Moonraker (1979)


The “Moonraker” is a spacecraft sold to the U.S. government by billionaire and entrepreneur Hugo Drax (Michael Lonsdale, The Track), who owns a California-based tech company. When the ship disappears, James Bond (Roger Moore, The Man Who Haunted Himself) is sent to America to investigate.

Reaction & Thoughts:

“Bond. You appear with the tedious inevitability of an unloved season.”

George Lucas’s groundbreaking science-fiction masterwork Star Wars became a phenomenon that everybody in Tinseltown wanted to emulate. Moonraker was designed with one thing in mind: take advantage of the sci-fi craze triggered by Lucas’s space opera. Producer Albert “Cubby” Broccoli’s cunningness paid off — the effects-laden Moonraker became the highest grossing Bond movie up to that point.

Moonraker was the first Bond movie I ever saw. I was 10 years old and I have great memories of watching it on the big screen. Moonraker made me an instant fan and at the time most people shared my enthusiasm. However, time has not been kind to the movie. People’s sensibilities have changed and today’s jaded viewers tend to (unfairly) place Moonraker at the bottom of the franchise.

I was prepared to have my childhood memories shattered, but to my surprise I found myself enjoying the film. There are some segments that are indeed very silly, even cartoonish, but for the most part, I thought the script was solid and the film’s excesses didn’t bother me one bit — Moonraker is a super-fun, sparkling delight.

Directed by Lewis Gilbert (You Only Live Twice) from a screenplay by Christopher Wood (Remo Williams), Moonraker is like two films in one. The first half is a straightforward espionage thriller. I liked how Bond travels the world following clues. We get to see Bond do actual spy work, connecting the dots in a logical manner. Minus a few jokes, this section is pretty serious. The second half is goofier — the whole thing climaxes with an out-of-space laser showdown. What can I say? I enjoyed it.

Michael Lonsdale is just fine as Darx, Bond’s main adversary. Lonsdale is a bit too cold so he doesn’t make a big impression. Broccoli’s first choice, James Mason (North by Northwest), would have been great — Mason’s suave charm could have added an extra layer to the character. I did like Darx’s , Chang, played by famed Aikido instructor Toshiro Suga. The indestructible superman from The Spy Who Loved Me, “Jaws,” played by Richard Kiel, returns and he is sillier the second time around.

Lois Chiles (Death on the Nile) is pretty good as Dr. Holly Goodhead (what a name!). The regulars are back: Desmond Llewelyn as Q, Lois Maxwell as Miss Moneypenny and Bernard Lee as M (this is Lee’s final appearance as Bond’s boss).

Maurice Binder’s (Two for the Road and Barbarella) opening title credits are splendid. Ken Adam’s (Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb and Barry Lyndon) sets are fantastic. John Barry’s (Born Free and Out of Africa) score is, as always, on point. The title tune is sung by Shirley Bassey. It’s not one of the best Bond songs, but I loved its urbane tonality. Aside from a few visible cables here and there, the Oscar-nominated visual effects are excellent.

Conclusions & Final Thoughts:

Moonraker has been wearing the ugly duckling label for years, but I don’t think it deserves its bad reputation. Yes, this is one of the most unrealistic movies in the Bond series, but it’s very, very entertaining, especially if you grew up during the ’70s and/or ’80s — Moonraker appeals to the kid in me. Color, 126 minutes, Rated PG.

James Bond will return
For Your Eyes Only (1981)

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