James Bond

Starring: Roger Moore
16203DVD Z1
Certificate: PG
Available Now

Assigned to investigate the mid-air hijacking of an American space shuttle, James Bond uncovers an insane plan to wipe out all human life on earth...

This film is often criticised for being too outlandish, as if the idea of James Bond going into space were just too much to believe. Actually, it's more of a small step than a giant leap for the Bond franchise, which had been heading in that direction with a degree of inevitability. The very first Bond movie, Dr. No, tied in the American space programme. In You Only Live Twice, 007 donned a spacesuit, although he didn't make it as far as the command module. Then Diamonds are Forever featured the launch of a deadly satellite.

Certainly 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 stand up well against 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 more expensive matte techniques (though to be frank, the strategic absence of stars is apparent in places).

What 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. In Moonraker, however, he becomes a figure of fun who, in between falling onto circus tents and falling unconvincingly in love, provides all-too-brief moments of danger. While a boozing tourist's double take at Bond's latest amazing vehicle is funny, the double take of a pigeon is not. And couldn't Wood have thought up a new motive for his villain this time around? Whereas Stromberg wished to destroy humankind and create a brave new world under the sea, Drax (Michael Lonsdale) has the radically different idea of destroying humankind and creating a brave new world - in space. The 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. Unfortunately, there's usually something lurking just a scene or two away to make you cringe.

Rather surprisingly, this DVD is relatively low on extra features. Aside from the usual pair of documentaries, a stills gallery, and an audio commentary featuring Gilbert, Wood and executive producer Michael G Wilson (making in-depth observations along the lines of "Oh, that was good, wasn't it?" "What was?" "Oh, we've missed it now"), there is only one theatrical trailer. What, no TV or radio spots? I guess we've just been spoiled rotten by the previous Bond releases!

Not exactly "out of this world".

Richard McGinlay