Saturday, March 16, 2013

"50 Years of Bond" Retrospective - #11: Moonraker

If you’ve seen my reviews for Thunderball and Diamonds Are Forever, you know I’m quite critical of follow ups to great films. Moonraker kinda falls into that same pit, but I enjoy it more than those other two. It was made at a time when Sci-Fi was all the rage, none the least of which was Star Wars, which eclipsed The Spy Who Loved Me in popularity. That idea is pretty outlandish, and I suppose the goofy charm of Roger Moore is starting to wear a little thin, but if you can get past its gimmicks, it is fairly enjoyable.

Bond, as always, is called in to engage in a mission. A space shuttle called the Moonraker has gone missing, and Bond looks around Venice, Rio De Jeneiro, and even the Amazonian forests looking for clues, aided along the way by an agent sent by the CIA to find the criminal who stole the shuttle, Hugo Drax.  His plan is to, you guessed it, take over the world. He plans to create a civilization in… Space, and destroy the… population on… earth? What? Isn’t this the guy’s plan from the last movie all over again?

Therein lies my first problem with Monraker, in that, it’s doing The Spy Who Loved Me all over again. Many of the same beats, same pacing, same ideas, and same structure are replicated throughout. Only this time, it’s not as enjoyable as that last film. I know you wanted to give the audience more of what they wanted, but you ought to try a continuation. Not a rehash. Although it is nice to see Jaws back in this film. They could have gone really monotonous in his case, but they give him some fresh and really funny material, even if his death fake-outs were way over abused.

Roger Moore is fine I guess. He’s got the acting chops and action skills to sell the character, but like Connery, there’s only so long he’ll be able to keep doing the same routine and still get the charm across. The Bond girl is okay, and the villain, while not necessarily bad, is no way to follow up the baddies of the last movie. At least I could enjoy the action scenes, the gadgets, and the effects. Those are all incredibly well made, and a lot of them still hold up. Others, not so much.

In the case of the music, it too doesn’t hold a candle to the music heard in The Spy Who Loved Me. The song by Shirley Bassey, while not the best, is still a good song. It’s what I think the title theme of Diamonds Are Forever should have been. On the other hand, I think the orchestral score is terrible. Much like the last film, it uses music from other movies for some quick sound gags. The reason the brief nod to Lawrence of Arabia worked in The Spy Who Loved Me was because it was so out of nowhere, and it provided a quick chuckle. Here, that feels incredibly forced. Maybe playing Close Encounters of the Third Kind and The Magnificent Seven sounded funny in concept, but in execution, it’s too distracting.

Moonraker, while not a disappointment, just wasn’t up to par with its predecessors. While it still made a profit, its budget was over twice as much as the last film, so it wasn’t that big a success. For many, it was just too much of a departure. The science fiction mood was just too out there. For many, it was also a signature hint to what was going to come: The downfall of Roger Moore.

***1/2 / *****

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