WHO IS JAMES BOND?  James Bond is a world-famous super-spy.  Everyone recognizes him — hey, there goes James Bond, super-spy!  I sure hope he’s not investigating me!  Why is James Bond world-famous?  Why would a super-spy — a secret agent — seek to publicize his existence?  The answer, here, is obvious — to better impress women.  In the past, Bond, a pathological masher, has spent too much time wining and dining women, and let’s face it, he’s not getting younger — there are still plenty of beautiful women on the planet and if you want to have sex with all of them, you can’t hide your light under a bushel, you’ve got to advertise.  My name is Bond, James Bond — we make sexytime now, yes?

Up ’til now, James Bond has looked great, until he went in for the kiss.  When he went in for the kiss, he got this horrible crinkly skin around his neck.  He’s still the same guy, except now when he does anything with his head (like look up or down or from side to side) it’s not just his neck — his entire face is covered with the same crinkly skin.

WHAT DOES THE BAD GUY WANT?  Hugo Drax is a a multibillionaire with an aerospace industry.  He wants to destroy all humanity and create a super-race in space.  He has built a space station to house his super-race people, and has developed a potent nerve gas to launch into Earth’s atmosphere, killing everyone.

WHAT DOES JAMES BOND ACTUALLY DO TO SAVE THE WORLD?  Screw Sherlock Holmes — James Bond is undeniably the world’s greatest detective.  Sherlock Holmes has to assemble a series of abstruse clues and somehow deduce the truth that lies behind them — James Bond just kind of wanders around exotic locations, and every time he walks into a room, it magically contains the exact clue he needs to take him to the next location!  And you know what?  Bond doesn’t even know what he’s looking for!  That’s how great a detective he is!  He doesn’t even need to look for clues, they just come running up to him like cuddly puppies!  Or, to be fair, there are two kinds of rooms in Moonraker; rooms that contain clues and rooms that contain assassins.  Sometimes both.

An American space-shuttle has gone missing.  Bond is sent to track down what happened to it.  No one says anything, anywhere, about a big space-station or a plan to create a master-race in space or a scheme to kill all humanity — Bond just kind of stumbles along, following clue after clue, until Drax finally just explains the whole plan to him.

Get a load of this piece of detective work: As I say, a shuttle has gone missing (hijacked by, who else, a couple of guys in leather jackets).  It’s manufactured by Hugo Drax.  Bond goes to investigate Drax.  Why?  Who knows?  Bond is the world’s greatest detective; anywhere he chooses to start will inevitably be the correct place to start. 

He walks into a room.  Who’s room?  Who knows?  It’s a room, Bond’s in it, it’s bound to contain a clue of some sort. 

There’s a clock.  He opens the clock-face.  The clock rises up off its pedestel — there’s a concealed safe!  Aha!  A clue!  Bond opens the safe — there are blueprints inside!  Another clue!  He takes photographs of the blueprints (a comparitive rarity in Bond movies — actual spy-work).  The photgraphs reveal a diagram with some hexagons in it — hexagons!  A clue!  I bet it has something to do with space travel — everyone knows that space stuff is all about hexagons. 

He travels to Venice.  He walks into a glass-blowing factory.  A couple of guys are blowing glass cylinders.  Bond inspects one — it’s a hexagon!  Now Bond is not a master of geometry, so just to make sure he’s not on some crazy wild goose chase, he takes his photograph of the blueprint-diagram out of his pocket and holds it up next to the glass cylinder — yep!  Six sides — that’s a hexagon!  Another clue!  This Drax fellow must be up to no good, he’s working with hexagons!  In glass!  What devious glass-hexagon scheme must he be involved in? 

And it just goes on like that.  Bond has Q analyze a liquid in a tube he finds in Venice — it’s a nerve gas — a clue!  The nerve gas is derived from a rare, deadly species of orchid — another clue!  The rare, deadly species of orchid can only be found in a small area of central South America — another clue!  I bet if we go to that remote area of central South America, we will inevitably find The Villain’s secret hideout, which will contain his gigantic underground space center!

I would like to start Moonraker over again, but put Bond in a different room at the beginning — maybe the lobby of the Empire State Building.  And he could look at the list of tenants in the lobby — a clue! and discover that one of the tenant’s names is Xard — “Drax” backwards — another clue!  And so forth, see if perhaps every room in every city in every country in the world contains clues as to Drax’s evil scheme to eradicate humanity.

