A second look at Moonraker (1979)

Another re-post from my original blog.  This post first appeared in April of 2009…

I’m a fan of many of the James Bond films.

My favorite Bond was the first, Sean Connery, and my two favorite Connery Bonds are From Russia With Love and (yes, I admit it) Diamonds Are Forever.  One is “serious” while the other is decidedly tongue in cheek and, again to me, quite hilarious (and, lest you think I don’t like the others Connery made, I do, including perennial favorite Goldfinger.  In fact, the only Connery Bond that hasn’t impressed me is You Only Live Twice.  To the fans of that film, sorry…it just doesn’t do it for me.)

Roger Moore, after George Lazenby’s single outing, proved a strong, albeit different James Bond.  However, his films were far more inconsistent and it seemed he had a good film followed by a pretty dreadful one.  For Your Eyes Only is my all-time favorite Moore Bond film, with The Spy Who Loved Me, Live and Let Die, and Octopussy ranking in descending order from there.  In between those good films, sadly, was the terribly mediocre The Man With The Golden Gun (considering they had the legendary Christopher Lee playing the bad guy, this film should have been A LOT better than it was), the outright terrible A View To A Kill (Moore was looking really old by that point), and the movie I felt was the worst Bond ever made: Moonraker.

In fact, it seemed the producers of the Bond films realized Moonraker was a mistake and went to back to basics in For Your Eyes Only, the film that immediately followed.  This week, Moonraker was released on Blu-Ray DVD, and for the first time since its original release way back in 1979, I sat down and watched the movie from start to end.  How did it fair after all that time?

To begin, my original Moonraker viewing experience was…troubled.  I watched the film with the family at a Drive-In Theatre (the last time we would ever go to one together).  The family that parked next to our car, however, came to party.  Moments after arriving they had their stereo going LOUD, as if they were the only people there and souring us almost immediately to the whole movie experience to come.  Even worse, when the screen finally lit up, instead of seeing Moonraker we were “treated” to Corvette Summer, a terrible “car chase” film.  To this day I’m still not sure why the Theatre didn’t announce we were watching a double feature.

By the time Moonraker finally started, it was very late and we were exhausted, both from the partying family next to us and the unexpected (and quite bad) film we had to endure.  There was a glimmer of hope, however, when Moonraker started.  Alas, that glimmer was dashed pretty quickly.  As I said before, I consider Moonraker the worst of the Bond films.  Despite all the crap we had to endure before seeing the film, we were open to it and hoped we would see something special.  Instead, we left the Drive-In thoroughly defeated.  Bond had let us down.

Since that time, Moonraker has popped up on TV now and again and I’ve watched bits and pieces but never bothered to see the whole thing until now.  Target had the Blu-Ray Moonraker on sale for a ridiculously low price, and I figured I’d give the movie another try and see if it remains as bad as I recalled.

I don’t want to keep you in suspense: The film remains one of the worst of the Bonds, in my opinion, but, curiously, I saw the glimmer of a potentially good Bond film right there on the screen, if only the producers had decided to play things “straight” instead of going for over the top silliness.

For example, the first twenty or so minutes of the film, the excellent opening skydiving sequence, the hijacking of the Moonraker shuttle, and Bond’s first meeting with the evil Drax (up to the way Drax takes care of an employee that had the misfortune of getting too close to Bond) are quite good.  In fact, I’d go so far as to say the opening twenty or so minutes of Moonraker is very strong.

Unfortunately, the film then decided to go gadget crazy, first with the ridiculous Venice gondola sequence (which could easily have been cut from the film entirely) to the cable car sequence (this led to another of the film’s really crappy turns: Jaws falling in love) to the Bond boat sequence (Bond takes out two of the three boats pursuing him in the Amazon…he’s so far ahead of his pursuers in terms of technology and weaponry…and he chooses to abandon his boat?!), to the overblown space fight.

And let’s not forget Bond’s “crafty” way of escaping vaporization by shuttle lift-off just before he embarks on his own space adventure.  He’s tied down to a seat under an about to be launched space shuttle and the villain is so lazy he doesn’t strip him of all possible means of escape, including the curious watch he wears.  Worse, this was easily one of the worst examples of “If you’re going to kill him, why not just put a bullet through his head and be done with it?”

But, but, but….While I still feel Moonraker ranks low on the Bond movie list, I have to admit there were things within the film that kept me interested.  And even though the film’s plot took several wrong turns, there was the glimmer of a much better work just below the surface.  For all the bad feelings I’ve had about Moonraker over the years, I can’t help but wonder if the producers had only taken their work a little more seriously, this could easily have been one of the better, not worst, of the Bond films.


One thought on “A second look at Moonraker (1979)”

Comments are closed.