If you want another reason to hate George Lucas, it’s that James Bond film producer Albert Broccoli decided to fast track the production of Moonraker ahead of For Your Eyes Only to capitalize on the proverbial Star Wars effect that was occurring through box offices worldwide. However in this one, written by Christopher Wood, who wrote the epic film Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins and directed by Lewis Gilbert (who had just done The Spy Who Loved Me), Roger Moore rides a shuttle into space and takes the dynamic of the film with it.
In this Bond film, Moore’s 4th and the franchise’s 11th, James tries to find out who is terrorizing the planet using a soon to be astronaut vehicle called the space shuttle and a space station to do it. So James gets a chance to test out the means of NASA, but not before going through the spacious locales of Rio de Janiero and France, eluding the harm and capture of Jaws (Richard Kiel, Billy Madison), who reprised his role from The Spy Who Loved Me due to popular demand. The villain in this film is Hugo Drax (Michael Lonsdale, Munich), who may be soft-spoken, but his plans to mass murder the population are far from rational.
After watching it again for this review, boy howdy is it a little bit cartoonish. It’s almost as if Broccoli wanted to bring the Star Wars and sci-fi crowds together with references to Close Encounters of the Third Kind and 2001, as if to say, “Hey! Look at us! We’re relevant in this genre too!” And Moore is dressed up as Clint Eastwood in the Leone spaghetti westerns, even as the film plays a half-hearted cover version of The Magnificent Seven.
Let’s not forget the final battles in space, shall we? With production values being kind of large, people we’re shown acting in slow motion or being raised and lowered with body harnesses and wires to simulate an environment of zero gravity. Ugh. And despite the ludicrous nature of a battle between Drax’ and US astronauts, the battle inside the space station (explosions in an oxygen atmosphere, go figure!) is sillier. The chase to the end of the film represented a triathlete’s final steps in a race, and when the film is finally over, you can urinate safely, knowing that it’s over.
A pretty good restoration job for this film. Moore’s Bond appearances are usually accompanied by a pretty soft picture, however it seems like a lot more detail has been flushed out on Moonraker, so that he doesn’t look quite as verile as he may have in the past.
Surround activity on the Dolby Digital track is solid, but on the DTS option it’s downright impressive. The gravity test lab that James is in helps illustrate that, and there’s a lot of floor rumbling activity involved near the end of the film. It’s a much better sounding film than I had expected.
As always, the commentary from the last edition of the film has been retained for this one, the parties of which are Gilbert, Wood, executive producer Michael Wilson and associate producer William Cartlidge. Why these guys were recorded together and still required an introduction by the Ian Fleming Foundation’s John Cork is beyond me, but what was disappointing about the track is that they say so much without saying much of anything. Sure, they can recall some of the details of the production, and there are some tongue in cheek joking around moments, but yeesh. The commentary with Moore provides the usual stipulation about it being a conversation rather than a commentary. He does have some decent recollections about specific scenes, along with some interesting trivia (Frank Sinatra apparently almost did the title song here!), and he remembers a lot about the cast and crew for the film too. He deadpans some jokes designe to poke fun at the Bond image, but it’s not that bad of a commentary, compared to some of the others I’ve heard him do.
Disc Two kicks off with the new material, also known as the “Declassified: MI6 Vault“. Starting things off is a look at the location scout footage that was shot via handheld camera by longtime Bond production designer Ken Adam. The ten minute piece includes his narration of some footage, and the score is played behind the non-spoken material, and there’s some footage of stunt rehearsals that were captured for the production as well. There’s also a look at the originally intended circus sequence with Jaws that didn’t make the final cut, along with some looks at the skydiving fight in the pre-credits sequence. Some of that material was done via storyboards but the rest was test footage, and all of this stuff is narrated by Wilson. A separate look at the cable car fight sequence with storyboards and rehearsal footage is pretty nice to see too.
“Bond ’79” features on set interviews with the cast and crew as they share their thoughts on the film and Bond’s image this particular go round, and the usual EPK-type thoughts on the story and the people they work for and with. “007 in Rio” is just that, with some of the same general interview footage in the last piece being used for this one, however this one is a little quieter and focuses on the film.
“Inside Moonraker” is the 40 minute making-of documentary on this disc that is the big holdover, but there’s not really too much new information here that wasn’t learned through the other supplements, or even the commentaries for that matter. You’ve got a bunch of production stories (a few of the stunts wound up being used in Octopussy), along with the decision to film almost entirely outside of the UK (for tax purposes). There’s some stunt scene breakdowns, along with new/recent interviews of the cast with some screen test footage. Like I said, there’s not too much here, so I saved you some time.
“The Men Behind the Mayhem” is a look at the stunts and special effects used by the various stunt and effects coordinators through the Bond films up to the present day (or at least during the Brosnan era), as they share their thoughts on the breakdown of some of the sequences. You won’t be surprised to know that there’s not too much revelatory information on this feature. Then you have the “Ministry of Propaganda” section, which houses all of one trailer, and the “Image Database” section is your usual stills gallery section. I’m skipping the “007 Mission Control” section because well, what do you want to know about gadgets, villains and weapons on this one?
Moonraker is disappointing for several reasons. It’s arguably the worst Bond film, it’s the worst Bond film with Roger Moore, and it may be the worst film, period. I may be getting a little ahead of myself, but the film is laughable, and no amount of extras (or DTS tracks) can change that. Definite recommendation to skip. It’s at this point where I announce that I’m halfway through this little quest, and in forthcoming reviews, look for the Dalton and Lazenby eras to get some time, while the Connery, Moore and Brosnan eras get completed! When you ask? Soon my padwan, soon.