TBT: Moonraker (1979)

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James Bond June continues! I’ll just come right out and say it: we are moving to a distinctly different time period, to a time where Bond’s chauvinist tendencies were left even less in check than they’ve been recently. A world where the action may not have been so beautifully rendered, but boy did it kick just as much ass as today’s often headache-inducing action sequences. This Thursday’s TBT appeals because the story is so radically over-the-top. This is, aside from a select few Brosnan outings, one of Bond’s least plausible adventures. But it’s a true classic. 

Today’s food for thought: Moonraker. 

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Status Active: June 29, 1979

[TV]

Mission Briefing: When a space shuttle is stolen mid-flight, Bond suspects the clever, conniving and enviously wealthy Hugo Drax to be behind it, and must form a plan to stop him from wiping out millions of innocent civilians. Drax’s ultimate goal is to start afresh on Earth with an entirely new populace, one the deranged man intends to begin cultivating in his own space station. There’s only one thing standing between Bond and the radical industrialist: Drax’ sizable bodyguard, Jaws.

Mission Support: 

  • Dr. Holly Goodhead (Lois Chiles) — considerable “technical experience”
  • Corinne Defour (Corinne Cléry) — loyalty may not be her strong suit, but being supportive of MI:6’s mission apparently is
  • Manuela (Emily Bolton) — 007’s Brazilian contact in Rio de Janeiro
  • Hugo Drax (Michael Lonsdale) — chief target of MI:6, believed to be responsible for hijacking of the Moonraker; approach with extreme prejudice
  • Chang (Toshiro Suga) — Drax’s original bodyguard; highly expendable
  • ‘Jaws’ (Richard Kiel) — physicality outmatches speed and determination; Drax’s new right-hand man; approach with extreme prejudice
  • Dolly (Blanche Ravalec) — girlfriend of ‘Jaws;’ not proven to be particularly supportive of Her Majesty’s interests in the Moonraker

Q Branch: I don’t know what to tell you, 007. The technology is all on your enemy’s side on this one. What, between his cache of expensive little lasers, the fleet of Moonrakers (because one isn’t bloody enough!), and the cloaking device preventing any of us on Earth from seeing the orbiting space station, I have to say all the cards are in Drax’s favor here. There’s not much you can do, really, other than rely on those wits of yours. And in your ripe old age, I wouldn’t even trust those entirely too much. Best of luck out there Bond.

Performance Evaluation: While Roger Moore is unlikely to win the popular vote as to who the best/most memorable James Bond was, he certainly scores points by starring in this highly memorable and action-packed espionage film with a sci-fi twist. Moore as Bond establishes an ease of comfort in his assigned duties, a physical manifestation of cold-blooded killer perhaps no other actor has really shown. Squaring up against the likes of the 7′-2″ metal-mouthed, cable-chewing Jaws and the dastardly brain behind the entire operation in Hugo Drax, Bond must be prepared for supreme hostility in supremely hostile environments. As opinion will often vary greatly on who handles the pressure of the 007 status the best, it’s unlikely that many consider this particular performance from Moore to be among the most frequently mentioned, but Moore does enough to be memorable and amiable.

Moonraker is undeniably all about the novelty of the scenes. The adventure jettisons audiences out of the steamy outskirts of Rio de Janeiro and, later, into outer space for a fun and climactic battle, with the filming taking place in locations as varied as London, Paris, Venice, California, Florida, and of course, the second largest city in Brazil. Bond explores Drax’s shuttle launching facility, where he possesses multiple Moonraker shuttles. While we experience the requisite quips about saving the world, romantic proposals and/or whether or not martinis are best served shaken and not stirred, the world floats by the tiny windows of the villain’s space station. It’s just one extra layer of coolness applied to an already stylish and sexy franchise.

Yet the film certainly falls prey to the tropes of the late 70’s/early 80’s action films. Misogynistic themes skyrocket (Bond’s partner is named Holly Goodhead — not as bad as some in the past, but not exactly a flattering name by any means), and so too does the cheese factor. Bond’s inability to make the lamest puns at the most opportune times continues in Moonraker, yet the majority are not memorable. If you’re looking to evaluate Lewis Gilbert’s third (and final) directorial effort from a technical standpoint, the film’s age is often painfully obvious. But as it relates to the world of James Bond, this outer space exploration is somewhat difficult to top.

ohhh-yeah

3-5Recommendation: James Bond’s canon appeals to a consistent target audience, one that’s decidedly more male than female, but there’s also no use trying to deny this divide in opinion when it comes to talking “old school” James Bond versus modern versions. Moonraker may not be an awfully intelligent picture but it’s a film that stays relatively true to the novel and always remains a fun time. The last factor in determining if this film is for you is how Roger Moore appeals to your senses. Neither overly aggressive nor excessively mild-mannered, Moore strikes a safe middle-ground. While failing to be as memorable as either Connery or even Daniel Craig, he succeeds in delivering this material with plenty of tongue-in-cheek.

Rated: PG (how the. . .what the. . . really?!!)

Running Time: 126 mins.

Quoted: “My God. . .what’s Bond doing?!”

“I believe he’s attempting re-entry, sir. . .”

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited.

Photo credits: http://www.wikipedia.org; http://www.screenmusings.org 

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5 thoughts on “TBT: Moonraker (1979)

  1. Great piece Tom! Moonraker was the first Bond film I saw in the theaters as a kid and I felt like I was re-watching Star Wars. You and I see pretty much eye to eye on this one. The sentiments in your review mirror the ones in mine. This movie is goofy as hell but dammit, it’s still a blast. A guilty pleasure of the highest order. My favorite: The pigeon doing a double take 🙂 Another great post, Tom. Nice job!

    • HHahah sometimes you just have to roll with the terrible jokes, the horrible plot synopsis, the bad/cheesy/stilted action, the mounting misogynistic quips, and pretty much everything else associated with a ham-fisted action film from the 80s! That’s precisely what I do each and every time with this one. And I love it. Moonraker is seriously a cheese-classic!

  2. This is one of my guilty pleasures! It’s so darn silly but a lot of fun if you could get past it. I mean, a gondola that can ride on land, I mean it doesn’t get more preposterous than that [oh wait, I think Die Another Day topped that w/ the invisible car!] And of course the names of Bond girls are always a hoot: Holly Goodhead, oh golly!

    • Exactly, Ruth! These old Bond outings are coupons for a great time at the movies. There’s nothing really more complex about them. The one thing that really makes me uneasy about earlier versions, though, is their treatment of women. It was pretty bad. And yeah, character names lke that are the proof! Lol. And there have been far worse.

      Moonraker’s a good one! 🙂

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