Time: 126 Minutes
Roger Moore as James Bond
Lois Chiles as Holly Goodhead
Michael Lonsdale as Hugo Drax
Richard Kiel as Jaws
Corinne Cléry as Corinne Dufour
Director: Lewis Gilbert
After a space shuttle which has been loaned to the United Kingdom is hijacked, James Bond (Roger Moore) is asked to step in and get to the root of the problem.
After rewatching The Spy Who Loved Me, I was starting to feel good about the Roger Moore era of James Bond. The next film for me to revisit was Moonraker, which is known as the movie where Bond goes to space. This was definitely a move to capitalise off the success of Star Wars. Originally they were going to make For Your Eyes Only, but after the success of Star Wars, they decided to do Moonraker. Moonraker has been given the bad reputation given that it is the “James Bond goes to outer space movie”, and has been criticised as going into self parody. However I surprisingly enjoyed it quite a lot.
After how good The Spy Who Loved Me was, its not too surprising that Moonraker is not quite at that level. Still there’s a lot of fun to be had here. Much of the movie is standard investigation spy stuff on Earth. Its definitely not one of the strongest Bond plots, but there’s entertainment to be had here. The story is pretty outlandish and silly given that the selling point of the film is James Bond going into space. However its worth knowing going in that he doesn’t go into space until the third act, so you do have to reign in expectations for that. I do like that there’s a fair amount of absurdity before it even gets to space. It does lean more into the humour compared to even The Spy Who Loved Me, but it’s not overblown like The Man with the Golden Gun. It is self aware, and there’s still plenty of one liners, with Q’s final line at the end of the movie being the standout. It only crosses the line of being ‘too much’ a couple times, like when Bond’s gondola drives onto land, there’s a moment where it cuts to a pigeon and its edited to make it look like its doing a double take. When James Bond finally goes into space it is satisfying, as it becomes something of a B-rate Star Wars movie. As far as issues go, the pacing for the first half is a little slow at times, and not a huge amount happens (even though I was still on board with what was happening). Also despite the cheesy tone, there is the odd scene which feels out of place. The one that springs to mind is a scene where the villain Hugo Drax sicks his dogs on a woman to kill her, while it is subtle and doesn’t show much with it (given that it’s PG), it feels particularly dark and haunting for this movie. It’s a very effective scene but it somehow feels a little too dark given that this is the same movie where Bond goes to space.
Roger Moore once again delivers as James Bond, charismatic and entertaining, and carries much of the movie. Also, in a way he grounds the movie with his passive self awareness, along with his reactions to the absurd things that happen. The Bond girl is this movie is Holly Goodhead played by Lois Chiles, despite the name she’s rather forgettable, but she plays her part well. Michael Lonsdale plays the villain named Hugo Drax. In a way Drax is a variation on Karl Stromberg from The Spy Who Loved Me, down to his plan. Drax’s plan is to poison the Earth’s population to create a new civilisation in space and develop a master race, it’s like Stromberg’s plan but in space. Ultimately it’s the performance that makes it work. He plays everything and delivers all his lines completely straight like he has no idea what movie he’s in, even the absurd and hilarious lines. While that should make him dull to watch, this straight approach somehow makes him come around to being entertaining and genuinely solid as a Bond villain. There’s also the return of Richard Kiel as Jaws as the henchman, and he’s a great physical threat as always.
Lewis Gilbert returns as director after the last Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me, and he does some solid work here once again. The cinematography is stunning, making use of great locations, and the set design is amazing, especially in the scenes in space. There’s some fun and over the top action scenes that are well done and entertaining with terrific stunts. A lot of the space stuff doesn’t feel like Bond but it’s a blast, there’s even a laser fight. The visual effects work are good, and the composed score from John Barry is solid as expected.
Moonraker is not one of the best James Bond movies by any means, but it is quite enjoyable for what it is. The performances are solid with Moore as Bond to the villains as played by Lonsdale and Kiel, and I liked the cheesy and campy nature of it all. It’s certainly not without its issues including an occasionally dragging pacing, but I definitely don’t consider it one of the worst entries in the Bond franchise.