Saturday, July 13, 2013

007 Movie Project: #22 Moonraker


Once we get to the space shuttle launching pavilion, you have lost me.  Half of this movie is a pretty solid Bond spy movie, the other half is a poorly thought out sci-fi movie that seems to want piggyback on the success of real sci-fi movies like Star Wars and Star Trek.  Simply put, James Bond does not go to space.  He prevents evil masterminds from launching devious plans that take place in space, but he does not go to space.  He also does not have absurd laser battles in space. 
I’m going to just plain ignore the ridiculous speed gondola chase and the incessant fascination with Roger Moore and boats, because they are almost forgivable when you consider where the second half of the film goes.  I am content to say that the first half of the film is fine as it is, cable car battle and all.  What I take umbrage with is the fish out of water space plot that comprises the remainder of the film.  Aimee says it best when she says that this movie tops itself so much that you forget pretty much anything that happens before you go to space once you get to space.  This is in part because all of the stuff that happens in space is just too much.

Maybe if we went to space and just had an espionage plot on a space station things would be ok, but oh no, we have to have an army battle in space with jet packs and lasers.  We have to explode a space station and drive space shuttles around like they are cars.  It is too much.  The world of James Bond is meant to closely mirror our own.  It is roughly grounded in our reality.  So when this movie attempts stunts like the space battle and the shuttle duck hunt, things that are no where close to what is realistic, it goes way too far, particularly when you consider that those other successful sci-fi movies named above do not stretch the plausibility of what is possible in space as far as this movie does.  It’s just too much.  Call me old fashioned, but I much prefer an earth-based Bond who ferrets out spies and double-agents and prevents evil masterminds from hatching their horrible schemes (which is what we have for 50% of the movie).

Too bad too, because the opening parachuting stunts were absolutely spectacular.  Who knew they were only the tip of the iceberg for how absurd this movie was going to get.
Roger Moore is solid as Bond again, but his performance is greatly upstaged by all of the space brik-a-brak.  The result is a Bond who is a little flat and given little to do, particularly once we achieve orbit.  The earth-based stuff is much better and in line with the charm and wit of Bond’s normal MO.  Moore is not terrible, but he doesn’t shine like he does in The Spy Who Loved Me and Live and Let Die.

Despite her name, Holly Goodhead proves to be a capable and strong Bond girl who plays Bond’s rival as much as she plays his love interest.  Her connection to the CIA and other twists keep her character interesting and the fact that she manages to keep her clothes on for the majority of the film is quite impressive.  It is also refreshing to see the theme of strong Bond girl overpowering the trend of the airhead Bond girl in the movies leading up to this one.

Drax is one of the most impressive Bond villains in the series not only because he has successfully constructed a space shuttle launching pavilion and a space station years ahead of any of that in the real world, but he is one of the few Bond villains to have his act so together that he nearly succeeds with his devastating plan.  Drax himself is pure evil and while not quite as cunning as previous villains he does prove persistent in his attempts to have Bond eliminated.  You must give him points for tenacity.  But again, the real villain worth talking about in this film is Jaws!  Kiel is back and better than ever.  He is such a likeable villain that his return is inevitable and greatly desirable.  And fortunately, the character is done justice in this reprise.  Jaws, once again, is the relentless foe that cannot be killed and pursues Bond at all costs.  At all costs that is, until he falls in love.  I realize this seems absurd, but in this film it works and doesn’t feel nearly as dumb as a giant space army battle with laser guns.  As a matter of fact, Jaws is so likeable that you are actually cheering for him once he finds love in the form of a diminutive, yet buxom blonde.  You get to cheer again when Jaws renounces his evil ways and ends up teaming up with Bond and Goodhead in the climactic battle.  A Bond/Jaws team-up might seem like the ultimate insult, but it works.  Somehow, it works.  Plus, for the first time, we get a Bond villain who also gets to sail off into the sunset with his gal.  Good for you Jaws!

Overall, Moonraker is half decent Bond movie, half bad sci-fi.  Unfortunately, the second half is so unbelievably bad that it cannot prop up the useable, and occasionally quite good, material from the first half, and a Jaws/Bond team up cannot bring the outrageous ending back from the brink.

Aimee says:

I want it noted that Moonraker is only on the low side because it's not a very good Bond film. It's really more of an Austin Powers plot, only played rigidly without much levity. No, that's not very fair--I think it's actually not a bad movie altogether. It's a typical late-1970s sci-fi, and if you just take it like that it's pretty fun.

But, of course, it is a Bond movie, and as such, I must rank it lower. I think the Bond girl here is great--we get a lot of bumbling moron types in these movies, so I'm always happy to see someone who is confident and competent as well as sexy.

The first half of this movie is very promising, but it goes off the rails when we find out just how insane (and complex) is the scope of Drax's plans. What starts as a fairly typical "Bond needs to find a missing space shuttle" plot quickly comes to a bizarre space drama about breeding a super-race or something. I don't really know what the end game was, but it culminates in an epic space battle.

Yeah... Bond, you've overstepped. You get in fights and you sneak around. You make clever reversals, and you out-smart the super-villain. You do not spend extended periods of time in a space shuttle fighting with lasers.

In short, I didn't hate this movie but I definitely didn't feel it was a true "Bond" adventure, especially after the halfway mark. For that reason, it's near the bottom. Not the absolute worst, just a "jump-the-shark" type entry to the series.

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