Film Nerd’s Choice: Moonraker
Director: Lewis Gilbert
Cast: Roger Moore, Lois Chiles, Michael Lonsdale, Richard Kiel, Bernard Lee, Desmond Llewelyn, Lois Maxwell
Synopsis: This was not originally intended to be the film to follow the successful Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me, the original plan being to release For Your Eyes Only. However, the release and success of Star Wars changed all that, so they jumped to the story Ian Fleming novel Moonraker, entirely rewriting a cold war missile drama to be a space epic. About the only similarity that the film has with the novel is the names of the characters.
I have selected this film as representative of the entire Roger Moore run of James Bond films. As a child, my favourite James Bond was by far my favourite. He was not only the Bond I was growing up with at the time, he was one that was overall just fun, outrageous, and over the top. The more absurd the gadget or story, the more fun I had watching it. So when you have a film with him running around in space shooting lasers while being chased by popular villain Jaws (Kiel), it was an absolute dream.
Not anymore however. What has changed for me is that I have become a true student and aficionado of Ian Fleming’s Bond, having read all the original novels, and with time come to appreciate the true glory that peaks with Connery’s original portrayal and Craig’s current hard-edged approach. In this style of Bond, Lazenby and Dalton were also quite adept, whereas Brosnan was the perfect meld of every interpretation of Bond up until that point. Moore, however, was a comedian first and a man of action second. His fight scenes have no real power or pace. He is over-reliant on Q gadgets. He also played the role for too long, so by A View To A Kill, he was certainly less convincing as the seductive secret agent type.
For Moonraker, he had not yet aged so poorly, but if there was a Bond film that jumped the shark, this was it. Stretching reality to include space battles aside, the supporting players were also just not convincing. Lonsdale’s Drax was little more than a passable villain, with none of the delightful swagger of a Blofeld, Carver, or Le Chiffre. Lois Chiles’ performance as lead Bond girl left a lot to be desired, and it seems they were trying too hard for a double entendre for her name, opting for Holly Goodhead. Even Kiel, whose performance itself was just as strong as it was in The Spy Who Loved Me, was let down, with a love story introduced that destroyed any menace the character once had.
To this day, I often marathon James Bond films from Dr. No through to now. The Moore period however is often skipped over.
2 stars out of 5.