Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Moonraker


The 70s are nearly over but there's still time for one more jolly with Roger.  This time we're all set for outer space.  The producers have gone zeitgeist shopping again and this time I blame George Lucas.  Star Wars has come along and changed films.  For the better? Well, Moonraker became the biggest grossing Bond film to date in 1979 and wasn't beaten until GoldenEye.  So there's that.

It's 1979 and unfortunate that the other space based film doing the rounds is Ridley Scott's Alien.  A tense and brooding thriller set in the used future.  Alien is dark and magnificent.  Moonraker is not.  That's a bit harsh on Moonraker perhaps but Roger's space race is a film of two parts.  Drax's nuclear missile of the novel is replaced by a space shuttle and as Bond investigates it's supposed crash and destruction it's actually quite good.  It's as if Eon saw The Spy Who Loved Me as a little too cheesy and tried to make Moonraker a little more serious.  But then we go globetrotting on a bizarre scale and Jaws comes back.

We begin with the RAF ferrying a US shuttle home for bed.  Yes, the RAF have replaced the Royal Navy of The Spy Who Loved Me and they're making such frightfully good time that they forgot to check the kitchen cupboards for two lurkers in black leather jackets.  Such is the movie shorthand that we instantly know that black leather jackets = bad guys. But why the Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon walk?  The Moonraker shuttle is hijacked and assumed to have crashed much to the embarrassment of the British authorities.  As a result M recalls Bond from another mission.  This mission seems to be sleazing on a young girl aboard a small plane but the pilot has other ideas.  Jaws, quite literally, appears from nowhere and Bond is flying.  Parachuteless.  Mid air shenanigans follow before good ol' Shirley belts out another theme tune and Jaws ruins a circus.

M is driven into an almost fluster by the increasingly annoying and irrelvant Minister of Defence and so dispatches Bond to find out what happened to the Moonraker shuttle.  Where else to begin but California and the Drax estate.  We learn a couple of things from the Drax estate.  The main one is that only ladies fly helicopters in Moore's world.  At least this time she isn't removed by a Lotus-to-air missile.  It's also pretty obvious that Drax has some cash.  Well, quite a lot of cash.

Conservatory, pond, moonbase, garage.  All good homes need one
Drax seems to own Moonbase Alpha from Space 1999 and, of course, the Eiffel Tower.  However, Drax is definitely a bad guy as he's vaguely European and plays the piano like Hannibal Lecter plays the clavier. And he paraphrases Oscar Wilde. Dodgy.  He's also a little less than original as we soon find out he's basically stolen Stromberg's idea to create a new civilisation.  Little clues are dotted around, mainly in the form of Drax's odd habit of surrounding himself by pairs of pretty young ladies with various European titles.  Like the time when Mrs Noah went on her holidays.

Bond's investigation essentially involves a guided tour but when someone called Goodhead offers, you don't refuse.  We soon accompany Bond to a massive centrifuge.  'It's a trap!' we all cry yet Bond hops in eagerly.

Roger doing an impression of Harry Redknapp
A 70 year old can take 3 Gs according to Dr Goodhead. Moore (too busy trying to flirt) neglects to mention his advancing years and waits for some subliminal Q action to save himself from turning into Droopy.  Drax's evil henchman scurries away to change his pyjamas.  Sufficiently recovered from his ordeal Bond puts phase two of Moore espionage into operation.  Phase Two is 'shag the secretary' and doesn't it work well?  Bond learns he must now go to Venice.  The secretary isn't so lucky.  Corinne Dufour's death is very well done and all the more horrific for it.  Chased through the woods we know there will only be one outcome.  So far Moonraker hasn't been that bad.  Yes we've had some cheesy moments but there's been some genuine tension too.

Then there's Venice and the pigeon.  The fucking pigeon. We were doing so well until we got to Venice.  Then Bond hopped into his gondola.  Inexplicable Hammer horror extras chase Bond down the canals and all the good work is beginning to come undone.  A touch of Close Encounters of The Third Kind and Bond has found a secret lab, bumped into Dr Goodhead again and embarrassed his boss.  Nevermind all that we're off to Rio.

It's licorice, deal with it
Moore's wannabe Junkanoo skit sees Jaws reappear and a bimble up Sugarloaf Mountain.  The film is falling apart faster than that cable car control room and we're back into the realms of random villains appearing just to provide a chase scene.  The only punctuation is a casual British base in Brazil as we find out that Drax is going to kill everyone with flowers.  He may as well have given out maps as these flowers only grow in one place.  Now where could Drax be, I wonder?  This 'comedic' infodump is bookended by another chase.  This time down the Amazon.  Words fail me it's that bad.

Wait thirty seconds and Bond finds Drax's secret and very plastic base.  The polystyrene wobbles as Bond has a roll around with a snake (not like that, although that was probably in the script for a while).  For some reason this is all watched over by girls in togas.  The Grigori angels are less than please when Bond defeats the snake, however, Bond is soon captured and listening to Drax explain everything about his evil plan.

So that's where Petr Cech got it from
We're off to Drax's space station to see if Bond can stop the eugenics. And stop it he does, naturally.  With some cod psychology and a battery of Marines that the world just happened to have standing by.  The end battle of Moonraker is a rehash of The Spy Who Loved Me's rehash of You Only Live Twice.  Except this time they've borrowed some sound effects rejected by the Cylons.

Bond successfully manages to complete re-entry, which is getting more and more impressive as Roger gets older , and Bond's lost decade is almost over.  Moore's Bond started so well but began to peter out quickly.  The franchise has become almost happy to spoof itself.  Hopefully this trend will change in the 80s.

James Bond will return but will Roger?