James Bond is assigned to investigate the mid-air hijack
of an American space shuttle. With help from the beautiful
CIA agent Dr Holly Goodhead, 007 discovers that the maniac
millionaire Hugo Drax plans to poison all of humanity from
outer space and repopulate the Earth with only the most perfectly
bred human beings...
movie is often singled out for criticism for being too outlandish,
as though the idea of 007 going into space is just too much
to believe even by Bond film standards. In fact, it's more
of a small step than a giant leap for the Bond franchise,
which had been heading in this direction with a degree of
inevitability for years. The very first Bond movie, Dr.
No, tied in with the American space programme. In You
Only Live Twice, 007 donned a spacesuit, although he didn't
actually make it as far as the command module. Then Diamonds
Are Forever featured the launch of a deadly satellite.
GoldenEye and Die Another Day would subsequently
involve similar orbital weapons.
there are good reasons for disliking Moonraker, but
its outer-space setting is not one of them. Visual effects
supervisor Derek Meddings pulls out all the stops to create
illusions that stood up well against the Star Wars
and Star Trek movies of the time and still stand up
to the best computer-generated imagery of today. As the "making
of" documentary reveals, Meddings devised some elegantly simple
solutions for achieving convincing effects, such as pouring
salt from a model shuttle to simulate the craft's vapour trail.
He also took more painstaking measures to superimpose models
over space backgrounds without resorting to the more expensive
matte techniques (though to be honest, the strategic absence
of stars is noticeable in places).
is perhaps most incredible about this film is that the director
(Lewis Gilbert) and co-writer (Christopher Wood) of such a
finely honed and sophisticated movie as The Spy Who Loved
Me could have created a follow-up that is so uneven in
style and tone. Elements that worked in moderation in the
previous movie are blown out of all proportion here. For instance,
in Spy Richard Kiel's Jaws cut a terrifying figure
who also exhibited brief flashes of comic potential. However,
in Moonraker he becomes a constant figure of fun who,
in between falling onto a circus tent, crashing into a cable-car
control room, plummeting over the edge of a waterfall and
falling unconvincingly in love - each time pulling a funny
face - provides all-too-brief moments of threat. And while
a boozing tourist's double take at Bond's latest amazing vehicle
is funny, a pigeon's double take is not.
couldn't Wood have thought up a new motive for his villain
this time around? Whereas Stromberg wanted to destroy the
supposedly decadent human race and create a brave new world
in the hostile environment of the sea, Drax (Michael Lonsdale)
has the radically different idea of destroying humankind and
creating a brave new world in the hostile environment of space.
film does offer some magic moments and more than its fair
share of classic lines, including most of Lonsdale's deliciously
deadpan delivery as Drax. Take, for example, "Look after Mr
Bond. See that some harm comes to him." Or: "Mr Bond, you
defy all my attempts to plan an amusing death for you." Not
forgetting: "James Bond. You appear with the tedious inevitability
of an unloved season." And the space-bound final half-hour
is simply stunning.
and the name of his shuttle fleet are the only story elements
that are retained from Ian Fleming's original novel. As with
The Spy Who Loved Me, Wood novelised
his screenplay most effectively, offsetting the plot's more
outlandish elements with moments of realism such as 007's
terror at making the journey into space. Unfortunately, owing
to the aforementioned Fleming elements, which (presumably
under pressure from his publishers) Wood retained in his novelisation,
the book cannot truly inhabit the same literary canon as Fleming's.
However, all you need to do is imagine a simple change of
name for the villain and his shuttles (Starseeker perhaps)
and that problem is solved.
from the usual pair of documentaries, disc 2 also includes
007 in Rio, an original 1979 production featurette;
another of Ken Adam's Production Films; test footage
for the skydiving sequence; and storyboards for that sequence
as well as for the cable-car battle.
first audio commentary, featuring Gilbert, Wood and executive
producer Michael G Wilson, isn't particularly in-depth or
incisive. Their observations tend to be along the lines of,
"Oh, that was good, wasn't it?" "What was?" "Oh, we've missed
it now," and, "Roger looks good in this one." That last comment
comes despite Roger Moore's age beginning to show, as his
liver spots are exposed to the merciless clarity of DVD. The
new second commentary, provided by the man himself, the very
witty Sir Roger, makes for rather better listening.
isn't exactly out of this world, but it's still worth making