Introduction:

In order to investigate the theft of a shuttle, James is sent to California, Italy, Brazil, the Amazon, and, finally, space to track the business operations of Hugo Drax.

Year: 1979

Bond, James Bond:

Roger Moore passes the halfway point of his tenure in the James Bond franchise with this, his fourth film. Considering that this is the point that Connery started to show his frustration and boredom with the franchise, Moore gains a little bit of a leg up, just because Moore genuinely seems to be still getting a great amount of enjoyment out of this franchise. He delivers every pun with a wonderful smile, and raises his eyebrows with a delicious glee. Although this film might not challenge his true acting abilities like the previous film, he at least seems to be enjoying himself while playing the famous spy, which carries a lot of weight in these movies, particularly when the movies themselves are so odd, which Moore’s films certainly have been.

This also marks the second consecutive film where I actually like James Bond on a moral human level. So, based on the James Bonding podcast that I listen to, I know that Moore was a bit of a pacifist who really did not like filming the scene where he physically assaults Andrea Anders in The Man with the Golden Gun, and because of that the films started to pull back on those plotlines a little bit, and his character is all the better for it. A moment that stands out is, while in Rio de Janeiro, his fellow agent who guides him around the city gets attacked by Jaws. He rescues her, and Jaws gets marched away by a group of people. She offers to take him somewhere, and he turns her down, saying that she is probably a bit tired, and offers to take her home. The film then gives no indication that the two have sex at this moment (even though they had earlier in the movie). When you consider that in the past, Connery has basically forced a woman to have sex with him in order to save her job, and even in Moore’s films, he had sex with a woman when she was afraid of the voodoo around her, this is a significant change to the character. To see Bond be concerned for the well-being of a woman, and put that comfort in front of his want to have sex (which these films are happy to remind you that he has). Liking this character as a human goes a long way towards me liking the character as a whole, and makes the moments where he is a good spy all the more exciting, because I want him to succeed.

The Song:

Shirley Bassey returns for her third go-around on a Bond theme song with this film’s title track. Unfortunately the third time is not the charm on this song, which ends up being just a little bit bland. None of this is Bassey’s fault, as her vocals are as strong as ever, even if the song itself does not provide the challenges that either “Goldfinger” or “Diamonds are Forever” gave her. The instrumentation on this one is mostly some pensieve strings and keys, that never get very loud or bombastic. It just kind of lazily skates through its three minute runtime. The lyrics themselves are about Bond but aren’t nearly as interesting (ex. I search for love, for someone to have and hold/I’ve seen your smile in a thousand dreams) as Carly Simon’s preceding ode to him. The use of the title is kind of awkward, with the phrase “Just like the Moonraker goes/knows” (the word at the end depending on when it is used in the song), which doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense when you consider that the Moonraker is a series of shuttles that our villain produces. This isn’t a terrible song, just not a particularly interesting one, which I guess makes it a perfect fit for this movie.

Villain:

After the kind of bland Stramberg wanting to create a better underwater world, Moonraker follows it up with the kind of bland Hugo Drax wanting to create a master race with the help of a space station. Actor Michael Lonsdale has a striking appearance, and gets to deliver some half decent lines, like “Look after Mr. Bond. Make sure some harm comes to him,” and, shortly before he is defeated “At least I will have the pleasure of putting you out of my misery.” At least his plan makes more sense than Stramberg’s “I’m going to steal a bunch of nuclear submarines so I use them to blow up cities.” But, again, the character himself isn’t particularly interesting or engaging or threatening, even. Goldfinger works as a character because he is physically imposing and seems to constantly have a leg up on Bond. Telly Savalas’ Blofeld looks like a straight up nightmare who could easily murder James. Christopher Lee’s Scaramanga is Christopher Lee. Drax is none of these things, but at least his plan makes a little bit of sense.

Girl(s):

The main female character in this movie seems to be a response to Anya from the previous film, a spy from a foreign agency who is able to go toe-to-toe with Bond. The unfortunate thing is that the two characters do not spend nearly enough time with each other for the competitive nature of their relationship to really pull through before they start working together (they share three scenes together, only one of which does Bond know that she is CIA), and they’re romantic relationship is not built up in any way, so part for the course for this franchise, their first intimate moments together feel sudden. The other major issue is that the character’s name is Dr. Holly Goodhead. Now I know that this is the same franchise that gave us Pussy Galore and Chew Mee (who I elected not to mention in my The Man with the Golden Gun write-up), but Goodhead is a pretty absurd name. To add to the absurdity of it, they never really call attention to it. It just hangs out there, without even a raised-eyebrow glance from James. It’s very strange. Lois Chiles performs the role well-enough I suppose, and she’s a better follow-up to Anya than Tiffany Case was to Tracy, but she never really comes close. In fact, for a CIA agent who is investigating the same man that James is, she somewhat confusingly leaves James in a shuttle simulator being operated by Drax’s henchman, Cha. You think she would question that a bit better.

