PG, for old timey James Bond action and sexuality. James Bond is infamous for just toeing that line for what is considered inappropriate. Yeah, it's wildly inappropriate. But the weird thing I noticed that, as sexual as Moonraker is, it is so far removed from the dirty stuff that was in The Spy Who Loved Me. Like, it's there. But it's not so in-your-face like it was in the last film. Technically, PG.
DIRECTOR: Lewis Gilbert
When I was in high school, I adored James Bond. This was the Quicktime video days. These were the halcyon days of clicking a link and sitting there and waiting for the trailer to The World is Not Enough to load. I'd watch every frame and try to hold back from clicking it. After all, I would have lost the tone of the trailer. There's a purpose to watching it one sitting. Then, I'd frame by frame the whole thing in hopes of figuring out what the plot was about. I'd visit EoN, but that was all publicity stuff. I've definitely tamed my James Bond obsession. I used to watch my widescreen VHS copies to death. I'd watch my DVD copies to death. If I had them on Laserdisc, I would watch those to death. But something happened when I got the Blu-ray box set. I think it is a little mix of the political climate and the fact that I've grown up a bit. James Bond wasn't this amazing thing that I absolutely adored anymore. Some of the movies I actually found to be a little boring. Aging, right? After watching The Spy Who Loved Me, I actually dreaded having to get into the dregs of the Roger Moore era.
Moonraker --and I'm not finished talking about this --might be what is quintessentially wrong with the Roger Moore era. Don't finish reading here because there's going to be a twist coming up. Live and Let Die and The Spy Who Loved Me are insane films. But the attitude of those two movies is to outdo the other Bond movies that come before it. One of the repeated marketing ploys that the Bond films did was to advertise how the current film was the "Biggest One Yet" and stuff like that. But by that logic, we could have seen Sean Connery play those roles. I might say that The Spy Who Loved Me is Roger Moore's baby a little bit. But Moonraker has almost an attitude of giving up trying to be a sequel to the Sean Connery Bond movies. The formula is still there, but imagine that the entire kitchen sink was thrown in. When a film franchise takes its movie to space, you know you've jumped the shark somewhere down the line. The film adds science fiction movie homages left and right in Moonraker. There's a gondola that turns into a race car with missiles. A pigeon does a double-take (admittedly, at the gondola) at one point. There's a space laser fight. It also brings back a henchman?! Really? It's insane.
But maybe because I wasn't ready to revisit Moonraker, I really enjoyed it this time. The Spy Who Loved Me was such a chore that I thought I was done with Bond for a while. It's only because of this blog and my obsession with To-Do lists that I watched it. I mean, it's not like I've saw a new film. I could still quote major portions of Moonraker. And that's when I remembered that, as a kid, I had a Moonraker poster on my wall. I know that Moonraker is pretty shameless. It's one of the most cornball movies in the franchise. It does almost everything wrong, but I really don't care. What makes me love Moonraker is that it allows the movie to just exist. It's not trying to be high art at any time. When I was younger, I thought that there was something about 007 that screamed "prestige film". I know that Goldfinger is in the film canon, which kind of blows my mind at times. But Moonraker actually does something really weird that is so minor, but it changes my attitude towards the whole franchise going forward. (Okay, I never liked For Your Eyes Only.) It takes a lot of the Bond tropes and tempers them a bit. The Maurice Binder opening credits, while still having naked girls flipping all over, minimizes the actual nudity. The movie leaves a lot up to the imagination and innuendo. Yeah, we can see Roger Moore and Lois Chiles floating mid-coitus at the end of the film. But instead of really playing up how sexy the film is, it is more playful. From a spiritual perspective, this is probably really dangerous. But it seems like Moonraker understood the proper audience for James Bond fans. There's a reason that these movies during the Roger Moore era continued being PG (besides the fact that there was no PG-13 yet) and that's because the movies are kind of aimed at adolescents. While I will always adore the other Bond eras for what they were, there's something remarkably fun about Moonraker.
