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Please, don't judge me too harshly, but I love Moonraker, the peak of all
things Roger Moore. Never again would the Bond films be this over the top or
overtly silly, but the truth is that Moonraker does it right. It will never
win awards for being the most subtle Bond film ever made, but it should not
be trashed in the way that it usually is because deep down Moonraker is just
great fun. Roger Moore's Bond is just fun to be with, the on going joke that
everytime Jaws tries to kill Bond he almost gets killed himself, complete
with close ups of his exasperated face are brilliant (not subtle, but
guaranteed to get you chuckling) and one of the loveliest Bond girls, CIA
agent Holly Goodhead.
The script here is definitely not in the same league as the likes of From Russia With Love, The World is Not Enough, Licence to Kill or For Your Eyes Only, but Bond films never set out to be thought provoking pieces of art, they are meant to be grandiose fun pieces of entertainment and if you take Bond films on those levels then Moonraker succeeds admirably. Sure none of the acting is award worthy, and its frequently over the top in every regard. Over the top humor, over the top action sequences (a fight scene in a glass shop sees every bit of glass get destroyed) while the space sequences features a gigantic space battle complete with laser beams.
However there is a lot to like here. The pre title sequence is superb, featuring some of the best stunt work you will ever see in a pre-Brosnan Bond, the special effects are magnificent and lastly John Barry's music is quite simply the best he has ever come up with. For a film so over the top his music is beautiful and would set the hallmarks for his future scores. The sweeping orchestra and beautiful theme song by Shirley Bassey are classics.
Once again I end my review with a note not to judge me, but Moonraker is simply wonderful entertainment and one of my favorite Bond film of all time.
"Moonraker" is the most unfairly criticised of all the Bond films. The 11th
film in the series and the fourth starring Roger Moore, "Moonraker" works
very well for a number of reasons. As Ian Fleming's original novel (written
in 1955) had become too dated to translate to the screen, the producers
decided to capitalise on the sci-fi craze started by Star Wars, and so
created a spectacular space-age adventure where Bond himself journeys into
Whilst this film was certainly inspired by Star Wars, this is not meant to imply that "Moonraker" copies directly from the former. Don't forget that only the last 20-30 minutes of the film takes place in space. Although the laser battle looks dated by modern standards, it is still a classic slice of Bond action, that, as one reviewer has stated, compares with the underwater battle in "Thunderball". And on that level it works superbly.
What I especially like about "Moonraker" is the way it glides smoothly from one action sequence to another. This way, there's not only no shortage of thrills, but an overall level of consistency in the storyline is maintained, where Bond hops across the globe (to Venice and Rio, for example) uncovering clues as to the disappearance of the Moonraker space shuttle. On the way, he survives the customary assassination attempts by the bad guys (Drax and Jaws), and then at the end of the film all the clues piece together to complete the jigsaw. It's steady, consistent storylines like this that prove the key to a successful Bond film.
Purists often accuse "Moonraker" of being too stupid. Although there are some pretty outrageous sight gags, the film still retains its enormous appeal. Certainly, "Moonraker" is the most light-hearted Bond film, and it's quite clear that Roger Moore was enjoying himself tremendously here. His performance in this escapade certainly brought a smile to my lips.
There's also a wonderful cast. Drax is quite possibly the best Bond villain. His one-liners are great and he is certainly not short of ideas on how to dispose of Bond. The beautiful Lois Chiles proves to have the right qualities as an astronaut/CIA agent, and she is a worthy ally to 007. Bond's first romantic encounter Corinne Dufour (Corinne Clery) brings a lot to the film. Richard Kiel makes his encore performance as the steel-toothed giant Jaws. After his superhuman appearance in "The Spy Who Loved Me", Jaws plays more for laughs this time round, but his Roadrunner/Wile E. Coyote-type battles with 007 are still entertaining. There's also another henchman, Chang (Toshiro Suga) who provides more credibility if somewhat less invincibility in a superbly staged duel with Bond in a glass factory.
