Moonraker (1979)

<strong class="MovieTitle">Moonraker</strong> (1979)

(Second or third viewing, On Blu-ray, October 2018) It’s said that everyone’s favourite Bond is the one they grew up with, and so I discovered the Bond series during the Roger Moore era, most specifically in between the TV broadcast of Moonraker and the theatre release of For Your Eyes Only. (If memory serves, because the series was regularly broadcast on French-Canadian TV, we had just got a VCR and you can imagine the rest.) I even remember watching the movie and talking to the adults in the room about special effects (how that skydiving sequence was made!) and budgets (they were really impressed by how Bond went around the world in the movie, most notably when he rides in Guatemala). So, yeah, I imprinted on Bond at the silliest time possible, on the one movie in the series that is widely regarded as the most outlandish, perhaps even the silliest in a series of movies not always known for their seriousness. I was a science-fiction fan even back then, so that Bond was only a step removed from Star Wars (which also played on TV a lot in the early 1980s). All of which to say that even if I can reasonably agree that Moonraker is a film with glaring problems, you will never—ever—manage to talk me away from an irrational fondness for that film. Third and perhaps worst outing for Moore as Bond, Moonraker shows the extent of the Star Wars craze of the late seventies as Bond goes through the motions of the usual formula, only to spend the last act of the film in orbit, all the way to a fancy space laser battle between American Marines and evil henchmen. No Bond movies ever went that crazy nor as silly than the infamous Venice sequence in which even a pigeon does a double-take. But that was the nature of the Moore years, and it’s rather unfair to start picking at the film’s numerous logical impossibilities when the point is having Bond escape death every ten minutes and showing off a special effects budget clearly much increased over previous films. It’s a rollercoaster ride across the globe, as the action moves from one continent to another and from one set-piece to the next. It doesn’t always work: “California” looks a lot like France (hilariously acknowledged by the film itself), and the special effects work is very uneven, especially during action scenes where impressive stunt-work is intercut against rear-projection shots of the main actors. The character of Jaws is reduced to an annoying running gag, Bond’s serial conquests are exasperating (especially how it callously leads to a nightmarish death that feels jarringly out-of-place with the silliness surrounding it) and the quips are lame. Still, I really like Michael Lonsdale as the villain, Lois Chiles is not bad as an agent who’s at least supposed to be Bond’s equal (as usual, the film inevitably falters on true equality, although at least it’s better than the abysmal Connery years) and—this is the crucial part—there is a space laser battle around an orbital evil lair. I won’t argue that Moonraker is at the extreme silliness spectrum of the Bond series, nor will I renege on my outright admiration for the more serious entries such as On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Casino Royale or Skyfall. But I still like Moonraker a lot as a middle-aged adult even if I can see the flaws that completely escaped me as a kid.

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