I forgot how good and how fun the pre-credit sequence is in Moonraker. It might be my favorite stunt done in Bond. James Bond being pushed out of a plane without a parachute might be what the entire Bond series has been striving for. It is possibly the most hopeless situation that Bond has ever faced. It is a death-trap without the artificiality of a traditional death trap. It's what we always assume out of James Bond. 007, given a modicum of time, can figure his way out of death each and every time. Normally, the filmmakers rely on some elaborate scheme. Possibly the most famous of these schemes comes from Sean Connery's Bond in Goldfinger, with the laser beam to the genitals. That's a good one. But if you remember how lame that one ended up getting resolved, it's so refreshing to see the plane jump. In Goldfinger, by the way, he just talks his way out of it. He pretends to know more about Operation: Grand Slam than he does. Whoopee. But throwing someone out of an airplane during a fight seems like there's no artifice of torture. It's simple. The quickest way to kill Bond is letting him fall to his death. Yet, there's a way out. You or me fall out of a plane, we're dead. If not dead, pulverized. (I second hand know of a guy who survived a fall from a plane. Just a weird story that I have in my back pocket.) But Bond? It works so well. It's clever. It's action packed. It must have been hell to film. That's what makes classic Bond work so well. I think of my least favorite stunt from Bond, when Bond rides the iceburg in Die Another Day. This was a bunch of stunt guys jumping out of planes and wrestling in mid air, then doing it again. This was a huge challenge, but it also has this element of playfulness. "Can we pull it off?" Sure. It's just like The Man with the Golden Gun and the corkscrew, but everyone doesn't leave mad. I mean, I could even contrast it within the same movie of a forced deathtrap. Drax putting Bond and Goodhead (it's creepier now that I've written it) under a shuttle? While the table coming down into the floor is super rad and the set designer deserves major kudos, that's absurd. Also, should the explosive work? Isn't that grate meant to be resistant to extreme heat?
I kind of believe that Moonraker might be afraid of its conceit a little bit too. Don't get me wrong. That trepidation worked in Moonraker's favor. The promotional art is Roger Moore doing the "Casual Bond" pose in a shiny space suit. The entire time, you are waiting for him to get to space. I know that everyone involved had no idea how to do good sci-fi. This is post Star Wars, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and Close Encounters. You know that because the references are dropped. But most of the movie is on Earth. It actually follows a lot of the traditional formula. Bond is sent on his mission. He explores one locale. He gets into a fight. He seduces someone. He finds a clue. Onto the next location. But somehow it feels tighter than The Spy Who Loved Me. I kept feeling like people would just tell Bond where to go and there he'd go. There's oddly a logical progression of clues in this one that gets him very different locations around the world. Yes, I'm glad that the movie ends with a giant space battle. It would be a crime if this part of the film was completely ignored. But if it didn't have the space stuff, it would actually be a fairly strong Bond film without it. But like I said, they were probably terrified to do Bond in Space. The Moonraker taking off on top of the plane? I know. They said that it could do that. But so much feels unresearched. The interior of that shuttle was roomy as heck. I know, this is so nitpicky, but I adored it. Moonraker's definition of zero g is that everyone moves in slow motion. It also gives people in zero g the power of flight. All these supermodels in the movie had luscious long hair and it just sat there. At one point, a character just walks in slow motion to get to the escape hatch. But this stuff all matched the tone of the film! I don't think I ever noticed the gravity stuff before. But it is hilarious.
The insane part is that I don't think that anyone's opinion of this film would be changed. It sounds like I love this movie ironically, but I don't. It's a silly movie with one of the more forgettable bad guys. It's odd, because he almost has the same goal as Carl Stromberg from The Spy Who Loved Me. But the movie is almost incidental. The movie throws so much at the screen that it actually becomes fun. I wouldn't say that this formula could work every time. In fact, a lot of people don't think that it worked. But it's like accidental art. It's pretty good, despite the fact that it does so much wrong. It's not a trainwreck. It's just the joy of reckless abandon in the process of filmmaking. Not often, but here...it kind of works.
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Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.