"Moonraker" also sees John Barry at his composing best. He provides a number of rich, atmospheric tracks that perfectly reflect the film's outer space theme. Shirley Bassey's third title song isn't quite as good as "Goldfinger" but better than "Diamonds Are Forever", and is certainly as good as Carly Simon's song for TSWLM.
"Moonraker" has often been placed at the bottom of the Bond spectrum. It doesn't belong there. It has everything a successful Bond film needs: a great plot, superb villains, exotic locations, beautiful women, brilliant special effects (for which visual effects maestro Derek meddings received an Oscar nomination) and action by the bucketful. There are scenes which generate genuine suspense and which feature awe-inspiring stunts in mid-air and on water. The space scenes are well done and all aspects of the space shuttle look true to life. In summary, "Moonraker" is a brilliant film in its own right and should rank up there with "Goldfinger" and "The Spy Who Loved Me" as one of the best Bonds ever made. I strongly urge you doubters to take a second look.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
When a Moonraker space shuttle, on loan from the United States to
England, is hijacked, Bond is called in to investigate...
Bond surely possess the latest knowledge about nuclear power and is able to fly a rocket ship... Bond's girls too have moved with the times and now join battle alongside him, fighting off the enemy with equal proficiency...
It's nice to see Bond dressed as a Brazilian gaucho, galloping up to a 16th-century Benedictine monastery, and safecracking in a magnificent French château...
Roger Moore is seen humorous and light hearted, gliding through St. Mark's Square in his motorized gondola... He fights with a Chinese manservant in the Venice Glass Museum with great style, and stops himself from throwing a priceless bowl valued at £1 million... He takes out one speedboat with some mines, another with a torpedo and takes off on a hang-glider as his boat goes over the falls...
Bond was initially surprised that a top rocket scientist at Drax Industries was an attractive young woman He set aside his aggressive attitudes when he realized that not only was Holly a fully trained astronaut on loan from NASAshe was also a CIA agent She liked better working alone and he had to exhaust himself to win her over
The eleventh Bond film seems to recycle a number of elements familiar from earlier adventures, most obviously Stromberg's hired killer, Jaws, played once again by Richard Kiel... Hugo Drax, the vengeful ex-Nazi of Fleming's novel, is reinvented as a psychotic who is obsessed with the conquest of space, and plans to wipe out the globe's population with a powerful type of nerve gas... His plan for mass murder completed, Drax will then repopulate the planet with his own master race His fleet of shuttlesthe Moonrakerswhich are based in South America, will transport his master race into space There they will live on a radar-invisible space station until Earth's depopulation has been completed
Drax likes to play a little Chopin on his grand black piano, and enjoys a cucumber sandwich... His vanity leads him to control his ferocious hounds by the click of his fingers He brings from France every block of stone used on his California residence... According to his charming pilot, "What he doesn't own, he doesn't want!" and, like Auric Goldfinger, affects a desire to play English country sports...
Michael Lonsdale's performance is astonishingly controlled and precise as Hugo Drax... There's something really scary about his true personality and character... He gives sarcastic remarks about 007: 'You appear with the tedious inevitability of an unloved season.' 'At least I shall have the pleasure of putting you out of my misery!' 'Mr. Bond, you persist in defying my efforts to provide an amusing death for you.'
Jaws returns in "Moonraker" and adds some tension to the film Richard Kiel has become something of a cult figure since his appearance in 'The Spy Who Loved Me'. He reappears as indestructible as ever... He impersonates Christopher Lee in Dracula mode, and has an entirely different trip down a mountain... His little scenes with a cute little blonde girl are very sweet... His despairing search for her on the disintegrating space station is wonderful... The bitter little smile he and Bond share as they prepare for their set-to atop the cable car is inspired...
Corinne Dufour (Corinne Clery) becomes one of Bond's early bedmates Corinne is Hugo Drax's beautiful helicopter pilot and executive assistant Unfortunately, in Drax's eyes, her amorous byplay with Bond also marks her for early elimination...
