Bonding with Bond, Day 12: Moonraker

One intrepid RT editor is watching all of the James Bond films in order.

by | November 1, 2008 | Comments

Today’s offering is Moonraker, the 1979 Bond film that took the British superagent into space. Read below to see if I found it to be great entertainment or a silly addition to the fanchise.


Moonraker (1979) 59%

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Well, you all warned me about Moonraker, so what can I say? It was everything I expected it to be. At first, I was under the impression that the movie as a whole would be over the top, and while it did have its share of ridiculous scenarios early on, I didn’t really feel that it felt out of step with the previous three Moore offerings. Then, in the last 45 minutes or so, things really got out of hand.

Let me start from the beginning again. First of all, the stunt that opened The Spy Who Loved Me was so breathtaking that I wasn’t sure they’d be able to match it. Boy was I wrong. The skydiving scene before the credits of Moonraker most definitely takes the basejump of Spy and elevates it, literally, to a new level. And, it’s helped by the presence of Jaws, who returns from the last movie, and some excellent cinematography that had me repeating to myself, “How did they pull that off?” Very impressive, Mr. Bond. Very impressive.

After this stellar sequence, the story begins in earnest, and we get what ultimately amounts to many of the same elements we’ve seen in the Bond franchise thus far. Since I’ve noticed these in almost every film, I’ll just say here that I’ll try to keep the obvious things out of my writeups from here on out, in order to keep from becoming repetitive. I’ll just assume that Bond needs little in the way of romantic ammunition to sleep with any woman, that he will continue to walk boldly right into the hands of all of his adversaries, that all of said adversaries will be sophisticated gentlemen, and that he will engage in various motorized chases for extended periods of time.

Speaking of which, we have not one, but TWO boat chases in Moonraker, both of which culminate in some ridiculous vehicular transformation. The first chase ends as Bond flips a switch in his Venetian gondola and converts it into a hovercraft, driving it onto land and into a public square — very subtle. The second boat is ultimately lost off a waterfall, but not before Bond flies away into the sky, using its roof as a hang glider. I will give credit to the minds behind these films: they are… imaginative, to put it lightly.

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Of course, most everything in the first hour and a half or so is relatively standard Bond fare, and none of it prepares the viewer for an extended encounter in space, of all places. Interestingly though, I noticed at least two subtle references to earlier space films in Moonraker (there may have been more, but I only caught these): When Bond meets Drax during a quail hunting excursion, the end of the hunt is signaled by a servant who blows the first three notes of “Also Sprach Zarathustra,” most famous for its use by Stanley Kubrick in his sci-fi masterpiece 2001: A Space Odyssey. Later in Moonraker, a scientist enters a secret laboratory by entering a 5-digit numeric keycode, the musical tones of which echo the same five notes that are used to communicate with alien intelligence in Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

If the subtlety of these two references was lost on most, there was still a quite blatant “homage,” I suppose, to Star Wars in the final scenes that take place on the space station. After Jaws is turned away from the dark side, as it were, we see Bond, Holly Goodhead (the requisite tongue-in-cheek name), and Jaws facing off against Drax. With all of Drax’s underlings pointing their laser guns at the trio, they bear a striking resemblance to Han Solo, Princess Leia, and Chewbacca (Ha! Jaws is CHEWbacca – get it?). That was cute.

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In conclusion, yes, I didn’t feel that Moonraker was particularly good, but it wasn’t the ridiculousness of the latter part of the movie that did it for me. I was more let down by the fairly textbook proceedings that preceded the grand finale in space; very little of those events was novel or inventive. In fact, I might even go so far as to say the last half hour was somewhat refreshing after having to sit through the by-the-numbers storyline. A few films ago, I wondered to myself, “When will they run out of ideas?” I just hope it hasn’t already happened.

Favorite line: “I think he’s attempting reentry, sir.” – Spoken by Q when visual contact is made with 007’s shuttle, and they all get a good view of Bond and Goodhead making zero gravity love.

Favorite moment: How do I choose just one? Perhaps the pigeon doing a double take at Bond’s gondola-hovercraft; or Jaws’s first encounter with his pigtailed soul mate; or the swordfight in the glass shop (that must have been fun to film); or Jaws getting bustled away mid-fight by revelers in Rio, only to throw up his hands as if to say, “What the hell; might as well go along with it!” Precious moments, all.


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