Thursday, May 21, 2009

Bond Review #7: Moonraker

First off, I’d like to apologize for not having a Bond Review last week like I said I would. I’m starting to run behind on these things. However, since it seems that MGM/FOX is not releasing the blu-ray sets as fast as originally appeared, it would be better for me to slow down a bit anyway, lest I run out of Blu-Rays to review. Oh well, without further delay, here is the promised review of Moonraker.

At the end of The Spy Who Loved Me, it was announced that Bond would return in For Your Eyes Only. Two years later we get not that, but Moonraker. After Star Wars came out, everyone jumped on the sci-fi bandwagon, James Bond included. The results are spectacular, as in full of spectacle… Yet it’s way too out there, even for Bond. James Bond goes into outer space… Um… yeah…

In Moonraker, Bond is sent to investigate the hijacking of a space shuttle right off the back of a 747. He goes to question Hugo Drax (Michael Lonsdale) first, as he heads the company that made the shuttle. When Drax tries to get Bond killed a few times over, he starts to get suspicious. Bond ends up following Drax to Venice, then Rio, then to the Amazon, and finally into outer space. Now, maybe this doesn’t sound too out there for a James Bond movie… It’s how it’s done. The space ending is so out of left field, and it makes the movie feel like a rip off of the Bond film that came just before this one, The Spy Who Loved Me. Another plot to restart the human race not living on land. This time with a magical plant extract killing the humans left on earth. James Bond is NOT science fiction!

That being said, the film feels a lot different that Spy Who Loved Me. That movie was probably the best of the Roger Moore Bond films. It was the pinnacle of the gadgety, quip filled Bond movies. Nothing could surpass it. Moonraker tried very hard to do so, but it ended up going too far. Gondolas turning into cars, spaceships, speedboats with hang gliders… it’s all too much. The humor is also out there. There’s a scene where Bond is escaping some assassins in a gondola turned car… The score suddenly changes to some sort of classical symphony whilst showing people’s (and animals) reactions to the sight. You even see a pigeon do a double take. There’s also product placement galore. Look for it especially when Bond is in Rio. The whole segment of the film is filled with it. It’s something that Bond had never really done before.

I do have to mention, though, that this is the last movie where James Bond looked young enough to play Bond. After this movie, he started to wrinkle at a ghastly rate. Also the movie has some of the greatest action sequences in the series. The skydiving fight at the beginning, the cable car segment, the ambulance escape, the speed boat chase, and of course the laser battles in space are some of the greats from the whole film series. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that the action sequences really have nothing to do with the plot. In fact, in the making-of documentary, it was said that the producers just wanted to use specific locations, and built the plot around the locations. The movie has nothing to do with the book of the same name.

Locations: 10/10 We have great locations here, used to their optimal potential. We visit Venice, Rio, the Amazon, and outer space. The selection here is diverse and beautiful. It’s one thing that the early/mid Roger Moore movies did very well. They are all effective travelogues until View To A Kill.

Villains: 5/10 Michael Lonsdale is a very boring villain. One of the worst. I’m of the assumption that they chose him just because they had to have French actors due to them filming a lot in France due to tax issues in England. However, I will bump up the score a bit because Jaws is back, although in a slightly more humane form. It’s nice to have one of the best Bond henchmen back though.

Bond Girl: 4/10 Lois Chiles as Holly Goodhead is just okay. She’s forgettable, but she isn’t bad. She’s also a CIA agent in the movie, so she isn’t totally helpless like some Bond girls. I’m just really “meh” about her.

Direction/Design: 8/10 This was directed by Lewis Gilbert, and was his last Bond film. He directed You Only Live Twice and The Spy Who Loved Me before this, so in effect, he directed the three most over the top Bond movies there are. The movie has great set design and huge production values, but the direction is pretty pedestrian.

Theme Song: 5/10 This is the third, and last Bond song sang by Shirley Bassey. It’s better than Diamonds Are Forever, but not as good as Goldfinger. It’s more a ballad, and I think that’s what I like about it. It stands in stark contrast to the other Moore-era Bond songs. Other than that, it’s not too memorable.

Overall: 4/10 I like individual set pieces of this movie, but as a whole it really kinda sucks. It’s a hodgepodge of action sequences put in without any regard for plot. The villain is recycled and boring, the story just about as boring as that… I like the outer space stuff technically, but story wise it doesn’t belong in Bond… ever. The movie is a fun watch, but the brain must be left at the door, my friends.

The blu-ray is magnificent, boasting probably the best picture quality I’ve seen from the older Bond movies I’ve seen on the format so far. The making-of is one of the longest in the series, and even ends in a collection of bloopers! The commentaries could have been better though. I’ve heard better in the James Bond blu-rays. I do recommend it though, as the picture quality is excellent, and it’s great to see Bond in it’s most flamboyant, even if the results are not great in the story department.

James Bond Reviews will return sometime soon with... From Russia With Love.

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