In the Moonraker cold open, a Moonraker space shuttle is hijacked while en route to the United Kingdom on top of a jet plane. In response to this, M (Bernard Lee, in his final outing as the MI6 head) calls for James Bond (Roger Moore). Bond, who is already on his way to London on a plane, is attacked by the plane’s crew and thrown out by assassin giant Jaws (Richard Kiel). The action scene in the air is fine, but everything surrounding it is disjointed and absurd.
Upon safely arriving in London, Bond is instructed to travel to California to meet with Drax (Michael Lonsdale), the wealthy owner of the stolen Moonraker. Our main villain for the proceedings, Drax is nothing to write home about. He is drab and in need of a stronger persona.
By this point in Moore’s tenure as Bond, he is comfortably put himself into the persona, created his own identity as the super spy. In this film, however, we get the tritest one-liners escaping his mouth. Poor scripting has stripped away anything that is clever about Bond’s signature wit, leaving Moore to tread water as best as he can throughout the film.
The reprisal of Jaws is a misstep. As a one-off muscle character he is tolerable, but there are plenty of superior henchman characters who were never granted this honor. Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd. Baron Samedi (who is still alive in the Bond universe). Oddjob (arguably the best Bond henchman, and, like Jaws, mute). Sure, Jaws’ conceit is unique, but there’s nothing there to warrant a second appearance.
Keeping Jaws in mind, the action scene with him, Bond, and Holly Goodhead (Lois Chiles) on the pair of lifts is paced well. Not the finest choreography of a Bond fight, but it does its job. Given that it’s one of the few fight scenes in the film, it is worth a brief comment, though little else.
To say that the villainous plot of Moonraker is ludicrous is to put it lightly, but thus is the direction that James Bond plots gravitate toward in this era. Clearly, the production team was going for a grand scope. However, in broadening the film in this way, it leaves the rest of the film lacking in the smaller moments of action that Bond films are famous for. Car chases, boat chases, hand-to-hand combat sequences. These elements are few and far between. Instead, we get setup for something grand at the end, only to be disappointed by a slow-moving laser show in space.
Moonraker clearly took a note from 1977’s Star Wars and decided that space was the hip place to set an action film. What they failed to notice was the sheer artistry that must go into a successful space action scene. The climax we get in this film is utterly unimagined. Given that the entire film is a slow build to the climactic final moments, Moonraker as a whole suffers from an unimaginative construction.
As always, thanks for reading!
Have you seen Moonraker? What is your least favorite Bond film? Let me know in the comments!
Moonraker is currently available to rent/buy on Amazon Video here.
- Moonraker: D
- The Spy Who Loved Me: B-
- The Man With the Golden Gun: C+
- Live and Let Die: C+
- Diamonds Are Forever: C-
- On Her Majesty’s Secret Service: B+
- Casino Royale (1967): D+
- You Only Live Twice: C+
- Thunderball: C-
- Goldfinger: A-
- From Russia With Love: A-
- Dr. No: B
—Alex Brannan (@TheAlexBrannan)