Moonraker is everything that is wrong with Roger Moore’s Bond. It has silly in abundance, some bizarre set-pieces, a strange story for one of the best Bond henchman and then the worst finale that has ever involved the super-spy.
It is strange because it starts so strongly. The idea of a space shuttle being stolen and Bond having to track it down, investigating the Michael Lonsdale’s villain Hugo Drax and the actions of his company, Drax industries is a good one. There are little action sequence asides. Not as impressive as The Spy Who Loved Me but the daredevil escape from a parachute-less skydive is staged well, as is the really obvious outcome of Bond getting into a centrifuge chamber for no particular reason.
From then on the movie ticks all the Moore-Bond criteria. He travels to exotic places where people inexplicably try to kill him. Moore’s Bond finds himself in another boat chase, this time down the Venetian canal, but luckily without Sheriff Pepper for the unnecessary comic relief.
Unfortunately, this is the beginning of Moore’s “silly era” creeping back in and it does so with the worst scene in Bond history. It is infamous now but I hadn’t realised how badly conceived it is. Bond’s canal-boat becomes a hoverboat and glides through the (usually narrow) streets of Venice. It is at this point that we get incredulous looks and amazed passers-by and then the infamous pigeon which double-takes! Imagine how much that would have ruined the Lotus Esprit scene from The Spy Who Loved Me!
That isn’t the end of it though. The silliness continues and this time with Jaws. After a very impressive set-piece involving cable cars and Jaws’ powerful teeth, the tall-henchman finds himself falling in love with a pint-sized German. No issue but then this extends to some very cringe-inducing later scenes which undermine everything that was cool about Jaws in the last movie.
That isn’t the worst part of the final act though. Under no circumstances should Bond go to space. He is a MI6 spy, not an astronaut and the moment the movie enters science-fiction, it also becomes too ridiculous. They clearly didn’t have the budget to cover that kind of film and we are left with some of the worst non-gravity scenes you have ever witnessed. It is a strange choice.
It isn’t even like the villain makes up for it. Drax is a pretty decent bad guy with a suitably diabolical plan but hardly shines and is dispatched quite quickly and easily. Instead the film’s finale focuses more on the space aspect, with Bond shooting lasers and seducing the Bond Girl in anti-gravity.
At least the Bond Girl had a part to play this time. Lois Chiles Holly Goodhead is the reason Bond can go into space and plays off Roger Moore very well. They have a very good scene where Bond deduces that she is also a spy, managing to work out each and every one of her many gadgets and hidden weapons.
It is a small point of relief in what is a truly ridiculous Bond film though. The moment Bond gets into that space shuttle and actors decide to walk slowly around a set to pretend there is no gravity is the moment the franchise was dragged to a new low.
Overall, Moonraker is the worst Bond so far. The silliness extends to ridiculous gadgets and double-taking pigeons. The threat and danger in one of Bond’s best henchmen has been removed and the film takes place in space, somewhere as far removed from Bond as Disneyland! The quicker we get to Dalton the better!
Rating – 2
(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)