Sadly, 'Moonraker' would mark the end of Bernard Lee's 45-year film career... Already visibly frail, Lee would succumb to stomach cancer; he died in London's Royal Free Hospital on 16 January 1981... Although he made a notable contribution to such outstanding mystery dramas as Carol Reed's 'The Third Man,' and Basil Dearden's 'The Blue Lamp,' it is for his definitive 'M' that he will be remembered...
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Roger Moore's first two 007 films - 'Live & Let Die' and 'The Man With
The Golden Gun' - clambered aboard whatever cinematic bandwagons were
rolling at the time, such as blaxploitation and martial arts. By the
end of the '70's, sci-fi was back in vogue thanks to 'Star Wars', hence
'Moonraker' replaced 'For Your Eyes Only' as the next Bond movie.
Until 'Die Another Day' in 2002, it was universally regarded as the nadir of the series. I disagree. One has to remember that around this time Kevin McClory was threatening a 'Thunderball' remake starring Sean Connery, and thus Cubby Broccoli could not afford to takes risk with the formula.
The film bears little resemblance to Fleming's book, which concerned a nuclear rocket attack on London. As 'The Spy Who Loved Me' had proved popular with audiences, it was decided to give them more of the same, hence Christopher Wood's script had the villain hijacking space shuttles instead of submarines, and Richard Kiel's 'Jaws' returned to menace Bond. Lewis Gilbert once more supervised the mayhem.
Bearded French actor Michael Lonsdale made an excellent 'Hugo Drax'. Like 'Stromberg', he is wealthy, and plans to create a new civilisation by destroying the old one. Ken Adam once again delivers some marvellous sets, such as the Pyramid control centre and Drax's Space City.
The action scenes were even wilder that those of 'Spy', including a magnificent free-fall pre-credits scene, Bond's gondola turning into a hovercraft, Jaws and Bond getting to grips on a cable car over Rio, a speedboat chase in South America, and a shoot-em-up finale in outer space. John Barry produced another fabulous score, particularly 'Flight Into Space'.
As a strapping young lad growing up in '70's Britain, I always made a point of seeing the latest Bond, usually with my friends in tow. We did not care if the films were faithful to Fleming, if there was too much humour, or if Moore was wooden, we went to have a good time and did.
No offence to Connery, but for us Moore was The Man. Suave, sophisticated and debonair. On leaving the theatre we would attempt to recreate Bond's fights, usually resulting in one of us being cautioned by the police.
And the gadgets! 'Moonraker' outdid them all. I once tried to build Bond's wrist-dart gun. I don't think anybody walked out of a Timothy Dalton Bond feeling like they could conquer the world, but with Roger's we did. And we saw them more than once in theatres.
I do wish that some of the gags had wound up on the cutting room floor, namely 'Jaws' flapping his arms after his parachute breaks, Alfie Bass' cameo as a drunken Italian, and a pigeon doing a double-take as Bond's gondola roars by. Take these out and you have a pretty decent Bond movie.
Sadly, 'Moonraker' marked the final appearance of Bernard Lee as 'M'.
Considered almost unanimously as one of the worst films in James Bond
series, it is time for Moonraker to have a defender. On my opinion,
this is Moore's best fourth outing as 007(may be not saying too much,
but there are three films left), and a very entertaining sci-fi film.
Critics argue that humor plays a strong hand in this movie-strong to
such a degree that Bond character loses all personality, becoming
blurred in an impressive set of FX and stunt men. I reply: certainly
there are flaws, some of them (particularly Jaws conversion towards the
end) very ridiculous. But there are good points, too. Remember that
pre-credit scene, which was ACTUALLY shot in the air, the motorboat
chase or the final space battle, one of the most spectacular moments of
the entire series, (yeah, it was unrealistic, OK, but tell me how much
realism you can find watching other Bond movies which are frequently
referred to as" the best". Think of Goldfinger or You only live twice)
However, Moonraker does not compare to Octopussy or TSWLM, because of a sometimes plodding pacing, due to the addition of unnecessary scenes, especially during the first half, when James is Drax's guest in California. The love story is a mere and inferior copy of TSWLM. And, while in other Moore's films the blend of humor and Bond's trademark coolness worked smoothly, here Bond is not given a scene to show, not necessarily ruthlessness, but a bit of harshness, as we could see in FYEO or Octopussy.