I’ll mention him later, but Jaws is back in this movie, and he actually gets a girlfriend. Dolly, played by Blanche Ravalec, is introduced strangely, as she helps rescue Jaws from being crushed by a wheel that operates a cable car, and they immediately fall in love. Her point in the movie is literally to humanize Jaws in the third act, so that he will change sides, which is frustrating that her role is to help a man become not evil, but in this franchise, that’s better that can be said of most of the female characters. Also, I have to admit, seeing Jaws happy made me happy, so I’ll take it.

Henchpeople/Sidekicks:

The MI6 trio is back in action in this one again, although, again, Moneypenny draws the short straw. I don’t expect her to have a major role, but these last several films, she has been pushed to the sidelines in a way that genuinely bums me out. I really like Lois Maxwell and the fact she’s just slowly been disappearing from this franchise slowly is just kind of sad. Bernard Lee’s M and Desmond Llewelyn’s Q both get a little bit more to do, including the fact that Q gets one of my favorite/grossest innuendos in the franchise (which you’ll read about in the Miscellaneous Spy Business). Lee’s M is mostly resigned to reacting to James having sex (and being surprised by it every time, despite this being the third consecutive film that ends with him witnessing Bond’s escapades). However, Lee does get a wonderful little sequence where his boss, the British Minister of Defense, tells him to pull Bond off the case. Instead, M tells Bond to take a leave, knowing that Bond is going to continue to investigate the case. The exchange includes Moore saying that he always wanted to go to Rio, and Lee knowingly saying that “I think I recall you talking about that before.” It’s a wonderful sequence, and as much as I’ve enjoyed M hating Bond, this sequence is an endearing look into their business relationship.

Richard Kiel returns as Jaws, and he is still excellent in this movie. He’s still hugely physically imposing and any time he meets up with James, there is at least concern that Bond could be seriously injured. Add in a romantic plotline with the previously mentioned Dolly, and he gets a fairly pleasant little arc, which is more than can be said about a lot of the girls in this franchise. I was genuinely happy that he found a girl, and that it was the thought of her being killed by Drax for now falling into his master race parameters that makes Jaws change sides and helps him save the day. He’s wonderful.

Hugo brings in Jaws after his first henchman, Cha, dies. Cha, played by Toshiro Suga, is a fairly silent henchperson, who tries and fails to kill Bond on several occasions. There’s a sword fight. He’s kind of bland, and screams a lot when he sword fights. It’s boring.

Gadgets:

The main gadget that we are introduced to in this movie is a wrist dart gun that includes cyanide tipped darts, that he eventually uses to start the death of Drax. It’s a neat little gadget, that responds to the movement of Bond’s wrist. The fact that the first time he uses it is in M’s office, which causes one of his paintings to be punctured, just makes me smile, because I like annoyed M.

While in Italy, James uses a gondola that also doubles as a motorboat and, eventually, an inflatable device that allows it to get on dry land, followed by wheels that allows him navigate the streets of Venice. I don’t know how MI6 had a gondola in Italy, or if the original gondola operate was an agent of MI6 who got knife murdered, but I do know that it caused the return of the “guy looking at his bottle of wine confusedly” when he sees the gondola driving on the streets, as well as a pigeon doing a double take. Yes, that was a sentence you read correctly. A pigeon does a double take.

The last gadget I want to talk about is the space laser guns that Drax and NASA use in their final space fight. I want to call mention to it because it blows my mind that NASA has them. Evil megalomaniac Drax and his men, sure, I buy that they would produce laser guns. The fact that government institution, based on the exploration of space, would produce huge numbers of laser guns boggles my mind.

