Thursday, March 20, 2014
(June 1979, U.S.)
MOONRAKER is perhaps, in my opinion, the most unfairly picked-on and mocked James Bond film in the entire franchise. Note that I specifically use the word unfairly, because it's considered more than fair to pick on crap like THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH (1999) and DIE ANOTHER DAY (2002), because, let's face it, they deserve it! The serious James Bond film aficionados of the world (fellow California blogger and friend Richard K. - kindly stand up and take a bow!) feel it's their appointed duty to mock MOONRAKER for it's obvious attempt by United Artists and writer Christopher Wood to take full and shameless advantage of the runaway success that STAR WARS (1977) had brought to the world at the time. You see, had STAR WARS not existing, FOR YOUR EYES ONLY would have followed THE SPY WHO LOVED ME (1977).
Okay, perhaps it's easy to pick on a James Bond film that decides to take advantage of the new space film genre and center itself around the adventures of the newly-introduced space shuttle and it's adventures in outer space; adventures that include an actual laser gun battle in space...
MOONRAKER is an easy target for its silliness, but consider other more popular Bond films also guilty of the same "copy cat crime" that preceded it. YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE (1967 - also directed by Lewis Gilbert) decided to bank on the space race of the 1960s and actually features space capsules being literally "swallowed" by the ship of the film's enemy. LIVE AT LET DIE (1973) took full advantage of the "blaxploitation" genre of the time and even threw in voodoo and snakes, to boot. Are you seeing my point just a bit here? Whatever unfair and unjust crime of film making MOONRAKER can be accused of was very much already committed by James Bond film's past. Please note that at this time, my fellow California blogger and friend and serious James Bond aficionado is very likely shaking his head in dismay and trying to figure out just how he's going to "deprogram" me from this unfortunate opinion of mine (cheers, Richard!)!
So now that I've tried to defend what I consider to be my second James Bond film of all time (we still haven't gotten to the first!), let me get into why I love it so much. The first is for the very same reason most Bond fans hate it. By 1979, science fiction movies were king and I was a young boy who was hooked! At the age of only twelve, I was still just getting to know who the character of Bond was. When I heard the next film would be a space epic, I was hot to get to the theater (MOONRAKER, by the way, being only the second Bond film I ever got to see on the big screen!). Like it or not, MOONRAKER is a fun movie of action, suspense and sci-fi effects during the Roger Moore period that I have always considered to be the most fun of the entire history of actors who played the role. The performances are solid and a whole lot less campy than those that followed in later films of the 1980s. Michael Lonsdale is a villian of pure evil who's ultimate purpose of world destruction is actually quite frightening when you consider how intends to pull it off from outer space through mass genocide by poison gases and then launch a brand new race of superior physical human beings. Lois Chiles as Bond girl Holly Goodhead (that's the best sexually-explicit Bond girl name I've heard since Pussy Galore!) may not be in the same league with Ursula Andrews or Jane Seymour, but I wouldn't exactly kick her out of my bed and she sure as hell tops the scale over Britt Ekland and Denise Richards (the worst Bond girl in history!). And hey, Richard Keil as Jaws is back in action, and that's nothing to sneeze at! I would also point out that despite its billing as a sci-fi Bond film, less than a third of the film actually takes place in outer space. Venice, Italy and Rio De Janeiro, Brazil are beautifully and exotically photographed for this film's story and purpose.
Despite the film's unfair reputation over the decades, MOONRAKER was, like it or not, very successful at the box office and scored a lot more positive reviews with critics than you might think. There was also a lot of merchandise, some of which I had, including trading cards and a novelization of the film to completely separate itself from Ian Flemming's original novel. It was part of a big year of what I've come to refer as "Sci-Fi '79" that also included films like ALIEN, STAR TREK-THE MOTION PICTURE and THE BLACK HOLE. It was a real big James Bond movie back in the day and it's still big in my mind, my heart and my memories. So there you have it, folks! I defend MOONRAKER as one of the best James Bond films of the franchise for the very same reasons that too many attack it! Sue me!
One final interesting point to make about this and some other Bond films. It would seem that on more than one occasion, I was first introduced to brand new innovations of technology and progress through James Bond films. Before THE SPY WHO LOVED ME, I'd never seen a jet ski. Before A VIEW TO A KILL, I'd never seen a snow board. And before MOONRAKER, I'd never seen the space shuttle. The first launching of the real-life shuttle would not be for another two years; Columbia on April 12, 1981. Now the entire program is defunct. Too bad.
It's been a pleasure arguing this film with you all!
Favorite line or dialogue:
Jaws (speaking for the first time while toasting champagne): "Well...here's to us."