Moonraker Retro Review: James Bond In Space
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Moonraker Retro Review: James Bond Wanted To Go See A Star War

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BY February 4, 2022

Despite not really enjoying the last James Bond movie I watched, I was looking forward to the next one. Mainly, I wanted to see some space junk. Even the somewhat tepid reviews couldn’t keep me from it. So, let’s get into my Retro Review of James Bond in space – Moonraker.

And if you haven’t been here before, then here’s what you need to know. We do Retro Reviews of movies and such that we didn’t get a chance to see contemporaneously. Currently, for instance, I’m working my way through the James Bond series, which starts with Dr. No. I was but a sweet summer child when I started, not knowing anything about the franchise besides what everyone knows. Now I have Opinions™.

Let’s Rake This Moon, Mister Bond

When I sat down in my haunted forest cabin to write this Moonraker Retro Review, it occurred to me that I have no idea how to talk about the plot. Yes, I watched the movie, but still. As I discussed in the Retro Review for The Spy Who Loved Me, by this point in the franchise, James Bond movies have a formula and Moonraker is no exception.

moonraker retro review moonraker james bond image via Eon Productions, Les Productions Artistes Associés, and United Artists

There’s a guy–there’s always a guy–who wants to, you know, do something. The mechanism or seeming objective isn’t the point. The point is always ultimately a power grab. James Bond is supposed to be the immovable object that’ll stop this force. That is, if he doesn’t get distracted by the gal–there’s always a gal. She’ll have some ridiculous suggestive name like Copulata Tryher. (Barbara Broccoli, I am available for script polishing.) James will definitely bang her, unless he doesn’t. (He will.)

So, let’s plug in the pieces. This time, the guy is Hugo Drax (Michael Lonsdale). He’s a super-rich fellow who’s apparently gotten tired of just being wealthy and has set his sights on space travel. Well, that’s unrealistic. Bond enters his orbit–ahem–when a space shuttle goes missing. Drax actually owns the shuttle, but he had loaned it to the United Kingdom. That sure is benevolent, right?

At Drax Industries HQ, James meets the industrialist and some of his staff members. He also meets astronaut Dr. Holly Goodhead (Lois Chiles) and he’s on her like Drax’s dogs on the pheasants he hunts. There’s obviously something fishy about Drax’s whole operation, which James connects to a new kind of nerve gas. As a result, this somewhat simple theft turns into an investigation that will not only span the globe but shoot right into space. It’s a kind of war up there. You could even call it a star war.

Notes on Production of this ‘Futuristic’ James Bond Film

The UK and France signed a film treaty in 1965. They created this partnership for a variety of reasons, including protection and support for each country’s film industry. However, the partnership didn’t go as well as say, France’s other agreement with Italy. There’s also a variety of reasons for that.

James Bond Moonraker image via Eon Productions, Les Productions Artistes Associés, and United Artists

I’m being very brief, obviously. I’m just trying to give a little background, though, for some of the production decisions. For instance, the legendary James Mason, who is the subject of an incredible impression (by me), was the first pick for Drax. They decided to make this movie a coproduction with France, though, so French actor Lonsdale got the part. Mostly, he just distracted me with how much he reminds me of Peter Dinklage. But he’s fine.

Still, though, that wasn’t the only bold choice they made. If you saw The Spy Who Loved Me, then you know that the end teases that Jim “will return in For Your Eyes Only.” However, a little movie called Star Wars obliterated the box office and the James Bond team decided to catch the sci-fi wave with Moonraker. Hearing this, George Lucas’s pal Steven Spielberg, fresh off of Close Encounters of the Third Kind, offered up his directorial services. And it was a ‘no’ for them.

The Blazing World of James Bond

Note: This section will contain spoilers for the film.

For Bond’s adventures in this story, Q gives him some “standard equipment.” Of course, experiences may vary, but if it’s standard, then I’m ordering one now and charging it to Comic Years. But what is it? Well, it’s a gun…ish. I mean, it fits the basic definition for a gun. By that, I mean that it’s a device that shoots projectiles. But you don’t pull a trigger (or push one, like you’d do with something like the WW2 Sedgley Fist Gun.) Instead, as Q explains, “It’s activated by nerve impulses from the wrist muscles.” Neat!

Meanwhile, CIA agent Goodhead is carrying a transmitter purse, flaming perfume, and a poison pen. Then there are the frickin’ laser guns, but we’ll get to those in a bit. Finally, the other usual element in Bondology is its theme. Unfortunately, Moonraker‘s is a bit of a dud. On one hand, it’s Shirley Bassey, so it’s not terrible. On the other, through no fault of hers, it just doesn’t live up to her previous efforts.

Moonraker Retro Review – James Bond IN SPACE

I’ll admit that I was a bit nervous about watching this. Despite my deep need to see some space junk, I felt burnt after the last debacle. In addition, this movie is teetering at an ominous 60% on Rotten Tomatoes. However, to my great surprise, I kind of loved it? Well, that’s too strong. I don’t think of it as a genuinely good movie like my still-reigning favorite, Goldfinger. But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a good time.

Like Diamonds Are Forever, it’s got a freewheelin’ who gives an eff attitude. Its plot is fairly standard, as Bond plots go, but the way it goes about getting there is pure bananas. This includes, for example, the decision to retain the services of The Spy Who Loved Me‘s henchman Jaws. After Bond easily dispatches Drax’s prime goon Chang (Toshirō Suga), the villain replaces him with Chompers the mercenary.

But it’s not just the fact that Jaws reappears in this film. Plenty of Bond characters drift in and out of the canon. For this one, though, they decide to give Jaws what amounts to a redemption arc. And not just that, but they also give him a love interest! Yes. YES.

Team Bond Heading Into Space image via Eon Productions, Les Productions Artistes Associés, and United Artists

The “Romeo and Juliet Overture” soundtracks the bloom of love between Jaws and Dolly (Blanche Ravalec). And this segues into discussion of another choice they made with this movie. That is the fact that this is the most referential Bond film to date. Allusions to other films include music associated with them, like 2001: A Space Odyssey‘s “Also sprach Zarathustra.”

But the biggest influence, again, was Star Wars. As such, this movie culminates in…well, it culminates in James bagging a lady. It is a Bond film, after all. But before that, it treats us to an absolutely bonkers space fight, complete with the aforementioned laser guns. Does it bear a resemblance to Stormtrooper skirmishes? Boy, does it!

Moonraker Retro Review – Bottom Line

james bond review image via Eon Productions, Les Productions Artistes Associés, and United Artists

Yes, if you sit down and really examine it, this is not a movie that makes a lot of sense. And if you really think critically, then you quickly realize that it’s not even technically good. As I’ve said before, though, that doesn’t really matter with this franchise.

The Bond movies, at least in this phase, are not about plumbing the depths of the human heart or whatever. They’re about gentleman spy stuff with occasional obvious cash grabs. And while there’s more of the latter going on here, that turns out to be okay. This is never, in any way, a serious movie, but it is seriously entertaining. And that’s all I ask from these films.

Moonraker is available for rental from several services, including Apple TV and Amazon Prime Video.

And of course, give us your thoughts on this Moonraker Retro Review and this James Bond movie by commenting here or on our social media.

featured image via Eon Productions, Les Productions Artistes Associés, and United Artists

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Salomé Gonstad is a freelance writer who grew up in the swampy wilds of south Alabama. When she's not yelling about pop culture on the internet, she's working on a supernatural thriller about her hometown. Also, we're pretty sure she's a werewolf. Email her at [email protected]

          

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