I was wondering how Moonraker would hold up over time. I haven’t seen this one in a long time, but it was a favorite when I was young. Turns out, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that, for me at least, it held up just fine. Oh sure, the space stuff is a bit silly, but it wasn’t nearly as cheesy as I feared. And really, they do a pretty good job with the zero gravity, particularly considering this was made in the late 70’s.
I was pondering why I love this one, and why I don’t love The Spy Who Loved Me, and I think that, once again, it comes down to people. I don’t like the characters in Spy. They don’t resonate with me, and I really don’t care about them. I do like the characters in Moonraker, and I do care about them. Corrine’s death is one of the few deaths in all of James Bond cinema that gets to me. I really wish she was the lead actress in this rather than Lois Chiles. Though I do like the latter’s Dr. Goodhead. I just like Corrine better. Dr. Goodhead works for the CIA and is a trained astronaut. Dig it.
I still love Drax as our main bad guy, played by Michael Lonsdale. He is entertaining, and I rather like his plan. More sensible than Stromberg’s in the last movie. While Drax also plans to destroy mankind and repopulate it with his chosen few, at least Drax’s plan only wipes out the people. He leaves the world, animals, and plants intact and radiation-free. Much smarter. I find Drax quite entertaining, and I love his dialogue. “See that some harm comes to him.” He does suffer from the usual “why does nobody just shoot Bond when they have the chance and be done with it” syndrome. Is it so hard? I know, I know, the creative ways in which bad guys attempt to kill our hero are half the fun, but still. Why doesn't someone just gun Bond down already when they have the chance?!
Though I do I love that, for once, Roger Moore’s unflappable Bond is left a bit flapped after his near-death in the centrifuge. It’s one of my favorite parts in all of Moore’s Bond films. Look, he’s human after all! It takes him a fair bit to recover, and I always love the way he pushes Goodhead’s offer of help away.
Jaws is back as our main henchman, though he ends up being played more for laughs than scares. This is probably to make it easier for the storyline to ease the audience into accepting his betrayal of Drax and helping of Bond instead. And as I was always cool with that switch, I guess it worked.
This one has a fair amount of silliness. I think the only thing that allows me to just shrug it off is there’s not that much of it, and I saw it when I was so young, so I’m used to it. I think if I saw this film for the first time today, it would probably not be a favorite. But my childhood affection for it still carries over.
Also, as we know, the musical score is a big factor for me... and this score by John Barry is great. One of my favorites of the whole series. It’s such a relief, actually, after The Spy Who Loved Me’s crap music to get back to real music, with the right Bond feel, and the right seriousness. I think part of what helps me not treat this movie as silly as it is, is because the music is serious and straight-forward. I love when that space station theme kicks in for the first time. Impressive, most impressive. This was a score we owned on LP growing up, and it got a lot of play time.
Favorite parts: Bond’s escape from the centrifuge. Corrine’s character. The fight on the cable car. Drax gets spaced! Which might be my all-time favorite end for a Bond villain. The fight in the room full of priceless glass objects where every single thing gets broken. The opening aerial footage with the fight over the parachute. Hang-gliding over Iguazu Falls. The music! This really is a prime example of the score being better than the movie and elevating it as a consequence.
Music: Love it
Theme song: Love it - Shirley Bassey is back, and she is awesome as always.
Credit sequence: okay
Bond girl: Love them all, from Corrine to Dr. Goodhead, to Manuela, even to Dolly.
Bad guys: love them too
Overall personal rating: 4 out of 5 stars