Following Moore's outings will feature Cold War elements which seem to fit more with the character, and better screenplays from Richard Maibaum,the series' screenwriter who was mysteriously absent here.
But action remains mostly exciting, sometimes brilliant, and highlights what could have been a mediocre entry.
Of all the Bond films, MOONRAKER is, imo, the most visually striking of
the entire series. It looks like it cost a billion bucks to make. The
sets by Ken Adams are amazing (he should have won an Oscar for them).
The locations are stunning. The fx are well made and still hold up
today. The women are above average gorgeous (they all look like
supermodels before supermodels were in). All of this beautifully filmed
by cinematographer Jean Tournier. I love watching MOONRAKER just
because it's so damn gorgeous to look at. I don't know how many times I
saw it at the movies when it came out just to appreciate the beauty of
it all. Unfortunately, we are talking about a James Bond film and of
course there has to be the usual formulaic stuff seen in every other
James Bond film.
Basically, MOONRAKER is a remake of YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE and THE SPY WHO LOVED ME. I always preferred MOONRAKER over the schintzy SPY WHO LOVED ME, which was made just before this one. Lewis Gilbert directed those three Bond films and MOONRAKER is his crowning achievement. Personally speaking, Gilbert is a bad director. His films are always bloated and sorta soulless and yet still gorgeous. Aside from his Bond films, he rarely made an impression with his other films. In fact, he's the one who directed THE ADVENTURERS, which is a good looking film but it's really, really awful. I'm glad Gilbert stopped making Bond films. He was always too laid back for action films like this.
There ARE a lot of memorable scenes in MOONRAKER: the entire intro is now a classic and much better than the one in SWLM. Corinne being chased by dogs. The simulator scene. Bond fighting with Chang in Venice. My favorite scene is when Bond and Goodhead are stuck below a shuttle's rockets and are about to be burned alive. A near perfect action moment there. The climax in space is fun if improbable. I love the scene when they have to destroy those globes as they re-enter the atmosphere. Really suspenseful. But as good as those scenes are individually they almost don't register as a whole because the story and direction are so lackadaisical, so relax. It's like everyone was on vacation. There's absolutely no grit to this film. It's really sleek and smooth but nearly bite-less. The whole story seems to be just a preamble to the action set in space.
What really stands out about MOONRAKER are the many long moments with no dialogue. I'd say about 50 to 60% of the film has no dialogue. Just music and sound effects. It's almost a silent film. Moore didn't have a lot of dialogue to remember and this was an easy film to dub.
The story is as easy as connect-the-dots: The British owned Moonraker 5 disappears in mid-air and 007 is sent to California to investigate its disappearance. At the Moonraker plant in California (France really) Bond find blueprints of vials which leads him to Venice, where the vials are fabricated. And from Venice Bond goes to Brazil where the vials, filled with deadly nerve gas, are shipped to the underground layout of Drax (boringly played by the usually reliable Michael Lonsdale. Love the name "Drax" though). Oh and we learn that Drax wants to create a new race of super humans by killing everyone on earth by dropping those nerve gas filled globes from space while Drax and his super humans reside in Drax's space station. I actually like that part of the story and some of the grandeur of it (Drax wanting to be God) is actually achieved with the striking visuals and the amazingly lush score by the brilliant John Barry. Unfortunately, again, this is a James Bond film and thought provoking ideas are set aside for formulaic action.
I wish this wasn't a James Bond film. Take away all the Bond elements, the stupid humor, flesh out the screenplay and this would be a spectacular kick ass science fiction film.
Anyway, back to James Bond.