Story:

So at the end of the credits for The Spy Who Loved Me, it was said that James Bond would return in For Your Eyes Only, but after the success of Star Wars, the company decided to go towards another Ian Fleming novel, the more science fiction based Moonraker. It’s an odd reaction, especially when you consider the portion of this film that takes place in space is maybe twenty-thirty minutes. This is particularly confusing when you look at the poster they released for this movie, which includes James in a full spacesuit (which does not match the space suit that he actually wears), and has Jaws floating in zero gravity.

I knew that a lot of this movie wouldn’t spend a lot of time in space, but, based on my knowledge of where this movie tends to land on ranking’s in the franchise, I at least expected it to be weird and goofy, similar to The Man with the Golden Gun. It’s not even that, really. It’s all just kind of boring, as James hops from location to location in order to get more information on Drax. By the time they get to space, I’ve already kind of already checked out, and then the space action bounces between mind-bendingly slow to difficult to track and chaotic. Throw in a sudden master place plotline, and no part of this works particularly well.

Miscellaneous Spy Business:

-The hijacked space shuttle at the start of the film is being transported on top of a plane, which just seems like a very odd way to transport a giant, gasoline filled space shuttle.

-This marks the second consecutive cold open where we make a brief visit to MI6, and Moneypenny talks about how James is finishing up his work, only for her wording to be sexual. This time, “He’s on his last leg”, cut to James’ hand on a woman’s leg. It’s kind of silly and gross.

-This is another film where the villain talks about how famous James Bond is. Shouldn’t he be a more secret spy?

-Sample dialogue. Dr. Goodhead, talking about a shuttle simulator, “A 70 year old could handle 3 g’s.” Bond: “Trouble is you can never find a 70 year old when you need one.” I have zero idea what that means.

-When Bond asks the pilot about a previously mentioned list of things her mom gave her about what not to do on a first date, she responds “I never learned to read.” Ok, cute, but you’re a pilot, so that’s clearly a lie.

-Here’s that pigeon again. You’re welcome.

-There’s a keypad whose passcode is just the musical tones (heads’ up, that link is startlingly loud) from Close Encounters of a Third Kind. Cuz space.

-Moore’s delivery of “Play it again, Sam” after a dude he killed falls into a piano is a pretty excellent reason of why I like his performance despite how stupid these movies are.

-More evidence of the above. After Bond is nearly dropped off of a cable car, Goodhead tells him to hang on, and he quips “The thought had crossed my mind.”

-Round three. Telling Drax he ran off from a python because he “Discovered it had a crush on me.” So silly. So wonderfully delivered.

-This movie tells us that Jaws has a metal crotch. You didn’t need to know this, but neither did I, so welcome to my hell.

-James telling Drax to “take a giant leap for mankind” right before releasing him from an airlock is a pretty excellent kill line.

-Remember how Spy Who Loved Me ended with James and an agent from a foreign agency running from a giant exploding villain lair? Yeah, this movie remembers that too.

-Random vehicle and James have sex in at the end of the movie: Space shuttle. (Q saying that James was attempting re-entry is gloriously gross”)

Rating:

I think I built this movie up in my head as being really weird and over-the-top, so getting something that is this bland, that barely spends any time in space, was kind of deflating. Thunderball comes to mind, which is not a pleasant comparison. I’d rather a movie be so weird/bad that it’s entertaining instead of just be boring. This is boring. I’ll give it a leg up over Thunderball because I at least liked Bond in this one, and I’m always here for Jaws. 003/0010.

TJ Hizer Will Return With: For Your Eyes Only

References
Moonraker Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moonraker_(film)
Moonraker Gadgets on Universal Exports http://www.universalexports.net/Movies/moonraker-gadgets.shtml

Photo Credits
Cover Photo https://georgespigot.files.wordpress.com/2010/10/moonraker01.jpg
Roger Moore https://i.pinimg.com/originals/bd/90/36/bd90368e7cac8076dc71905961f02284.jpg
Hugo Drax https://pbs.twimg.com/profile_images/493854934517821441/RYyHXjqj.jpeghttps://pbs.twimg.com/profile_images/493854934517821441/RYyHXjqj.jpeg
Dr. Holly Goodhead https://cdn3.whatculture.com/images/2013/07/Holly-Goodhead2.jpg
Dolly and Jaws https://assets.mi6-hq.com/images/features/moonraker-dolly.jpg
Jaws https://www.heyuguys.com/images/2014/09/Richard-kiel-as-jaws.jpg
Pigeon Double Take https://tjatthemovies.files.wordpress.com/2017/12/3ad28-moonraker1.gif

One thought on “Moonraker Reaction

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