- Roger Moore as James Bond
- Lois Chiles as Holly Goodhead
- Michael Lonsdale as Hugo Drax
- Richard Kiel as Jaws
- Corinne Cléry as Corinne Dufour
- Bernard Lee as M
- Desmond Llewelyn as Q
- Geoffrey Keen as Frederick Gray
- Lois Maxwell as Moneypenny
Often referred to as one of the weaker entries into the Bond canon, Moonraker does have its appeal every now and then. But after the greatness that was The Spy Who Loved Me, Moonraker feels like a bit of a let down and just an attempt to cash in on the Star Wars phenomenon that was raging at the time of release. Saying that, every movie in the Bond series has something to praise in one way or another.
After surviving an aerial battle with old enemy Jaws, 007 arrives in London to receive his briefing from his superior M. In this adventure for James Bond, he is sent to uncover the theft of a space shuttle. Travelling to California, he investigates Hugo Drax, a suave industrialist with a passion for space whose corporation builds and owns the Moonraker space ship that was hijacked. What Bond uncovers is that Drax has a more dastardly plan than mere space travel. He plans to wipe out the world’s civilization with a deadly poison he has extracted from a rare orchid. After this and with human life gone, a specially picked group of people, who Drax dubs his master race will populate the Earth. With astronaut and CIA agent Holly Goodhead on hand in this mission, Bond must go from America to Venice, from Brazil to eventually the outer reaches of space in order to thwart the maniacal plot of Drax. Yet with Jaws once again on his tail, it won’t be easy for 007 to save the world from utter devastation.
As I mentioned earlier, Moonraker isn’t my favourite of the cavalcade of Bond flicks. Chief among the problems are the outlandish space angle that the movie has. Granted some of the space scenes are visually amazing, I just think the producers went a bit too far with the outrageous tone. As well, the plot just seems like a rehash of The Spy Who Loved Me, with only the settings being changed from underwater to outer space. Lewis Gilbert, to his credit, does his best to keep the action going, but too many examples of kookiness get in the way. Onto the positives of Moonraker and believe it or not, there are many good moments to mention. There is the kitsch appeal of Bond driving a motorized Gondola through the streets of Venice( keep an eye out for the double take pigeon). There is a very menacing scene in which Corinne, one of Drax’s workers who helps Bond find covert information, is chased through the morning woods by vicious Doberman’s to her eventual death. The set design is impeccable, from the house in which Drax resides to his stunning space station, every set is a marvel. I must admit that the space battle is quite thrilling with laser guns and gravity defying bodies, even if it is nothing more than just a riff on Star Wars. John Barry returns and gives Moonraker a beautiful score, with some chilling suspense pieces appearing that heighten a certain tension in the film. Shirley Bassey returns to sing the title song, and although it isn’t the best Bond song, Bassey performs admirably.
It may not be his best outing as 007, but Roger Moore nails the debonair wit and style of Bond with his mix of suave assurance and boyish charm. Lois Chiles, who is saddled with an underwritten role, does her best with the part of the suggestively named Holly Goodhead by giving her a feisty self-assurance and resistance to Bond’s seduction. I wouldn’t rank him among the best in the villains that 007 has encountered, but Michael Lonsdale has a cultured and ruthless quality that gives Hugo Drax a warped side that is good enough to give the character a presence. While he was menace personified as Jaws in the last film, Richard Kiel is unfortunately lumbered with the more comedic aspects of the character. This is largely distracting and the introduction of a love interest for him is just plain goofy in my eyes. Corinne Cléry is suitably winsome as the doomed worker who pays the price for betraying Drax for the affections of Bond. In what was his final performance as M before his death, Bernard Lee is arch and eye-rolling as Bond’s superior. It really is sad that Lee died as he made the role his own from the very beginning. Thank God he got an excellent send off and out of respect they didn’t feature the character in the next movie. Desmond Llewelyn has some witty moments as Q, while Geoffrey Keen is excellently exasperated by Bond’s methods as Minister of Defense Frederick Gray. Lois Maxwell is still as lovely and charming as ever in the part of loyal secretary Moneypenny.
All in all, Moonraker is a flawed Bond movie, but it does have a certain kitsch appeal in various moments and certainly stands out as one of the most outlandish movies featuring 007.