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Moonraker (1979)
Director: Lewis Gilbert

review by Octavio Ramos Jr

Even to this day, the influence of Star Wars on films cannot be ignored. In the late 1970s, however, every film seemed to jump on the space opera bandwagon, and the Bond series was no exception. Although Moonraker was a hit at the box office, time has not been kind to it, and although there are some who still enjoy the movie, many Bond fans consider it the worst of the series.
   In Ian Fleming's novel, Drax acquired his wealth by creating a metal known as columbite, which possessed the characteristics necessary for enhancing jet engines. The 'Moonraker' in question is an atomic rocket that Drax plans to use for world domination - he is the next Adolf Hitler.
   For the film, director Gilbert takes the book's basic structure, rehashes plot elements from The Spy Who Loved Me (instead of submarines, space shuttles are being taken), and attempts to blend them into a space opera milieu. Megalomania goes into orbit, as Hugo Drax (Michael Lonsdale) plans to take over the world from his space station. Villain extraordinaire Jaws makes a return, and joining him is NASA agent Holly Goodhead (Lois Chiles, who has the charisma of a month-old cracker).
   Bond and Goodhead (and even Jaws!) work together to defeat Drax, after some set-piece encounters in Rio and Venice (which include a silly but entertaining gondola chase). The final battle sequence has agents and villains donning space suits and using laser guns to battle in space. Looking back, this sequence may be silly for the Bond series, but given the fight sequences Lucas later created (particularly for The Return Of The Jedi and The Phantom Menace), the Moonraker battle stands as a far more exciting climax that those found in many science fiction films.
   Roger Moore looks tired throughout the film, although he delivers his one-liners with the usual aplomb. Moore would look even more haggard in Octopussy and A View To A Kill, the latter serving as his final outing as 007. On hand also is Corrine Clery (The Story Of O), a Bond girl who meets one of the more violent and brutal deaths in a Bond film. Although the action is kept to PG-rated standards, there are enough hints so that the audience knows well just how brutal the death really is. Then there's poor Jaws, who in the end falls in love with a pig-tailed, nerdy looking girl and as a result becomes a good guy (awful)!
   Moonraker also marks the return of singer Shirley Bassey, but the film's theme song - also titled 'Moonraker' - does not come close to Bassey's excellent renderings of Diamonds Are Forever and Goldfinger.
   The Region 1 DVD features theatrical trailers, two documentaries (Inside Moonraker and the excellent The Men Behind The Mayhem, an overview of the special effects for the Bond series), and a stills gallery.
previously published online, VideoVista #24
Moonraker
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