The space shuttle Moonraker is stolen. Suspicions lead Bond to the company that built the shuttle, owned by billionaire Hugo Drax, who has an idea – to move new ‘Adam snd Eves’ to a space base and then eradicate all other human life below and start a new civilisation. But, of course you are, Mr Drax!
At the end of The Spy Who Loved Me we see the usual message to us fans, ‘James Bond will Return’. However, it said ‘…in For Your Eyes Only’! Well this obviously was the plan in 1977 when The Spy Who Loved Me was released – but then something happened in that same year. Star Wars. Science Fiction was not taken seriously in cinema before George Lucas’ groundbreaking tour de force. So when that film broke all box office records and made a pile of cash, every other studio was looking to make their science fiction projects, indeed SCI-FI was in vogue. Projects before Star Wars that were green lit for release in 1979 probably would never have been made – films such as Ridley Scott’s Alien and definitely we would not of seen a return to the cinema for Star Trek. With Sci-fi being the ‘in thing’ and Broccoli not one to never see an opportunity, we have Moonraker instead. Based on Ian Fleming’s novel of the same name, the film is of course very different but what we basically have here is Bond in Space for a filmgoing audience of 1979, who had an appetite for Sci-Fi space adventure fun, and Bond delivers just that.
Moonraker is one of my personal favourite Bond movies for the Sci-Fi angle, but also because of Hugo Drax played by Michael Lonsdale. His villain is sinister, stoic, slick and just simply a sociopath. There’s a scene early on that best sums up this man: a member of his staff helps Bond, he fires her then literally sets the dogs on her! In Drax’s employ we now find Jaws, again played by the mighty Richard Kiel. Bringing Jaws back is in my opinion a stroke of genius. Familiarity with a villain can be a good thing. Jaws is a scary henchman, his brute strength and intimidating stature all go in to making a now truly iconic villain. It is then such a shame what they do with him in this (and his final appearance) film; they do two things wrong: 1) they made him become a ‘good guy’ and 2) he falls in love!
With the Moore films we do definately notice the productions are upping the tongue-in-cheek, cheap laughs. Not just in dialogue and quick references – the cheekiness is spreading into the set pieces and action sequences. The Spy Who Loved Me had a submarine car, Moonraker has a boat chase in Venice, but with a gondola that transforms into a hovercraft. It’s this kind of thing that actual clashes with the more sincere elements, like a truly villainous villain, chemical weapons or even if Moore brings more of Bonds psyche forward rather than raising an eyebrow. The films by now are definitely being made with the family in mind – something for everyone.
Moonraker has its flaws, but for me it’s a guilty Bond pleasure. The battle in space at the end makes up for every small discrepancy it makes up forgetting to the finale (well for this fan). It’s probably the best example of ‘give the fans what they want’ and they wanted Bond in Space and well, we got it!
3 out of 5