Well, I suppose switching Guy Hamilton with Lewis Gilbert was a good idea — for a while. The Spy Who Loved Me was one of the best Bond movies I have seen, and I thought it was because of Gilbert. Alas, it is not so. Gilbert returns for Moonraker, and it isn’t good. It’s barely even average. It’s a repeat of the old Bond movies that made the franchise repetitive and dull; the only difference is, it’s set in space. For the most part.
It was released in 1979, but it wasn’t meant to come out for another couple of years. It was pushed forward because Eon wanted to capitalise on the success of Star Wars, and the advent of the sci-fi genre as a genre to be taken seriously. That’s smart, if you think about it, but trying to match up to Star Wars isn’t an easy challenge. Consider the rivalry between Harry Potter and The Lord Of The Rings and you’ll get a rough idea of how successful such an ambition can be. So, since Moonraker exists in the form that it is because of Star Wars, I’ve decided to review it as a comparison between the two, to see how it matches up.
1: Star Wars had no budget to speak of. It was built on the creativity, passion, and motivation of George Lucas, who knew its content and loved it. It has been well documented, the obstacles he had to overcome in order to make his picture, but he pulled it off. Moonraker, on the other hand, has a budget so overblown it’s hard to imagine it lagging in any department, yet there is no creativity. It isn’t a fun adventure; it’s a carefully crafted replica of sci-fi classics that have come before.
2: The cast of Star Wars, though unsure of the movie’s content, gels perfectly to deliver lines and performances that are able to capture the imagination and stimulate the senses. Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher, for example, are so natural in adopting the right stance and tone that one could easily mistake them for Thespian veterans. In Moonraker, Roger Moore has now become James Bond. He is comfortable in the role. He’s not as convincing as he was in The Spy Who Loved Me, but he’s not as absent-minded as he was in Live And Let Die. Unfortunately, he is joined by supporting actors who are unable to deliver the same amount of dedication and depth. The girls in the movie are numerous, attractive, and deadly, but they are nevertheless flat and unnecessary. Everywhere Bond goes, there will be a sexy babe waiting for him, watching him, undressing him with her eyes, and ultimately planning to kill him. Enough is enough.
3: The visual effects. Tell me, how does a low-budget quasi-independent sci-fi actioner produce effects more believable, more exciting, and more thrilling than a big-budget Bond movie? I sure as heck don’t know.
4: Gadgets. Both the Star Wars and the Bond franchises have made a living on their gadgets. But there is a difference: The Bond gadgets tend to come off as comical trinkets, especially when they are used for a specific task — like blowing a hole in a wall — and then forgotten afterwards. In Moonraker, Bond pilots a gondola, first on the water, and then — after it inflates its bottom to become a hovercraft — on land, through a crowded piazza as onlookers gawk and ogle and spill champagne on poor customers. Even the crow does a double-take. And then when the movie reaches its zero-gravity climax, somehow both the good guys and the bad guys have weapons that can fire blue laser, when clearly only the bad guys are seen making them. Such carelessness to service the plot does the movie no favours.
5: Finally, the villain. Darth Vader. Drax. Darth Vader. Drax. Definitely Vader. Machine or not, he is a menace. Drax, on the other hand, is a kook. He waddles around like any other Bond villain, explains his master plan to Bond, and then leaves him to die without any supervision whatsoever. Has he not seen the failures of Blofeld, Stromberg, and Goldfinger? Is he also unaware that his plan is very similar to Stromberg’s, and that he is bound to fail as well? At least he knows where to find the endless flow of useless henchmen that populates each and every hideaway like a uniformed plague. Also, look out for their helmets. They are stylish.
I can conclude that Moonraker is no Star Wars. It is a sub-par production with goals too enormous to reach. Compared to the other Bond movies, too, it is no better. Yes, it has everything a Bond movie should have, and it deserves its place in the Bond canon, but it is as formulaic as its predecessors, and possibly less entertaining. It is devoid of heart and oomph, choosing instead to focus on grand design and ridiculous action sequences. None of which are pulled off.
Best Moment | None.
Worst Moment | Jaws falling in love, perhaps? And him suddenly switching sides. Well actually, there are a tonne of bad moments in Moonraker. That fight scene between Bond and Chang is just laugh-out-loud funny.