James Bond Retrospective: Review of MOONRAKER

(I am a pretty huge James Bond fan, so with the new SKYFALL coming out November 9th, I thought it would be cool to re-watch every Bond movie and review them on the site, counting down the days until the latest one is released)

This is the one!  The Bond film that I have probably seen more than any of the others.  I taped it off of television when I was 8 and must have watched it over 100 times.  It was my comfort film for many years.  As I sat down to re-watch this, I was really crossing my fingers.  Of all the Bond movies, I didn’t want to be disappointed by THIS one.  In the past week and half, I have been discovering that many of the 007 films I have enjoyed over the years aren’t very good to me anymore.  And as a film geek, that’s devastating.  I was even contemplating to stop watching Bond movies after this, if I didn’t like it.  I mean, MOONRAKER was the shit to me.  This was to be the final straw…

James Bond is assigned to find out what happened to a missing Space Shuttle called the Moonraker.  He questions the owner of the shuttle, Drax, but it turns out that he was the one who actually stole it.  Unlike most Bond films, this one reveals the master villain quite early on (within the first 15 minutes).  Bond meets a CIA agent, Holly Goodhead (love that name!), and the two join forces to find out what Drax is up to.  Turns out that he wants to kill everyone on earth and populate the new world with a superior race of perfect specimens. And that henchman Jaws is back too, constantly trying and failing to kill 007.

Besides FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE, this is probably my favorite pre-title sequence.  It opens with the hijacking of the Moonraker, which is pretty cool as the shuttle takes off on top of an airplane, blowing it up.  Then M asks where 007 is, and Moneypenny replies by saying, “He’s on his last leg, sir”.  Cut to Bond’s hand feeling up a lady’s leg, as he’s making out with her.  Love the girl’s response to his actions: “Any higher Mr. Bond, and my ears will pop”.  And then she pulls a gun on him.  The pilot shoots the controls and proceeds to throw Bond out of the plane without a parachute, but he fails.  Bond throws the thug out, only to be pushed out of the plane by Jaws.  What follows is one of the best action scenes in a Bond film.  007 is trying to get the parachute from the bad guy, and they fight while free-falling.  The footage that is captured by the camera crew is nothing short of awe-inspiring.  After Bond defeats the bad guy, Jaws shows up, but Bond pulls his chute.  Jaws tries to pull his, but he’s to strong that he breaks it.  Circus music starts as Jaws tries to flap his wings.  He lands in a circus tend and then the pre-title sequence begins, with the lovely ballad, sung again by Shirley Bassey.  Okay.  So the circus music is stupid, but it makes me smile.  Even though it’s incredibly silly, I can’t help but love it.  Another great way to start off the movie.

I’ll say this right off the bat!  THANK GOD FOR MOONRAKER!!!  After being disappointed by so many of these movies, I’m so glad that this one held up for me.  I had such tremendous joy watching this again.  I know a lot of hardcore Bond fans hate this one because it’s the most silly, but that’s why I love it.  Yes!  It’s ridiculous!  And I love it.  Definitely the most tongue-in-cheek, but it works because of Moore.  There’s no way Connery could have pulled this movie off.  This is a tailor-made, Roger Moore Bond film all the way.

There’s so much in this movie that I love.  The first half has several great scenes and moments:  It starts with a fun and playful briefing.  The introduction to Drax is terrific.  Love his dobermans.  The scene when Bond is in that G-force machine is pretty suspenseful (gotta love his pulse-controlled dart gun).  A fun and wacky boat chase in Venice, complete with a pigeon doing a double take.  An awesome fight between Bond and Drax’s Asian henchman as they break a shitload of glass in a museum.  I also love it when Bond meets Jaws in Rio.  Moore gives him a great big smile before they fight.  Cracks me up every time.

