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It's a Bad, Bad, Bad, Bad Movie

Reader Review


Posted by: Sam
Date Submitted: Friday, March 19, 1999 at 13:46:12
Date Posted: Friday, March 19, 1999 at 15:44:31

Moonraker, the "other" bad Bond movie, isn't quite as bad as "The Man With the Golden Gun" because it does have the odd moments of inspiration, plus the production value is visibly higher. But it is sheer silliness, with a badguy plot so ridiculously over the top that even by Bond standards it baffles the mind.

Part of it is my preference regarding the best interpretation of Bond. I like James Bond to be as deadly serious as possible -- Bond is a parody of spy stories, not the real thing, but "parody" should not be confused with "comedy." It should be a black comedy if even that; the humor should come from the fantastical schemes and the inhuman suaveness of the character -- NOT from punchlines and slapstick. But even if you prefer Bond with a lighter mood, "Moonraker" just goes way off the deep end.

The opening scene is a perfect example of where stupid slapstick kills the movie. The scene begins with one of the most exciting action sequences the series has to offer. There's a rousing fight aboard a plane, and the badguy gets thrown overboard -- with a parachute. As Bond looks out the plane, apparently victorious, Jaws shoves him out -- *without* a parachute. With no sounds but the wind whipping at their faces, Bond dives toward the guy with the parachute, fights with him in mid-air, wrestles the parachute away, and Bond is victorious. It's exciting. The special effects are flawless and darned impressive. Then Jaws shows up, and it's downhill from there. Suddenly circus music -- yes, *circus* music -- starts playing. The suspense reaches an anti-climactic halt and dies. Bond kicks Jaws away, and Jaws is seen flapping his arms like a bird to keep from falling. He lands on a circus tent. And survives. What? What???

In the previous film, "The Spy Who Loved Me," Jaws was one of the best henchmen the series has seen. But unfortunately he comes back in "Moonraker" and ruins his track record. Later he hooks up with a girlfriend -- a short, freckly, geeky thing -- and in a moment of ultimate cheese says, "Well, here's to us." (In "The Spy Who Loved Me," it is established that Jaws doesn't have a tongue, but no matter.)

Another "thing that makes you go 'huh?'" is the insidious gondola scene, in which Bond runs from badguys in Venice. He leaps into a gondola that happens to be there, speeds away, and, after the badguys have all been dispatched and there's no more reason for further gadgetry, turns the gondola into some kind of land vehicle and speeds away down the street. 'Huh?' This boat was moored at a random place amongst many other boats! Maybe 'Q' had every gondola in all of Venice replaced with his special superpower transformer models. As if this weren't stupidity enough, when Bond speeds away on land, a pigeon does a double take, and a drunk looks at his liquor bottle and throws it away. (How many times have you seen that one?)

But believe it or not, things get worse when they get up in space. The Bond villain, Hugo Drax, is building a spacestation, you see, where he's collecting genetically superior specimens of humanity and will exterminate the rest. (Apparently "genetically superior" means "look like they've lived in the Garden of Eden and dressed in fig leaves all their lives.") Bond, after being captured and put in an elaborate death machine at least 46 times, sneaks aboard a rocket with Lois "I act like I'm in one of those low-budget sci-fi cartoons in which they only animate the mouths of people" Chiles, and the two of them start a laser fight aboard the space station. Granted, the laser fight isn't quite as cheesy as the one in "Yor, the Hunter From the Future," but at one point a guy gets hit in the chest with a laser, hollers, then keeps booking it down the hall, unharmed.

If this were a Laurel and Hardy parody of Bond, I'd be a lot more accepting of it. But this is supposed to be the real thing -- and yet it's totally unrecognizable as being part of the same franchise started by "Dr. No." It certainly has nothing to do with Ian Fleming's books.

But as I said up front, it isn't truly the worst in the series even if it's the cheesiest. The reason is that there are a few scant inspired moments of authenticity that "The Man With the Golden Gun" never had. The first half of the parachute scene, for instance. Another is the great centrifuge scene, one of the very rare and wonderful moments in the series where Bond isn't a superhero -- there's the tangible fear that things may not work out for the best, and when it's over Bond is visibly traumatized by the ordeal. Then there's the delightfully wicked, well-written scene where Bond and Drax meet for the first time. ("You missed, Mr. Bond." / "Did I?")

Alas, these moments of inspiration are overwhelmed by pervasive cheese, as Moonraker gets the mistaken impression that it's a slapstick comedy rather than an espionage tale. Although Moonraker was a commercial success, the Bond producers thankfully realized their artistic error and made the next film, "For Your Eyes Only," the kind of gritty spy story Bond movies should be.

Response From RinkWorks:

I still say this is the worst Bond film, with "The Man With the Golden Gun" a ludicrously close second. -- Dave.

Yeah, yeah, whatever. :-) -- Sam.

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