Film Review: Moonraker
In 1979, Lewis Gilbert released Moonraker, based on the 1955 novel of the same name by Ian Fleming, as the 11th film int he series. Starring Roger Moore, Lois Chiles, Michael Lonsdale, Richard Kiel, Corinne Cléry, Toshiro Suga, Emily Bolton, and Blanche Ravalec, the film grossed $210.3 million at the box office.
Sent to investigate Drax Industries after one of their shuttles is hijacked in mid-transit, Bond finds out it’s part of a plan by billionaire Hugo Drax, who wants to destroy the world and replace it with his ideal population.
With the previous entry being such a well done film, it’s surprising that Moonraker is so glaringly awful and possibly the worst film in the series. Drax is nothing but a carbon copy of Stromberg, with the idea of having a base in outer space instead of at the bottom of the ocean. Their plans, destroy all life on earth due to their beliefs of worldwide moral decay beyond redemption so the only solution is to start over with those he has chosen, are exactly the same. Moreover, Stromberg had some good character qualities to his villainy whereas it seems the writers intentionally went overboard with Drax’s villainy just to hammer in he’s no more than a complete monster. He wants to kill all the people on earth with nerve gas while remaining in his space station with his genetically chosen Nazi-like space cult. Further, despite killing everyone in the film in particularly gruesome ways, he doesn't simply shoot Bond as he wants the man’s death to amuse him. What's more is Drax has a God Complex, telling all of his specimens how future generations looking at the heavens whill believe he is looking down, establishing order in the world. Stromberg employed some semblance of class, too, choosing his base because he loved the sea along with his love of art and classical music. Drax, on the other hand, seems devoid of anything except the will to be evil.
Jaws return in this film as well. However, the henchman once serving as the implacable man nothing could stop was turned into a cartoon character existing for purely comedic reasons as what he survives in this film is ridiculously implausible. Jaws did survive many attempts to bring him down in the last film a normal man couldn't. Though in this film, his surviving falling from a flying airplane, in the first five minutes no less, is simply absurd. In addition to this and the previous film, Jaws emerges again as a villain in the video game, Everything or Nothing, meaning he survived reentry through the atmosphere. The silliness surrounding Jaws' return ruins the allure he had in the previous film by turning him from a notable henchman who wouldn't stay down to an invulnerable punching bag. His eventual turning on Drax isn’t written well either. In lieu of Bond attempting to convince Jaws he'll outlive his usefulness to Drax and will thus be tossed aside, which Jaws spends time ruminating over, Bond immediately sways him. It's too swift to have any credibility.
The film’s story is also a blatant recycling of prior films. Just as with The Spy Who Loved Me and You Only Live Twice, Bond works with a female foreign secret agent to stop an insane villain from destroying the world and creating a new empire. Here it’s in space where the previous films were under the ocean or in Japan and everything else is practically the same. All three of these films were directed by Gilbert, making this a signature plot for him. Yet, You Only Live Twice was pretty good and The Spy Who Loved Me was great. This film fails because it’s a duplication and it’s easily realized accompanying horrendous pacing and a confused story.
On top of all this, the final battle between the platoon of Marines and Drax's men evokes the feeling of a brazen attempt to satisfy the public's cravings during the space craze. It appears a great deal was spent on doing so without putting much thought into the quality of the plot or characters.
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Golden Screen Awards
- Golden Screen
- Best Effects, Visual Effects
Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films Saturn Awards
- Best Science Fiction Film
- Best Supporting Actor (Richard Kiel)
- Best Special Effects
Golden Satellite Awards
- Best Classic DVD Release (For "The James Bond DVD Collection," volumes 2 & 3)