I really like Lois Chiles as Holly Goodhead. She's my favorite Bond girl ever. Beautiful and sophisticated but tough. She's no bimbo. I remember a lot of my friends in school didn't like her because they thought she was too tough for a babe. I guess Holly Goodhead was Girl Power before Girl Power was in. For me, Chiles epitomizes everything chic and sexy about the late 1970s. She's unforgettable in that black jumpsuit. But the Holly Goodhead role is a really badly written one. She's almost an afterthought to the whole story. They basically needed a character to fly the space shuttle and Bond into space (something 007 obviously couldn't do) and Goodhead was basically that: just a pilot. Then there's Corinne Clery who is truly gorgeous but sadly, again, her role is minimal. Then there's the not so beautiful Jaws. Jaws was so popular in SPY WHO LOVED ME they brought him back here. I don't mind this but they turned him into a good guy and he even falls in love with a ditsy girl. This part of MOONRAKER is *really* bad. Someone should completely edit that storyline out of the movie and its rating would go up exponentially. And like in THE SPY WHO LOVED ME, the musical in-jokes were needlessly distracting.
These bad aspects about MOONRAKER are almost negligible though because the film is such a visual (and aural) feast. Whether it's one of the best or worst of the series, I really don't care. I can positively state though that this is THE best looking Bond film ever, with an actually cool science fiction story somewhere in it. I give MOONRAKER 10 stars for the look of it all but 5 stars for the laid back and sometimes silly direction. So an average of 7 stars.
My Take: The comedy is occasionally off, but the special effects and
action sequences are terrific.
Why do some viewers think this entry in the series is by far the weakest of Bond. I beg to differ, I actually think this is one of the better Bonds with Roger Moore. Despite its occasional decline to over-silliness (even for Bond standards), I actually find it more entertaining than Roger Moore's early entry "The Man with the Golden Gun".
The plot, which is more like a variation of THE SPY WHO LOVED ME and YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE (only a little sillier), involves the theft of the Moonraker space shuttles. 007 is sent to Drax Industries, the manufacturers or these shuttles. He soon discovers that the owner, Hugo Drax (Michael Lonsdale) uses this rockets to fulfill his dastardly plans to create another civilization.
One of the main reasons that critics mistreat this Bond entry is because it doesn't go with the trend of the other Bonds. MOONRAKER tries to be more faithful to the then-popular trend of science fiction movies (after the enduring success of such classic as STAR WARS and CLOSE ENCOUNTERS). Another would be its occasion to go beyond the level of silliness and not knowing when to stop. A humorous moment where Bond drives a gondola with wheels is OK, but it's other scenes like Jaws (Richard Kiel) finding a girlfriend are just too silly. More extreme silliness ensues (there are moments of true high-camp standards here), but as long as the sharp wit, the panache and style made famous by many other Bond films are there, there's no real harm in trying something else to go along with it.
Rating: ***1/2 out of 5.
Moonraker is directed by Lewis Gilbert and adapted to screenplay by
Christopher Wood from the novel written by Ian Fleming. It stars Roger
Moore, Lois Chiles, Michael Lonsdale, Richard Kiel and Corinne Dufour.
Music is scored by John Barry and cinematography by Jean Tournier.
Bond 11 and 007 is tasked with finding out what happened to the Moonraker space shuttle that mysteriously disappeared up in space. His investigation takes him to the billionaire builder of the craft, Hugo Drax, where Bond discovers a fiendish plot to start a new world of perfect human beings.
At the end of The Spy Who Loved Me we were told that James Bond would return in For Your Eyes Only, but the gargantuan success of Star Wars and a rekindling of all things sci-fi led Albert Broccoli to send 007 out into space! Armed with a $30 million budget and using only the core base plotting of Fleming's novel, the makers crafted what many feel is the runt of the James Bond litter. The money "is" up there on the screen, it's excess overdrive, outlandish from start to finish and actually is very very entertaining. The problem is that in James Bond terms it barely feels like a Bond movie, it actually could be any bloke propelling the story, this is a guy reliant on gadgets and not his brain or brawn, quipping away purely for the sake of a cheap laugh. Ultimately it's a cash in, both in terms of the sci-fi boom hitting the late 70s and of the James Bond name.
