(Best sung to “Moon River” because, as Bond says at the end, “Why not?”)
Where did you go wrong?
You started off so strong, and yet….
Your sense of humor
Became a tumor
When Jaws in his folly
And Dolly first met.
Learned from your mistake:
Don’t go, for humor’s sake, too far.
It’s just not the same James Bond style,
Still you make me smile,
MPAA rating: PG
I certainly hope it’s mere coincidence that Sir Roger Moore died not long after I watched Moonraker, especially considering that I saw Rogue One the day Carrie Fisher passed. This had better not be a trend for me. Moonraker is easily Moore’s weakest outing as Bond (though also his highest-grossing), but my VC enjoys it and I thought it appropriate after seeing his name in the headlines for the last time recently.
Like most other entries in the franchise, Moonraker follows all the familiar story beats of Bond surviving enemies, confronting a clearly shady industrialist with an accent, seducing beautiful fellow agents, and narrowly saving the world. This installment, though, was clearly meant to capitalize on the growing public interest in space and science fiction, since Moonraker was released just two years after Star Wars and incorporated space shuttles into the plot, predating actual shuttle flights by a couple of years.
Moonraker benefits from the natural charm of Moore, who remains my and my VC’s favorite incarnation of Bond himself, and the explosive escapes and elitist villain played by Michael Lonsdale are perfect fits for this kind of movie. There’s even a nice bit of continuity in the return of the seemingly unkillable henchman-for-hire Jaws (Richard Kiel), who previously appeared in The Spy Who Loved Me. For most of its runtime, Moonraker is an all-around solid Bond flick and then…oh, where to begin?
I never minded the campier elements of Moore’s Bond and always thought he found the right balance of humor to match the debonair action, like when he and Jaws merely smile at each other every time they face off. Yet Moonraker takes it too far, extending beyond good fun into unabashed parody. Whose idea was it to give Jaws a random pig-tailed girlfriend named Dolly and back their love-at-first-sight gaze with the theme from Romeo and Juliet? Likewise, I was willing to stomach the villain’s Noah’s Ark-style space station, but I was left speechless when the U.S. sends a shuttle to investigate and a host of space-suited astronauts quickly engage in a laser battle. Really??? Sure it looks impressive for the time and even earned an Oscar nomination for Visual Effects, and I realize Star Wars was popular, but this is just ridiculous!
I’m not alone in rolling my eyes at the absurdity of Moonraker’s second half, and mixed reviews at the time thankfully led future writers to reel in their overactive imaginations to more reasonable levels of silliness. Even so, Moonraker remains as entertaining as its Bond brethren in most other respects with some impressive stunts and an excellent score by John Barry, and its outlandishness somewhat works as a so-bad-it’s-good advantage. As long as you aren’t looking for Bond to be grounded in reality, it’s a campily fun episode, and Moore, as always, looks like he enjoyed himself as Bond. Even in his weaker efforts, he’ll always be the best Bond for me. RIP, Roger Moore.
Best line: (Drax, with typical Bond villain panache) “Mr. Bond, you defy all my attempts to plan an amusing death for you.”
Rank: Honorable Mention
© 2017 S.G. Liput
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