Monday, October 15, 2012

Moonraker - Star Wars Bond

Moonraker - 1979

Bond:  Roger Moore
Directed by: Gilbert Lewis
Produced by: Albert R. Broccoli
Theme: "Moonraker" performed by Shirley Bassey

Moonraker is not only one of the worst Bond films; it's one of the worst movies ever made. I'm shocked and appalled that it doesn't show up on more "Worst Movies of All Time" lists. There are so many terrible things about this movie, if I tried to detail them all, I'd be recapping the entire film. You'd be better off watching it, but don't do that. It's terrible.

To be fair, if the reason you like Bond movies is because they're over-the-top and ridiculous, this is probably your favorite one. I can see how with the right level of insobriety, the right mindset, and the right group of people, watching this movie could be hilariously entertaining. Still, I find myself watching it marveling at just how absolutely nothing in it works.

The villain isn't particularly villainous, unless you find talking in an emotionless monotone villainous. The love-interest Lois Chiles is a terrible actress who has absolutely no chemistry with Roger Moore, unless you find talking in an emotionless monotone sexy. And the "science" in this science-fiction Bond film has absolutely no grounding in actual science.

True, this movie was released before any Space Shuttles had launched, so a modern viewer has the benefit of knowledge the writers and viewers of the time didn't. Still... Suddenly there are laser-guns (that never show up again), astronaut soldiers who can be launched into space with a few hours notice, a giant space station that can be rendered invisible by a radar jamming system (never mind that you could see it with a dime-store telescope), the U.S. loaning a Space Shuttle to the U.K. and flying it there fully-fueled on the back of a 747 that the villain steals for reasons that aren't addressed until a throw-away line near the end of the film.

Sigh... How did this movie happen? Because Star Wars happened. 

The credits of The Spy Who Loved Me end with the line "James Bond will return in For Your Eyes Only", which was intended to be the next film. Instead they decided to jump on the space bandwagon. It's a testament to how popular Star Wars was that this abomination of celluloid became and remained the highest grossing Bond film until Goldeneye.

In order to switch films quickly, Bond producers needed a script fast. Christopher Wood, who'd written TSWLM did the late-Seventies equivalent of a find/replace in Microsoft Word to convert his TSWLM script into Moonraker. "Nuclear submarine" was replaced by "Space Shuttle". "Under the sea" with "outer space". And "KGB" with "CIA". This results in a mess of a script with muddled and nonsensical plot elements and character motivations. The soul of TSWLM was the basic premise of a Russian agent being forced to work with a British agent who killed her lover. In Moonraker, that's replaced by CIA agent voluntarily choosing to work with a British agent with whom she has no personal connection. There's just nothing there.

If you're a fan of Seventies french erotic cinema, you might recognize Bond Girl Corinne Cléry from The Story of O playing Corrine Dufour, especially since she seems to still be acting in that film instead of this one. She manages to fall so deeply and believably in love with Bond as soon as they make love, that you start to feel like you're not watching a Bond film, but a Seventies french erotic film. This feeling is only compounded by her overly dramatic artsy death scene where she's chased through the forest by dogs.

She's the only bright spot in the film.

You might also notice the tones from Close Encounters as the door code in Drax's lair, because if you're going to go over-the-top and self aware, you might as well go all the way with it. They got special permission from Stephen Spielberg to use it. A few years later they returned the favor by letting him use the Bond theme in the movie The Goonies.

Personal Rankings: Right to the bottom...
  1. Goldfinger
  2. From Russia With Love
  3. The Spy Who Loved Me
  4. Live and Let Die
  5. You Only Live Twice
  6. Dr. No
  7. Diamonds Are Forever
  8. Thunderball
  9. The Man with the Golden Gun
  10. Moonraker

1979 Context
President: Jimmy Carter
Queen: Elizabeth II

The Shah falls and the Iran hostage crisis begins.

Best Picture Nominees:

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In 1789, the governor of Australia granted land and some animals to James Ruse in an experiment to see how long it would take him to support himself. Within 15 months he had become self sufficient. The area is still known as Experiment Farm. This is my Experiment Farm to see how long it will take me to support myself by writing.