After the smash international success of THE SPY WHO LOVED ME, producer Albert R. Broccoli immediately began work on a follow up. Originally, the next Bond slated for production was FOR YOUR EYES ONLY, but the success of STAR WARS had changed the industry so much, that every studio in town was trying to jump on the band wagon. There was STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE, THE BLACK HOLE, ALIEN, BATTLESTAR GALACTICA on TV, etc.
In order to stay competitive, Broccoli decided to make his own sci-fi epic, by launching everyoneís favourite superspy into space!
PLOT: Bond is sent to France to investigate the disappearance of an experimental space shuttle- designed by billionaire, Hugo Drax. He eventually discovers that Drax plans on annihilating life on earth, and starting a new world order of genetic supermen.
REVIEW: I donít even know where to begin on this one. Obviously the success of STAR WARS could not be ignored, but I have no idea why Broccoli thought it was a good idea to take Bond into space! The very idea probably had Ian Fleming turn in his grave! Still, Broccoli probably figured that the space gimmick could bring in a few extra bucks- so they went full steam ahead.
Back in 1979, it was not easy to do cutting edge space effects, and to hire a company like ILM to do their effects would have meant giving up a massive chuck of the gross. Thus, the Bond production crew had to do all the work in house. This would prove to be a costly venture, with the finished film coming in at a $34 million budget ($20 million more than what the previous film cost, three time what it cost to make STAR WARS, and $4million more than what it cost to make the first STAR TREK film).
In order to save money, the decision was made to move the shoot to France, where they could catch a tax break. They also raised some cash by loading the film with as much product placement as possible. At one point, Bond is going down a mountain road on a gurney, and he goes past three separate billboards selling three separate products before finally sending the henchman he`s fighting through a fourth. It`s a really ludicrous scene, and even director Lewis Gilbert (in the dvd commentary) admits that it was a little much.
With so much money being put into the space footage, the rest of the film seems like it was practically an afterthought, so the lavish look of THE SPY WHO LOVED ME is gone. Rather, the first 2/3 of the film looks like a cheap TV movie, with the film only really dazzling once they get into space. It must be said- the special effects are really solid (for the era), and Derek Meddings received an academy award nomination for his work (but lost to ALIEN).
As it stands, MOONRAKER is easily the dumbest installment of the series. It really hasnít aged well, and for most Bond fans, it`s considered the worst of the series. While I agree that it`s not a strong entry, I think it`s a cut above some of the worst instalments due to the fact that despite its shortcomings, it`s still fairly fun in a ``I can`t believe this was actually made`` way. Granted, the film is pretty much THE SPY WHO LOVED ME set in space, minus the excitement. Still, it has it`s good points- mainly that the FX are good, and that Moore gives it his all.
In the previous film, Roger Moore had finally hit his stride, and he does a great job as Bond in this one too. It`s a testament to his likability in the role, that he actually manages to make the idea of Bond in space work. If Connery had been in this film it would have been even more of a train wreck than it already is. Good job Rog!
Lois Chiles has the dubious honour of playing the Bond girl with the most leeringly inappropriate name in screen history- Holly Goodhead (wink wink). I can`t believe this made it past the censors. Sadly, Chiles is pretty bland in the role, although she`s hot (naturally).
BOND MUSIC: John Barry is back, and produces one of his best Bond scores. Itís actually a much better score than the film deserves, and goes a long way towards redeeming the film somewhat. Shirley Bassey sings the theme song.
BODY COUNT: 14
NUMBER OF WOMEN BOND SLEEPS WITH: Bond sleeps with three women in this outing, including the gorgeous Corinne Clery, who sadly pays the ultimate price for her night of passion with Bond- meaning she gets devoured by a pack of hungry Doberman pinchers. Ouch.
BEST ONE- LINER: [Bond and Drax are shooting pheasants]
Hugo Drax: You missed, Mr. Bond.
[a sniper falls from a tree]
James Bond: Did I?
BEST DOUBLE ENTENDRE: This one actually goes to Q. At the end, Sir Frederick Gray of the PM`s office is trying to contact Bond in a space shuttle, where naturally he`s having sex with Goodhead (probably getting some of that too). Gray demands to know what Bond`s doing. Cue Q: ``I believe he`s attempting re-entry, sir. `` Cue M, with an exasperated ``double O-seven! ``
BEST GADGET: The laser guns used in the finale are pretty nifty. I also like his wristwatch/ gun that shoots poison pellets and steel darts.
RECEPTION: MOONRAKER was actually a smash hit, pulling in $70 million in the U.S, pushing its worldwide total to $211 million. Maybe it wasn`t such a bad idea to send Bond into space after all!
GRADE: 5.5/10- It`s a dumb film, but still somewhat entertaining.
Previous reviews: DR. NO, FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE , GOLDFINGER, THUNDERBALL, YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE, ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE, DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER , LIVE AND LET DIE, THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN, THE SPY WHO LOVED ME