Thursday, June 18, 2015

Moonraker (1979) | Bond

Actors and Allies



Roger Moore is doing a fine job as Bond (or at least as his version of Bond). Connery didn't really settle into the role until his fourth film, Thunderball, and would never be that comfortable with it again. Moonraker is Moore's fourth and he's felt good in the role from the beginning.

I don't always give him credit for being as active as he is. He has a reputation for just joking and smooching his way through missions, but Moore's actually very good at the physical stuff whether he's being choked by Jaws or recovering from a bad spin in the spaceflight simulator. Even in a movie as silly as Moonraker, Moore is doing great work.

My only problem with Bond in this story is a script problem and even then it's not really Bond's issue. When he's given the assignment of figuring out what happened to the space shuttle, he has no clues whatsoever. He decides to begin his investigation not at the crash site or even talking to the people who inspected it, but at the facility where the shuttle was made? Why? What logical reason is there for starting there? Of course his "instincts" prove correct, but there's no believable rationale for his trip to visit Hugo Drax. What happens when Bond gets there is a subject for the Villains post, but it really irritates me that the movie kickstarts the investigation in such a horrible, obvious way.

Once Bond knows that he's on the right trail though, his detective work isn't half bad. Drax makes it easy for Bond to know who did it, but Bond has to work pretty hard to stop the scheme and that's fun to watch.

M seems unnecessarily irritated at Bond when the movie opens, but maybe he's just stressed about the missing shuttle. When Bond shows up in M's office, the boss is highly impatient and chastises Bond even though Bond was returning from another mission when he got the call to come in. I suppose though that there have been a lot of times when Bond's taken his time coming back. We don't really know how long it's been since the teaser sequence, so maybe M has reason to be cranky. How many times have we seen M check in with Bond at the end of a mission only to be embarrassed by catching Bond in a compromising position.

That's what happened at the end of The Spy Who Loved Me, which might explain the souring of Bond's relationship with the Minister of Defense. In Spy, Bond calls him "Freddie" and the Minister seems to truly value Bond's skills. In Moonraker, the minister dismissively refers to Bond as "your man" when he's talking to M. That's after a huge embarrassment that he thinks is Bond's fault, but it's still a long way down from the relationship they appeared to enjoy in Spy. I'm wondering if catching Bond in bed with Major Amasova in front of General Gogol had something to do with that.

Speaking of Gogol, he also shows up briefly in Moonraker. It's almost a cameo appearance where he appears just long enough to deny that the Soviets had anything to do with Drax's satellite, but it's an important role. Of course the US and Britain would wonder if that mysterious, hidden satellite was Russian. And they wouldn't have much reason to believe Soviet denials about it, except that it's Gogol. Viewers trust him because we saw him being so chill in Spy, so we believe that the US and Britain trust him too.

Back to Bond's bosses though. They have reason to be ticked at him, but M does show some conspiratorial camaraderie with Bond after they're both chewed out by the MoD. Instead of following the MoD's suggestion about taking Bond off the case, M gives Bond even more freedom by letting him have a two week leave of absence to keep after Drax. That's the third time something like that's happened (On Her Majesty's Secret Service and The Man with the Golden Gun being the other two), but I always like how it reminds me of the wonderful relationship between Bond and M in the books.

This is also the third time that Bond hasn't flirted with Moneypenny. There was a little of it in The Man with the Golden Gun, but their relationship is purely professional (though friendly) in Live and Let Die, The Spy Who Loved Me, and Moonraker. I don't remember how it goes for the rest of the Moore films, so I'm curious to see if we're done with that. If so, it may suggest not very nice things. Lois Maxwell was exactly eight months older than Roger Moore. Was she considered too old for him to flirt with? Lois Chiles (Holly Goodhead) was 20 years younger than Bond, but that's okay? I don't mean to sound surprised. This is an old, old story in Hollywood and Bond movies were never known for their awesome treatment of women. But I also need to be careful about getting too upset, because for all I know, we'll see Bond and Moneypenny affectionately teasing each other again in For Your Eyes Only. I'm expressing some preemptive indignation and that's not really fair.

Best Quip



"He had to fly," after blowing Drax out an airlock.

That's Bond's best quip. Top honors actually go to Q though for "I think he's attempting reentry, sir."

Worst Quip



"Play it again, Sam," after dropping Chang into a piano.

Gadgets



There are a bunch of cool ones in Moonraker. M's apparently got a mirror that turns into a briefing monitor in his office. I bet he hates it and never uses it.

The big, personal gadget of the movie is the wrist dartgun. It has blue-tipped armor piercing darts and red-tipped cyanide darts. Either of which would've been great against Jaws or that anaconda if Bond had remembered to use them. That's keeping this one out of the Top Ten for me. I hate weapons and powers that only get used when it's favorable for the plot and don't exist the rest of the time (see: The Force in Star Wars: The Clone Wars).

A similar case is Bond's watch with a built-in explosive and detonator. I can't decide if I like or hate the way he pulls that out of his butt. It's not like the wrist gun, because I don't know of an earlier instance where it would have come in handy, but it does seem very convenient for him to suddenly have it. Then again, why wouldn't he have something like that? I don't necessarily need it to have it explained.

Q's safe-cracking technology has improved since You Only Live Twice. I like the x-ray device in a cigarette case. I question the need for "007" monogrammed on his microfilm camera though. Seems a little ostentatious, but then again, Bond is world-famous and I bet it helps him hook up in bars.

The two major gadgets are both watercraft, but they couldn't be more different. First, there's the totally ridiculous motorboat/hovercraft gondola. The motorboat part is actually kind of cool, but the hovercraft is bonkers. It's there as a joke and nothing more. I know a lot of people like that kind of thing about Moore's Bond, but it's too excessive for me.

The other boat though is amazing. It's a Glastron CV23HT outfitted with mines, a torpedo, and roof that converts into a hang glider. All of that stuff is cool, but not as cool as the look of the boat itself. That chase sequence on the Amazon River is my favorite part of the whole movie.

Top Ten Gadgets

1. Lotus Esprit (The Spy Who Loved Me)
2. Aston Martin DB V (Goldfinger and Thunderball)
3. Jet pack (Thunderball)
4. Glastron CV23HT (Moonraker)
5. Little Nellie (You Only Live Twice)
6. Rocket cigarettes (You Only Live Twice)
7. Ski pole rocket (The Spy Who Loved Me)
8. Magnetic buzzsaw watch (Live and Let Die)
9. Attaché case (From Russia with Love)
10. Propeller SCUBA tank with built-in spearguns (Thunderball)

Bond's Best Outfit



I continue to be surprised by how much I like Bond's '70s fashions. I especially dig this all-black outfit, even with its giant-size collar. Very dangerous and romantic. Bond actually wears it twice in the movie. I would too.

Bond's Worst Outfit



The yellow space jumpsuit is bad enough, but what the heck's going on with that "helmet"? Goodhead makes both work, but as long as we're ripping off Star Wars, Bond should trade his in for a black vest and a blaster.
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