WOMEN?  Lois Chiles plays Dr. Holly Goodhead.  Burdened with a name like that, one might forgive the producers for not finding the best actress for the part.  But I am pleased to say that Lois Chiles, while not exactly the next Katherine Hepburn, manages to play her role with great wit and dignity, something I would not have thought possible in this movie, and crushes Barbara Bach like a grape.

She’s also easily as good a detective as Bond is.  When they’re inside Drax’s enormous underground space center, Bond says “Which way?”  And Goodhead looks around, shrugs, and says “How ’bout this way?”  And off they go, stumbling across a rocket ship that just happens to be taking off at that moment.

HOW COOL IS THE BAD GUY?  I doubt anyone could be actually cool in this movie.  Hugo Drax has a French estate that he’s transferred to Los Angeles, which is pretty cool, but otherwise all his attempts at cool come to naught.  He’s got a standard-issue karate-master hit man, who walks around his French country estate dressed in his karate outfit, just in case you missed that he’s a karate guy — and you know how the karate guy tries to kill Bond?  That’s right — in a centerfuge!  Ha!  That will show you not to mess with Karate Guy!  He’s got Jaws from The Spy Who Loved Me, who becomes the Wiley Coyote of Bond Second Villains — except with worse comic timing.  He’s got a gigantic Ken Adam-designed space station, which looks great until it’s starts getting blown up, and then it starts looking suspiciously like a plastic model dangling on a string.  He’s got the balls to quote Oscar Wilde, Jean Renoir and 2001 in this crappiest of entertainments, which I guess gives him a kind of coolness.  He doesn’t have a shark tank, but he does have an enormous-rubber-snake tank.  But he’s hamstrung by his role as Bond Villain.  Bond has shown up at my estate — as a Bond Villain, it is now my duty to try to kill him.  Bond has now made it all the way to my secret space center — in spite of the fact that I’ve been trying to kill him for the past 90 minutes, I it is now incumbent upon me, in my role as Bond Villain, to graciously explain my evil scheme to him.  Which is not cool at all.

SCIENCE TIDBIT: When you’re in zero gravity, you do everything exactly as you would in regular gravity — you just do it slower.

NOTES: Before the crackerjack sky-diving stunt sequence at the beginning of the movie, Bond is making out with a woman in an airplane.  Suddenly, she pulls a gun on him!  Oh noes!  And then the pilot comes out of the cockpit, and the cinephile is baffled to see that Rupert Pupkin has been flying the plane.  Which cannot be a good sign.

Moneypenny no longer flirts with Bond.  Because, let’s face it — she’s old.

Q is back to the stupid goddamn “standard issue” bullshit again.  I want to punch him when he pulls that crap.

When Bond goes to Venice (insert “Moore of Venice” joke here) there’s an incompehensibly stupid gondola chase, ending with Bond’s gondola transforming into a hovercraft, and a pigeon doing a double-take.  This is, I think, supposed to signify that the filmmakers know that the movie they’re making is incredibly stupid.  But one watches sequences like this and wonders why Hollywood bothered making Austin Powers — Bond is already quite capable of ruining his own reputation, thank you.

There are references to Woody Allen, Close Encounters, and Clint Eastwood.  Why not the Village People, Pet Rocks or Looking for Mr. Goodbar?  The Eastwood reference is particularly annoying as it’s accompanied by the theme to The Magnificent Seven — apparently there are no easily-identifiable music themes associated with Clint Eastwood’s westerns.  Here, Moore stops recalling Sean Connery and starts anticipating Leslie Nielsen — hey, you know what would be funny?  James Bond dressed as Clint Eastwood!

Moonraker proves, if proof were ever needed, that the James Bond formula is not as easy to replicate as it appears to be.  There is a delicate balancing act going on in each one of these movies — he must be dissolute yet motivated, oversexed but not a pervert, a killer but not a brutal killer, so forth.  He must be aware that he exists in an absurd, colorful, essentially comic universe, but he must carry that knowledge with coolness and wry dignity.  The string that has always held Bond in place was taut to begin with, was stretched too far in The Man With the Golden Gun, and here snaps with an unattractive plonnggg!  Bond may be the most supernaturally directed detective in history, but Moonraker’s sense of direction is nonexistent.

Moonraker was the first Bond movie I ever saw in a theater.  I’d been hearing about Bond for ten years up to that point and finally had to see what my older brothers were always talking about.  Suffice to say, I would not venture to see another one until Goldeneye.


39 Responses to “Moonraker”
  1. greyaenigma says:

    Buried Alive

    It just occurred to me that I probably have only a few days to go before I’ll need to see the new Casino Royale.

