planned assassination, but maybe that’s just me. Bond then reveals that his gondola is a special 00 gondola or something and it turns out to have speedboat capabilities and he gets into a chase down the canals, ending with him turning the 00 gondola into a hovercraft gondola and driving away, complete with over-the-top double-takes by on-lookers, and one pigeon (well, the pigeon is actually “footage of a pigeon moving its head, stopped and rewound, and played again in a vein attempt to make it look like it was double-taking”) It’s just that little bit too far into fourth-wall breaking comedy that it takes me out of the film.

Oh, actually there was also the scene in Rio, where the Carnival is happening while Bond breaks into a warehouse, and his helper for this segment is about to have her neck bitten by Jaws (who had disguised himself as a large clown, for literally no reason) until Bond saves her. Jaws and Bond have a small fight that 007 is about to be on the wrong end of, then some partying youths come down the alley and Jaws gets swept up in them a bit, shrugs and just sort of… goes off with them, occasionally looking disappointed as if he somehow had no control over his own body any more: he HAD to party with these guys, there was no other option. Bizarre scene, so bizarre that I think it might be good in a “so bad it’s funny” way, but I’ll still put it in the bad…

I know it was the 70s and everything, but Drax’s henchman Chang, complete with bowl haircut and gi,was a little too stereotypical for me. Why Mr. Chang thought attacking Bond in full kendo gear with a kendo stick was a good idea I don’t know, at least dress as a samurai, then you’d have a sword that can, you know, actually kill. That being said, as I mentioned in the top paragraph of the good, the fight between the two is actually a good scene, ignoring the kendo garb…

Overall Thoughts:

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Not a screengrab you’d associate with Bond, normally…

Moonraker is a hard one to rate. As a Bond film it sort of follows the usual formula, just with a few moments of silly comedy and the finale taking place in space… with lasers. It’s simultaneously a Bond film and not a Bond film at all, it’s occasionally cringey but often entertaining. You know what? Upon reflection, I think I like it, purely as a film judged on its own merits, rather than judging it with the expectation of what film series its in. Good fun on a rainy bank holiday, so long as you shut your brain off…

4 Star Watch

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