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movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Moonraker

Starring: Roger Moore, Lois Chiles
Director: Lewis Gilbert
Rated: PG
RunTime: 136 Minutes
Release Date: June 1979
Genres: 007, Action, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Suspense

*Also starring: Michael Lonsdale, Richard Kiel, Corinne Clery, Bernard Lee, Desmond Llewelyn, Lois Maxwell

Review by Ophthodoc
3½ stars out of 4

It's sort of a mixed bag: Venice, outer space, Rio de Janeiro, nerve gas, California.....but hold on a minute, we're talking about James Bond, so anything's possible, right? Well, maybe....the eleventh installment in the highly successful James Bond series, and the fourth of seven films for Bond actor Roger Moore, Moonraker seeks to do just that: The Impossible. While staunch Connery fans are incensed by the film, and while it is indeed criticized for taking Bond where no Bond should go (outer space), Moonraker offers just what the Bond franchise is all about: Action, beautiful women, sex, gadgets, intrigue, and most importantly, forgetting about reality and having fun. It's certainly one of the more visually appealing and inventive Bond films of the series, and one of my overall favorites of all time.

Moonraker could be considered more of an "afterthought" film. After the highly successful 1977 film, "The Spy Who Loved Me," Producer Albert "Cubby" Broccoli chose to delay production of his next Bond flick, "For Your Eyes Only", to capitalize on the success "Star Wars." With all its potential for gadgetry and technology in Space, the making of Moonraker (and the inevitable big take at the box office)only seemed obvious. After being passed up for the role of Anya Amassova in Spy, rising supermodel and actor Lois Chiles was selected for the role of Bond Girl Holly Goodhead. Her cool and smart portrayal of the most outrageously-named Bond girl of all time is one of the film's greatest assets. Polished French actor Michael Lonsdale was selected to play Drax, Emily Bolton is cast as Rio agent Manuela, and the usual cast of Bond regulars round out the ensemble (Lois Maxwell as Miss Moneypenney, Bernard Lee in his final role as "M", and Desmond Llewellyn as ever popular "Q".)! Not to be forgotten, Jaws (Richard Keil) makes a return visit to do some more floor mopping with Roger Moore.

Moonraker is a stark departure from all of the Bond films which preceded it. Highlights of the film include a confortable Moore as James Bond (it is widely accepted he "grew into" the role after Man With the Golden Gun), exhaustive use of exotic locales, and of course, the beautiful musical score by John Barry, and title song dramatically crooned by series veteran Shirley Bassey (she also sang the theme songs to 1971's Diamonds are Forever and 1963's Goldfinger). The opening stunt sequence, in which Bond is pushed out of an airplane sans parachute, is perhaps the best of the series to date. Other action highlights include Bond's swordfight with menace Chang, his near death experience in the Centrifuge Trainer at Drax's astronaut training center, and the use of his dart gun, which is excited by nerve impulses from the wrist muscles (it saves his life twice in the movie - and it pierced the rear end of a horse in a painting in M's office. "No thank you, 007!")

The only conceivable problem I have with Moonraker is its striking plot similarity to Spy Who Loved Me. In Spy, villian Stromberg (Curt Jurgens) plots to destroy Moscow and New York with atomic bombs, thus allowing global downfall and mass chaos to ensue, creating "a new a beautiful world beneath the sea." Are we sure this guy isn't related to Drax? In Moonraker, Drax seeks to exterminate the human race and to create a "new super race" on an orbiting space station. While the scheme in Moonraker is much more fanciful, it is nonetheless similar in intent. Also similar to Spy is Bond's adversarial working relationship with the leading Bond Girl, and use of character actor Jaws, who disappointingly, but perhaps appropriately, softens at the end of the movie and helps Bond and Dr. Goodhead foil the evil plans of Hugo Drax.

While much of the science fiction element of Moonraker now looks outdated and a bit hokey, it only occupies the last thirty minutes of the film (in fact, the best parts are Bond and Goodhead's "earthly" adventures in the Amazon, Venice, and California). Overall, Moonraker runs a little long at two hours, six minutes, but it hardly comes close to "On Her Majesty's Secret Service", which runs over two and a half long hours. Although at the time of this writing Moonraker is currently out of production, the Special 007 Edition Widescreen version is still available at certain sites online, and offers audio commentary, a documentary, and the usual host of "extra features."

Moonraker is indeed great escapist fun. Its critics say it's far-fetched.....well, it is! But it's Bond, so that's all okay. Whatever your opinion, Moonraker was one of the franchise's biggest hits: Up to the release of Goldeneye, Moonraker took more in ticket sales than any other Bond film (just over $203 million). So, next time you are in the mood for a little 007 action, pop in Moonraker, make some popcorn, and prepare for a classic 007 adventure.

Drax (to Bond, as Bond 'misses' his fowl shot): "You missed, Mister Bond"

Bond (to Drax, as his would-be henchman falls from a remote tree): "Did I? As you said, such good sport."

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