I’ll look ahead just a little bit to discuss this thought briefly – the Bond series has a lot of trouble with momentum. Outside of the early Connery years, when the producers are still experimenting and figuring out what works, there is essentially no pair of movies anywhere in the series where the first is good and the second is better. Every time a good film pops back up, like it did with The Spy Who Loved Me or, later, like it does with the first Brosnan and first Craig movies, everything falls apart again immediately with the next one. They figure out how to make a good Bond film and they immediately fuck it up.
So, yeah, unsurprisingly, they fucked it up again here. This is another one, like Live and Let Die, where the first part of the movie suggests it’s maybe not as terrible as its reputation, and then it completely disintegrates at the end. It actually stayed in “maybe not so bad?” territory for a long time, right until we reach the space station. Until then, it’s lazy and derivative and boring, but it’s rarely out-and-out awful. But once there, it collapsed into a singularity of awfulness. We’ll get back to that. Yes, this is probably the worst movie so far. Let’s bullet point this mofo.
Bond battles Jaws at the beginning, in a moderately amusing sky-diving sequence. Great stunt work, at least, with stuntmen free-falling and fighting. Unfortunately, the end of the sequence is scored to circus music, as Jaws free-falls into a circus tent. He lives. This is a running gag in the film, where Jaws is put in a situation that would kill anyone, and he lives. He also smashes headfirst into a building in a runaway cable car, and falls down a gigantic waterfall in a boat. The movie seems to think this is funny, and it’s wrong.
The song is terrible, even worse than “The Man With The Golden Gun”. Poor Shirley Bassey, she went out like a chump.
Bond hits on the villain girl, and she tells him that her mother gave her a list of things not to do on the first date. At the end, when she’s thoroughly succumbed to his “charm”, this exchange happens:
“What about that list of your mother’s?”
“I never learned to read.”
THAT DOES NOT MAKE SENSE! SHE CAN OBVIOUSLY READ, BECAUSE SHE’S A GROWN-ASS WOMAN! This exchange is fairly forgettable, but I present it as a symptom of just how lazy this movie is.
The villain, Hugo Drax, bears a very strong resemblance to Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister. This is very distracting.
On the villain’s estate, while Bond and Drax are doing their first (figurative) dance around one another, Bond just straight up murders a dude in front of Drax. Granted, the dude was trying to murder Bond, but this killing feels different than a lot of the other (copious) killings in this series, for the way it’s so out in the open and nonchalant. I don’t know if I like that, but at least it’s something novel.
That Bond girl is named Holly Goodhead, which is obviously a terrible pun but, honestly, she falls firmly in the “not as bad as I expected” department. She’s an American with a dumb name, she’s preternaturally attractive, and she’s a scientist, so as soon as we met her I thought, this is the proto-Denise Richards. But she really spends most of the movie being reasonably intelligent and not terrible at acting (until the very end, but by that point everyone’s checked out, including Moore, so it’s hard to blame her.)
There’s another fucking boat chase which, again, this movie is deeply, deeply lazy. Bond’s boat, once he’s out of danger, turns into a hovercraft, and it comes floating out of the
canals in front of
some kind of outdoor cafe. Both a pigeon
and a dog do a double take at this sight, which is not only stupid on its own
terms but also stupid because of the fact that hovercrafts are dorky and uncool
and the movie should damn well know better. Venice
Both the 2001 theme and the Close Encounters of the Third Kind theme are referenced, because SPACE!
There’s one action sequence that features some surprisingly competent fencing work by Old Man Moore. Given how much stunt doubling they have to do for him, it’s kind of cool to see him do a tiny bit of action himself.
One of the easiest ways to determine how much a Bond movie holds my attention is how well I follow the leaps in logic it takes for Bond to get from point A to point B. And in this film, I really couldn’t tell you why Bond goes from
Venice to Rio.
Jaws falls in love with a busty blonde in
who has Pippi Longstocking hair for some reason. I mean, okay, this plot thread is really
infamously stupid, but I just wanted to know why there was a busty blonde girl
with Pippi Longstocking hair in Brazil Rio. Shouldn’t Jaws have fallen for a Brazilian
girl with a gigantic ass?
There’s a gratuitous insert of karate fighting monks, who are never explained.
When MI-6 calls the Soviet Premier or whatever he was (they called him General, so presumably not the Premier, but he does have access to the red telephone) to explain the plot to him, he is wearing all red pajamas because of course he is.
The plot is a blatant ripoff of the *last* movie’s plot, except instead of nuking the world and escaping under the sea, the bad guy is going to poison it with nerve gas and escape into space.
And of course, once we get to space, things really implode. There is a fuckton of effects work and all of it looks really, really cheap. Just wobbly models and bad simulations of zero-gravity and ugly, ugly sets. There is nothing even remotely cool about Hugo Drax’s space station, it just looks like 60’s era, functional space interiors, except it’s populated by a whole bunch of people in yellow space suits and also the white bedecked Aryan supermen and women that Drax is going to repopulate the Earth with.
And then the cavalry shows up, and they all have a laser gun battle. This movie was an infamous cash-in after Star Wars made a fortune at the box office - The Spy Who Loved Me claimed that For Your Eyes Only was coming next, but Broccoli called an audible and turned the title “Moonraker” into Bond In Space. And Star Wars had laser guns, so Moonraker has laser guns. On the positive side, they got to save a lot of money on the exploding squibs and fake blood budget, because when people get shot with laser guns they just keel over like they’ve had a heart attack.
Moore and Lois Chiles have just completely checked out by the end of the film, and when
Moore delivers his final quip (he chucks Drax out an
airlock, Goodhead asks what happened,
tells her “he had to fly”) he says it with all the conviction of the cafeteria
lady telling you what’s for lunch today. Moore
But they save the most upsetting quip for last, of course. Bond is shown to the assembled leadership of the world after saving the planet from certain doom, and of course he’s in the process of boning Dr. Goodhead. Some uptight British mucky-muck asks what Bond is doing, and Q (oh, poor Q) has to deliver the following:
“I think he’s attempting re-entry, sir.”
Give Q back his dignity.
Sexist/racist: Well, now I’ll retire this except as needed. We’ve probably left behind the most gratuitous racism, and the sexism will perhaps only be of the “this is a James Bond movie” variety, rather than the “we hate women a lot” variety of something like Diamonds Are Forever. But we’ll see. For now, this index is not needed.
Bond beds three women – the villain girl, the Bond girl, and some other random girl in…
Rio? Let’s go with
Rio, honestly, I don’t remember who she was or
what her purpose in the plot was.