UK / USA, 1979
Review by Thomas Scalzo
Posted on 19 March 2005
Source MGM VHS
Features: The Genealogy of James Bond
After the astounding success of George Lucas’s Star Wars in 1977, the people at team Bond decided that they needed to take advantage of the craze for space-themed movies as quickly as possible. As a result, plans to release For Your Eyes Only directly after The Spy Who Loved Me were subsequently scrapped, and Moonraker, filled with space shuttle hijackings, world-domination plans, and yes, astronaut laser battles, was bumped up in the production schedule.
Working with the same basic plot structure as its predecessor, Moonraker takes the story of The Spy Who Loved Me and moves it into space, transforming the tale of a maniac intent on destroying the world while cowering underwater, into a tale of a maniac intent on destroying the world while cowering in low orbit. Where The Spy Who Loved Me opens with a nuclear sub gone missing, Moonraker starts up with a space shuttle gone missing. Of course, it is once again up to 007 to unearth the clues that will explain exactly what the evil genius has in mind, and then put an end to his nefarious designs.
Bond’s quest takes him to California, Buenos Aires, and Venice, puts him in contact with the plucky Holly Goodhead (my vote for tackiest Bond Girl name, though Pussy Galore ranks a close second), and pits him, once again, against the unstoppable Jaws, the steel-mouthed assassin who so enchanted viewers of The Spy Who Loved Me that a letter writing campaign was initiated to ensure actor Richard Kiel’s return for Moonraker.
The action sequences here vary in intensity: those involving Jaws, in particular a tense scene aboard a rickety funicular, are terrific; others, especially the gondola/hovercraft chase through the Venetian canals, replete with a close-up of a pigeon doing a double take, are horrible. However, once the action moves into space (which, unfortunately, does not occur until nearly an hour and a half has passed), each and every moment is worth savoring.
Often derided as pure stupidity, and the ultimate low point in any Bond film, the climactic space battle is actually great fun, taking a parody of the Bond character to the ultimate limits of ridiculousness. Purists may shudder when they think about it, but Bond in space is one of the most unabashedly enjoyable sequences in the entire series, moments that should have you on the edge of your seat gaping at the screen in disbelief that anyone would dare to write, let alone film such nonsense. It is truly wonderful to behold.
Due in large part to such material, Moonraker marks a defining moment in the Bond franchise. At no other time before or since is watching Bond so idiotically fun. Nearly seventeen years had passed since Connery brought the literary hero to the silver screen, and in that time 007 morphed from ultra-cool super-spy, to an out-and-out parody of what a spy is. Some people dislike this transformation, and go so far as to blame Roger Moore for bringing Bond down to the level of silly comedy. But as I see it, Moore worked with what he had. Sure, his tendency toward goofy one-liners would make him a more mirthful character regardless of the story, but it must be admitted that Moore was saddled with some truly ludicrous scripts, in the case of The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker, clear parody pictures that required him to play Bond with a more lighthearted take. If Moore hadn’t adjusted the Bond character to suit these roles, the films would have undoubtedly suffered.