The “Moonraker” is a spaceship sold to the USA government by billionaire and entrepreneur, Hugo Drax (Michael Lonsdale, Chariots of Fire), who owns a California-based tech company. When the ship disappears, James Bond (Roger Moore, The Sea Wolves) is sent to USA to investigate. Agent 007 discovers that Drax is behind the theft.
Reaction & Thoughts:
In the late ’70s, Star Wars was still the talk of town. George Lucas’s space opera quickly became a phenomenon that everybody in Tinseltown wanted to emulate. Moonraker was designed with one thing in mind — to take advantage of the sci-fi craze that was sweeping the world. Producer Albert “Cubby” Broccoli’s cunningness paid off; Moonraker became the highest grossing Bond movie up to that point.
Subjectivity plays such a prominent part in movie watching. This is the first Bond movie I ever saw. I was ten-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. Time, however, has not been kind to the movie. People’s sensibilities have changed and today’s jaded viewers tend to place it 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.
Directed by Lewis Gilbert (You Only Live Twice and The Spy Who Loved Me) from a screenplay by Christopher Wood, Moonraker is almost like two films in one. The first half is a straightforward espionage thriller. I liked how Bond travels the world following clues. Despite being known for its extravagance, the movie’s first half moves slowly and swiftly. 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 more relaxed. Bond finally unravels the mystery and the whole thing climaxes with a laser showdown in out of space. What can I say? I enjoyed it.
“Jaws,” played Richard Kiel (Pale Rider), returns — the only henchman who has appeared twice in the franchise. He’s even given a love interest. This is where the movie starts moving from funny to silly to ridiculous. Bond’s real adversary is Michael Lonsdale’s Darx and his henchman Chang, played by Toshirô Suga Chang. Lonsdale is a bit too cold so he doesn’t make a big impression. Broccoli’s first choice, James Mason, would have been great — Mason’s suave charm could have added an extra layer to the character.
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.
Most of the dream team is back. Maurice Binder’s opening title credits are splendid. Ken Adam’s (Barry Lyndon) sets are fantastic. John Barry’s (Born Free) 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 quite liked it and I don’t think it deserves its bad reputation. Yes, this is one the most unrealistic movies in the Bond series, but it’s very, very entertaining, specially if you grew up during the ’70s, ’80s. Moonraker appeals to the kid in me. Color, 126 minutes, Rated PG.
James Bond will return
For Your Eyes Only (1981)