It’s not unusual for James Bond to save the world from masterminded-imbeciles (a fitting contradiction, wouldn’t you agree?), so you shouldn’t expect anything less from a mission that takes Roger Moore out into Space for, probably, the first and regrettably only time of his life.
Moonraker has always looked out of place in the context of ‘Bond History’. Consider that For Your Eyes Only (1981), which was an undeniably smooth encounter catching the right side of the 1980’s, was itself sandwiched right between our favourite agent leaving Earth in this film and then, by Octopussy (1983), yet again laying off more dangerous one-liners than Jean-Claude Van Damme. Drunk.
It’s no crime to indulge in some laughable fantasies when there is nothing on TV, but there is no excuse with Moonraker. Recognising the popularity of the Star Wars saga, this encounter was perfectly timed to take advantage of the original Moonraker novel, reflecting loosely on the themes present, but more often than not, taking a chance to create some intergalactic shenanigans. The final product is somewhat dated now, but then there are few films that can match even 2001: Space Odyssey for remaining somewhat timeless by design.
Our villain this time round is a rather wooden like character called ‘Drax’ (no relation to Pinocchio) who is, apart from being a talented piano player, also talentless of any menacing demeanour. Normally Bond baddies are the most interesting aspect of the film in question, but Drax lacks the sinister ingredient that has so often been present – yet judging by his evil objectives, you would could easily think twice. He plans to abolish human life by firing glass bottles filled with a toxic chemical (found only from a rare orchid) onto the Earth from Space – a somewhat ambitious, yet profound plan to say the least given he is only really a business man. And a successful one, too!
How does he know this will work, you ask? This is the genius part of the plan. His scientists tested the orchid chemical on rats in a lab, and amazingly came to the conclusion that, because these animals were unharmed during exposure (while the scientists throttled themselves and collapsed), the chemical-filled ‘globes’ in question can kill precisely 100 million humans.
C’mon Drax – it’s all a bit much just because you despise human life! Though it’s a good job Twitter wasn’t invented back then though, otherwise I’m sure he’d be estimating for 200 million lives per globe.
Americas new ‘Space Shuttle’ was introduced around the time Moonraker was released, so it’s probable MGM were considerably worried that NASA may have a lot of good lawyers on their books, leading to the suspiciously similar shaped vehicles being referred to as ‘Space Crafts’. But don’t if you think this is a dour port of ‘real’ Space development then think again – Moonraker actually boasts many impressive sets, some of which are convincingly vast. The special effects that simulate Bond entering (and leaving) Space in the craft are also worthy of praise and similar to the superimposing techniques used in Star Wars. Though thankfully, without the fanfare! I imagine the inclusion of the former though would make the sequences more entertaining.
Sadly for Roger Moore, although his female compatriots were usually decent looking during his 007 era, their acting skills left a lot to be desired. This trend continues in Moonraker, though I think we can forgive actor Lois Chiles given how bad the script is at times. As a form of protection, I’ll leak you one my favourite ‘Whoppers’;
[Loved up in their ‘Space Craft’]
MOORE: “…” (Noise of approval)
CHILES: “Take me round the world one more time?”
OUCH! I’ve warned you now, so no excuses. On the subject of jaws dropping, our rather misunderstood character ‘Jaws’, who was present in The Spy Who Loved Me, makes a welcome return to the Bond world – even if antics somewhat lack originality.
It is indeed so easy to be cynical about films such as Moonraker and Octopussy, but there’s little way to avoid thinking such a way when crude references to normally taboo themes are regularly present. It’s no coincidence that Lois Chiles character is cringingly named ‘Doctor Goodhead’ (a Doctor whom cures One-Eyed monsters, no doubt), while in Octopussy, you can’t help but laugh when the estranged woman Magda points out;
(Groan) “I need a re-fill”
… Bond of course being confused by the fact her wine glass was empty, and not that she wanted to be satisfied even further.
Despite its failings, it’s important to know that Moonraker can indeed be enjoyed. Sure enough, it is absent of many attributes that render it as classic Bond, but even those that aren’t worthy of the ‘classic’ status are still very descent standalone films. Don’t make a ‘night’ out of Moonraker – just save it for a rainy day.
Hey, beats Monopoly!