Moonraker (1979)

United Artists

United Artists

Bond in Space: Moonraker, on paper, shouldn’t work. It was made to cash in on the success of Star Wars and can basically be described as Bond in space and yet, somehow, isn’t as bad as all that. This could be the effect of The Spy Who Loved Me being so good that it elevates everything around it, or at this point we’re just Bond drunk and can’t discern between good and bad anymore. The unfortunate aspect of this movie is that it starts very strong with an amazing opening sequence with Bond and a bad guy fighting over a parachute as they plunge to the earth, and the early stuff at Drax’s headquarters is very good as well. Unfortunately, it then flabs out and loses a lot of pace and drama for a bloated middle.

Issues: The issue with the middle is that it has interesting sequences but they are filmed very flatly. The fight atop the cable car should be a highly tense scene but played with no incidental music, and the fighting seemingly done at half speed, it’s just boring. I had lost faith until the final part in which Bond and Doctor Holly Goodhead (for fuck’s sake!) travel to Drax’s space station. It shouldn’t work. Bond in space shouldn’t work and yet it does. As with previous movies a lot of what makes this successful is the work of Sir Ken Adam, production designer extraordinaire. His sets always feel real and vast and insane, and Drax’s space station is no different. Coupled with a villain who is going all out and the return of a fan favourite, Jaws, the final sequences are highly enjoyable.

It’s a hard movie to recommend because of the flabby middle which includes, amongst the overlong and flat action, a pigeon doing a double take about a gondola that turns into a hovercraft, an overlong sequence set during samba, and the quickest Bond has gone from meeting someone to ending up in bed with them (it’s literally about five lines of dialogue).

Lasers: The best parts of this movie are its more outlandish elements and this movie leans into them. Jaws gets a lot more screen time than in Spy who Loved Me and his constant defeats diminish his supposedly efficiency as a hired killer, but that’s okay because in the end he becomes a good guy and finds love, which despite years of hard-nosed cynicism I found very sweet. There’s also a fight in space between soldiers and henchmen in which they fire lasers at each other, which again, shouldn’t work in Bond and yet works in Bond.

Overall: If you had to watch this movie then watch the opening and the final act but skip the middle. There are good ideas in there but the execution is poor, which is a shame because, despite its reputation, Moonraker has some great bits and with some tightening up of the middle would be held in much higher esteem amongst Bonds.

Live and Let Die | The Man with the Golden Gun | The Spy Who Loved Me | Moonraker | For Your Eyes Only | Octopussy | A View to a Kill