    He wants to destroy all humanity and create a super-race in space.


    The photgraphs reveal a diagram with some hexagons in it — hexagons! A clue!

    It must be bees! Pity at this point Bond doesn’t go off to investigate the Invasion of the Bee Girls. Or perhaps Drax’s plan was more long range and explains the modern bee deaths.

    Moonraker proves, if proof were ever needed, that the James Bond formula is not as easy to replicate as it appears to be.

    It’s still easy, they just forgot to pick up the shark tank at the store. Of course, I also tended to get this one confused with… You Only Live Twice with with all the stuff going on in outer space.


    Oh, and I was thinking of posting this for Goldfinger, but apparently it’s citing (at least) two different movies.

    • Todd says:

      Re: Buried Alive

      It must be bees!

      If Bond deduces that Drax is planning a fiendish plot involving bees, it’s probably true.

      Oh. My. God.

      • greyaenigma says:

        Sweet Zombie Beesus

        There was a bad accident down the street from me yesterday, where a truck rollover caused a traffic backup over several miles.

        Its cargo?


        • Todd says:

          Re: Sweet Zombie Beesus

          See? We’re better detectives than James Bond! And we didn’t even have to get dressed up!

          • greyaenigma says:

            AEnigma. Grey Aenigma.

            Time to move on to Super Spy Phase II: The Ladies.

            • Todd says:

              Re: AEnigma. Grey Aenigma.

              Hmmm…”hexagon” contains the letters “e-x” — “Sex” also contains the letters “e-x.” There must be a connection! I must now go and have sex with every beautiful woman on the planet until I learn the truth.

              • greyaenigma says:

                Re: AEnigma. Grey Aenigma.

                Why do you think I’ve going to Mexico?

                I just have to improve my Spanish so that I can tell which names are lewd puns.

            • black13 says:

              Re: AEnigma. Grey Aenigma.

              Let me take care of that, while you go on to stumble over more bee clues.

              Look! The Bee Gees!

  2. I have zero desire to watch a Roger Moore Bond flick, but I love reading you blog about them.

    It’s fun to watch you take these movies apart and discuss how they work…and how they don’t work.

    So just wanted to say thanks, again.

    • rjwhite says:

      Oh, it’s fun just to watch them get lazier and lazier and lazier. Dear god, I saw so many of these when I was a kid. As a kid, the Moore ones were entertaining, the Connery ones boring… it’s interesting how that flipped as I got older.

      • curt_holman says:

        When I was young I saw Moonraker several times in a theater and LOVED it. But I saw 1941 several times at the theater and loved it, too, so my younger self’s taste is suspect.

        I adore the pre-opening-credits skydiving scene, even though, when you see Richard Kiel’s sky-diving double, he’s grinning with pearly white teeth that don’t match Jaws’ dental work.

        On a Season 6 episode of ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer,’ a trio of geek-villains (nicknamed the “Nerds of Doom” by fans) argued over whether Moonraker sucks, and the pigeon reaction shot was cited as evidence in favor.

    • black13 says:

      Todd’s analyses of the Moore Bonds are so much more fun than the movies themselves.

  3. rjwhite says:

    It used to bug the heck out of me watching this with my dad as a kid- why, why, why have the code be the theme to Close Encounters?

    What kind of lousy security company just uses film scores for their clients’ high security keypad systems? What other villain hideouts and corporate labs around the world have John Williams themes for their codes? Do rival companies use Bernard Hermann? Jerry Goldsmith?

    • black13 says:

      I was young at the time, so I may be forgiven to find that Close Encounters gag funny.

      These days, I’d be outraged that it wouldn’t play the Bond theme instead.

  4. planettom says:

    It’s kind of startling when James Bond finds a glass-blowing factory right off St. Mark’s Square, since the main island of Venice hasn’t had glass-blowing for 700 years; it was relocated to the nearby island of Murano for fire-safety.

  5. craigjclark says:

    I actually caught the ending of this one on TV once. Struck me as fairly idiotic, so I was glad I hadn’t wasted my time with the first hour and 45 minutes.

    By the way, good catch on the “Moore of Venice” thing.

  6. ratmmjess says:

    Aw, Alan hated the Venice bit in the movie as much as anyone. More, even.

  7. dougo says:

    Why is James Bond world-famous? Why would a super-spy — a secret agent — seek to publicize his existence?