The second half is even better.  There’s an awesome fight on top of a cable car, which ends ridiculously.  This is when Jaws meets his girlfriend after helping him out of the wreckage of his crashed cable car.  If you want to know why I have a fetish for nerdy girls with glasses and pigtails, then look no further.  I always had a crush on her, ever since I was a kid.  Pale, pigtails, glasses, an adorable smile and revealing cleavage.  Yes please!  In my opinion the sexiest girl ever to appear in a Bond movie, but remember, I’m a sucker for nerdy chicks.  Anyway… I love the fight in the ambulance (love Moore’s wink).  Even though it’s silly and out-of-place, I still get a kick out of 007 dressed like Clint Eastwood as he rides horseback to the MAGNIFICENT SEVEN theme song.  Q’s inventions are even more insane this time.  Then we get a boat chase with lots of gadgets and explosions.  Jaws’ face when he goes over that waterfall knocks me on my ass every time.  Bond also wrestles a Python.  So much stuff happens here, and we haven’t even gotten to the big finale in space with tons of people shooting lasers at each other.  And finally we get a satisfying end to the villain this time!  This flick is immensely entertaining!

Roger Moore is at his smarmy best here.  This is definitely NOT the serious James Bond.  This is a goofy comic book character.  But this was my introduction to Bond and it holds a special place in my heart.  His one-liners are sharper than ever in this one too.  Lois Chiles is probably the weakest link here.  She’s pretty and all, but is a bit flat.  Saying that, she is certainly better than quite a few other Bond girls (like Barbara Bach for example).  I have fun watching Michael Lonsdale’s performance as Drax.  Some people would say he’s boring (no, that would be the bad guy from THE SPY WHO LOVED ME), but I love that he delivers his lines with the energy of a snail.  He’s so calm, but yet so threatening.  It’s a subtle, funny performance.   He says some pretty angry things, but barely raises his voice above a whisper.  It’s amusing to me.  Everyone else does a decent job here too.  Richard Kiel has been reduced to a cartoon character, and it’s a hoot!  It’s not what most Bond fans want to see, but it’s hilarious for me.  Also, people don’t like a certain twist at the end involving his character, but when I was 8, I cheered out loud!  And that 8-year-old inside of me came out when I was watching it again today.

This was director Lewis Gilbert’s last stab at directing in the Bond franchise, and it’s is his best one.  The action is filmed really well and the pacing is just right.  Love the low-angle shots of Drax when he’s explaining his diabolical plan.  The script infuses tons of humor along with the many action sequences.  You know what?  It works for me.  For me, a Bond movie should be fun once in a while.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the dark, serious ones too, but if you do that every time it gets to be a drag.  Every once in a while, we need a MOONRAKER.  John Barry returns once again to compose the score.  It’s definitely not his most energetic, but I like how it’s stripped down.  It doesn’t have any modern touches.  It sounds very much like his work from the 60’s like YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE.  It was kind of refreshing this time around.

Yeah, I unapologetically love this movie.  Watching MOONRAKER today made me so happy.  This has everything I love about the movies.  It’s funny, sexy, silly, action-packed, suspenseful, violent, and just a plain ole’ good time.  I’m not saying this is the best Bond movie ever made, but it’s definitely one of my favorites.  I can acknowledge everything that’s retarded about this movie, but I dismiss it all because I just have too good of a time watching it.  Bond movies don’t get more fun than this.  ★★★½ (out of ★★★★)

- Rated PG but would be rated PG13 today for violence and innuendos.

- Running time: 2hrs. 6min.

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Categories: Austin Kennedy, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, Reviews

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2 replies

  1. I have to disagree about the pre title scene, that was so awful compared to The Spy Who Loved Me. As impressive as the camera work may be, the idea is stretched way too far, even for a James Bond movie. You could clearly see the stunt doubles like Jaws for example and his teeth white not metal like. For me it was not even entertaining, perhaps it is just a different taste in humor. This is in no way a top Bond moment, but that could also be generational difference, since planes and space was a huge part of your childhood/generation and not of mine. This is probably the worst pre-title sequence yet for me. Minus the “last legs” part of the scene, it is incredibly foolish and boring. I was incredibly irritated when Corinne was fired and ran into the woods instead of back onto the golf cart she drove over in- what the hell?? They love putting Moore in boat chases, and this is the best one. Drax is annoying and boring, so is his asian assistant, and Corinne is a poor character. The gondola boat chase scene is basically a Mr. Bean movie. I enjoy the silly spy films like Johnny English and Austin Powers, but not when Bond is the main character. Connery could not have done this because he has too much ego and pride to go along with this type of nonsense. Your fan side took over this review, not the film critic who would have otherwise had to have labeled this film as too outrageous to be a Bond film.

  2. Umm the PTS was one of the best in the history of the series. Most impressive skydiving stunts to date in a film.

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