James Bond Declassified: File #11 - 'Moonraker' leaves the world of reality behind
JAMES BOND 007 DECLASSIFIED
FILE #11: "Moonraker"
This series will trace the cinema history of James Bond, while also examining Ian Fleming's original novels as source material and examining how faithful (or not) the films have been to his work.
Directed by Lewis Gilbert
Screenplay by Christopher Wood
Produced by Albert R. Broccoli and William P. Cartlidge and Michael G. Wilson
CHARACTERS / CAST
James Bond / Roger Moore
Dr. Holly Goodhead / Lois Chiles
Hugo Drax / Michael Lonsdale
Jaws / Richard Kiel
Corrine Dufour / Corinne Clery
Sir Frederick Gray / Geoffrey Keen
Chang / Toshiro Suga
Manuela / Emily Bolton
Dolly / Blanche Ravalec
Col. Scott / Mike Marshall
M / Bernard Lee
Q / Desmond Llewelyn
Miss Moneypenny / Lois Maxwell
I get such a particular emotional surge seeing the Space Shuttle piggybacked on a plane. The recent flybys here in LA were major events in my household, the slow drive across LA was reason enough to leave the house at a preposterously early hour on a Sunday morning, and if you get me started talking about the space program, it's hard to get me to shut up. It is one of my favorite things, so imagine how space-crazy "Star Wars" fan me reacted when the sequel to "The Spy Who Loved Me" opened with the theft of the Space Shuttle, which hadn't actually launched yet. Pretty much the perfect set-up for a Bond film for me, right?
Nine year old me would say yes. Forty-two year old me, who just rewatched the movie, would not concur.
I really don't get anything about this movie. I know that each time I watch it, it annoys me all over again, and I always swear it will be the final time I see it. It feels like it was a decade ago when I turned to Scott Swan after we finished "Moonraker" and said, "I never need or want to see that movie again." Of course, here I am watching it again, and I'm sure this won't be the last time, but it should be. At some point, I should learn my lesson. I find myself confounded by almost every choice they make on this movie.
For example, the opening. The shuttle heist, which sounds like a cool idea for a set piece, is pretty silly. Two dudes who are just hanging out as stowaways onboard the Shuttle somehow and then just fly it off of the back of the airplane that's carrying it. And after we see a pained M sitting at his desk, he orders Moneypenny to call Bond, who has his hand up some girl's skirt onboard a private plane. Unfortunately, he seems to have chartered the flight from Bad Guy Airlines, because everyone onboard is out to kill him, including Jaws, who is so huge that I'm not sure where he was supposed to be hiding before he steps out and surprises Bond. Bond gets thrown out of the plane without a parachute, and while he goes after the pilot so he can steal the pilot's parachute, Jaws jumps out and goes after Bond. The idea that Jaws has just been randomly ambushing Bond at inopportune moments ever since the end of "The Spy Who Loved Me" makes me cackle, especially when you consider that he's obviously failed over and over and over again.
Like I said… it's a cool idea for an opening scene, but the execution is just ridiculous. There's no tension at all, even though it's a real stunt involving real people that took something like four weeks to shoot, in part because of the way it's undercut by the punchline when Jaws has his chute fail and ends up falling into a circus tent, leading to a Maurice Binder sequence that is coupled with one of the worst themes of the entire series. It sounds like the closing credits song to a crappy "Benji" sequel, and I'm not sure I get the trampolines and outer space imagery. Normally I can at least see how the film suggested the images in the Binder sequences, but this one is just random and weird, as poorly conceived as the film itself.
I guess on that level, it's an appropriate opening. When even the return of Shirley Bassey can't liven up the opening sequence, you know something's wrong.