If judged away from the Bond universe on its own popcorn terms, film is a blast, literally. As a whole it's a bit choppy, but many of the parts desperately trying to make up a cohesive blockbuster are great entertainment. Mid air scrap for a parachute, a cable car sequence brilliantly realised, centrifuge chamber peril, boat chase, laser fight and much space age malarkey, the film is chocked full of crowd pleasing moments. In fact it's often mistaken as being a film set in space, when in fact the action doesn't move up there until the last half hour, the previous hour and a half is spread out over France, Italy, Brazil, USA, Gutemala and of course England. The score and the title song, however, are very much Bond. With Barry and Bassey back respectively, film is filled with appropriate atmospheric space strains and a hauntingly emotive theme song.
Charaterisations are a mixed bag. Lonsdale's Hugo Drax is one of the better Bond villains, dignified, well educated and wallowing in a life of luxury, he's perfectly understated in Lonsdale's hands and in fact steals every scene he shares with Moore's Bond. Holly Goodhead (Chiles) is a bold Bond girl with many skills, she's a scientist and an astronaut, attractive and decently played by Chiles, if a touch unmemorable in the Bond girl universe. Kiel is back as Jaws, with the makers choosing to make him some love sick puppy dog, where once was a unique villain, now is cypher for slapstick and a crappy flip-flop of plotting, while the "love interest" for Jaws, Dolly (Blanche Ravalec), is cringe worthy. Sadly this would be the last appearance of Bernard Lee as M, but he leaves a favourable mark, as does Desomond Llewelyn as Q, but once again Moneypenny (Lois Maxwell) is all too brief, the flirt and banter she used to share with Bond now seems long gone.
With a committed Bond fan base trudging through the turnstiles to see the latest instalment, the sci-fi fans intrigued by the themes of the story, and the general blockbuster loving crowd, Moonraker made a colossal $203 million at the worldwide box office. Making it the highest grossing Bond film so far, a record that would stick until Brosnan's debut in 1995. While critical notices were not as bad as some would have you believe, the critics clearly judging it on non Bond terms. Broccoli took notice of the fans, though, who were upset by the lack of respect to the serious side of Bond. He promised things would be different for Bond 12. 7/10
This highly underrated Bond film, the eleventh in the series and fourth with Roger Moore, has Bond investigating the disappearance of a U.S. Space Shuttle. This film works extremely well for several reasons: first, because Bond keeps his cool and escapes from so many deadly situations; second, because it is the most humorous of all Bond films, especially because of "Jaws" falling in love and its containing the best of Bond's one-liners; and third, because of the special effects the creators gave the film riding on the coat-tail of "Star Wars", released two years earlier. All eight Bond films released since this one (up to "Tomorrow Never Dies" did not gross nearly as much earnings at the box office (when figures are adjusted for inflation).
"Moonraker" was the most expensive Bond ever, but after the success of "The Spy Who Loved Me", the producers were confident enough to take a step into the top budgets, also contemplating that after the blockbuster hit "Star Wars", a technical show up in space would sell. The movie was an immediate success, but apparently didn't become one of the most popular for the fans in long term, admittedly it has a few ups and downs. A very silly bit is the gondola, driving on land in Venice. The centrifuge, on the other hand, was a terrific idea. The opening sequence is a classic again: Bond falls out of a plane without a parachute, so he has to get one on the way down! The duel between Bond and Jaws (returned from "The Spy Who Loved Me") in the dizzying height of the cable railway is breathtaking. So is the beauty of Corinne Clery; not easy for Lois Chiles afterwards to get Bond's attention, but "take me around the world one more time" is a beautiful line. We get a Goldfinger type of villain again, a more sophisticated person though: Drax meets Bond early on, we know he's the bad guy, but we don't know what his plan is. The musical score of "Moonraker" includes quite a few ironic comments, but the western reference was a bit too obvious. The set design for Drax' base is remarkably different from the rocket base in "You Only Live Twice". While the latter was covering a huge round crater, Drax' controls in "Moonraker" are crammed in a rather narrow triangle room, but with a hundred screens nonetheless.
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