    In the James Bond role-playing game (which came out around the time of Octopussy), your character accrued fame points for doing various things in public (and for having a distinctive appearance). Fame points were bad, e.g. they made it harder to go undercover and stuff, so one of your goals was to avoid getting fame while completing your mission. I don’t know why I’m bringing this up, but that game mechanism stuck with me as being pretty innovative.

    • laminator_x says:

      I still have that game! The Fame Point dynamic made group play workable. A group of 4-6 “00” agents would be spotted constantly and could probably just beat-up the Guild of Calamitous Intent. This is not fun for very long.

      However, At the low-middle power level it plays like Ronin or a good Mission Imposable episode. A group of less recognizable characters with complimentary skills could work together as an effective covert espionage team . Nice.

      The game also let you ratchet play to taste along the gritty-silly spectrum by how many “Hero Points” the players are given to do things like magically find clues and dodge bullets. I think somewhere between MI and Le Femme Nikita is the sweet spot.

  8. Out of topic here, but I thought you would like to know that the 2006 Oscar Short Film Collection, which includes Live Action winner “West Bank Story”, is now available.

  9. teamwak says:

    Fantastic stuff!

    Even as a kid I knew this movie was a bit OTT. I hadnt realised by contrived the plat was until you spelled it out. Wow, thats some lame detective work!

    But I hated the ending.
    SCIENCE TIDBIT: When you’re in zero gravity, you do everything exactly as you would in regular gravity — you just do it slower.

    What the hell was going on with laser battles? It was all far too silly by then. But at least Jaws was able to prove that true love saves the day! Bloody Hell!

    • Todd says:

      What the hell was going on with laser battles?

      It’s quite simple — the US has platoons of Space Marines ready to blast off into space at a moment’s notice to do battle with crazed billionaire scientists. If your country had a lick of sense, it would too.

  10. There are references to Woody Allen, Close Encounters, and Clint Eastwood. Why not the Village People, Pet Rocks or Looking for Mr. Goodbar?

    I can’t remember the Woody Allen reference…was it “You can’t shoot me! I have a very low threshold of death. My doctor says I can’t have bullets enter my body at any time.”???

    How about a Looking for Mr Goodbar ending in a Bond…they would never see that coming (except for all the spoiler fan posts…)

    ‘Tis a pity this was your first…this is really a Spy Who Loved Me sequel….

    • Todd says:

      The Woody Allen reference was after a bad guy gets thrown out a window in Venice and goes through a piano. Bond looks down at the dead guy and says “Play it again, Sam.” Ironically, Woody Allen also played James Bond (or his nephew, Jimmy, anyway) in the 1967 Casino Royale.

      • My quote comes from when Woody/Jimmy Bond is in the firing line…

        Incidentally, Woody made it on BBC1 today for the Bank Holiday afternoon movie….
        Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

  11. Anonymous says:

    If consistency is your only criteria, I would say Revolver, the finest collection of Beatle songs in their mature mode available.

  12. Anonymous says:


    Sorry for the delay, just been to Glastonbury festival! Damn mud!!!

    Anyway, I am pretty sure that the doc was Live Forever . It was a retrospective of the whole Britpop era. All the bands Oasis, Blur, Pulp ect have their say. Its great fun. Liam G is still a foul mouthed idiot 🙂

  13. Anonymous says:

    The funny thing about the Mind Games cover — which is somewhat lost on people looking at it on CD — is that the cutout of John is slightly larger on the back. In other words, as you turn the cover over he is walking away from Yoko. Clearly he couldn’t get away from her fast enough at that point.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Re: You Don’t Sound Like A True Fan Saying The Beatles Message Songs “Suck”!

    “All You Need is Love” has a great opening and a great chorus, but the verses are tuneless, pointless gobbledy-gook, and McCartney agrees with me on this.

    The Our World show was certainly a big event, in England, in its day, and I am consistently astounded by the Beatles’ ability to come up with deathless classics on a punishing schedule, but “All You Need is Love” is a song I consistently fast-forward past.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Re: itunes, CD’s and albums, oh my!

    As for They Might Be Giants, I’ve been a big fan of theirs since the beginning. Saw them at a small club during their first tour, but I stopped buying their stuff at “John Henry”. Something about the addition of a full band didn’t feel right to me.

    Curiously enough, I saw them for the first time on the John Henry tour and have loved just about everything they’ve done on either side of the two guys and a tape machine/full live band divide. I just wish they’d tour with a horn section again because that was awesome as hell.

  16. Anonymous says:

    hmmm… I wonder if his intial plan was to build the TIE Fighter himself and give it to you for Father’s Day. You know, a tie for Father’s Day?

    Ok….. I’m outta here………………………..