Moonraker (1979)

"I don't know if I trust you either. That's what makes it more exciting, doesn't it?”"I don't know if I trust you either. That's what makes it more exciting, doesn't it?”

“I don’t know if I trust you either. That’s what makes it more exciting, doesn’t it?”

Moonraker, the 11th film in the James Bond franchise has all the familiar elements in its DNA that can be found in each film that has come before it for nearly the past 2 decades.  By now, the template is there, it’s almost too easy to spot all the new plot points and storylines before they even happen. Repetitive it may be, the allure is higher than ever especially in the wake of Star Wars (A New Hope to most of the world) being gifted by George Lucas. While the superpowers of the world had their “Space Race” to get to the moon and beyond in the 1960’s, Hollywood is having their own pseudo- space race after the release of the worldwide phenomenon Star Wars

The science fiction genre of storytelling Is about to get an influx of new ideas and stories added to its already dense history. 1979 alone saw the James Bond (Roger Moore) spy thriller effort to the genre along with the science fiction horror effort of Alien by director Ridley Scott. Both films, though very different have attributes that were inspired by Star Wars and 2001: A Space Odyssey. Moonraker is still a James Bond film after all – therefore the megalomaniacal villain who wants to kill hundreds of millions of humans on earth just to start a master race is ever present.  


As I mentioned, the James Bond formula has been so carefully laid out that not seeing any of the usual elements will be a huge disappointment. After the initial opening scene that sets the events in motion, this time a Drax industries space shuttle is highjacked in which M (Bernard Lee) assigns Bond to investigate only to be thrown into a fight for survival – this time in a freefall against the deadly villain Jaws (Richard Kiel) in which Bond survives in what looks to be an effortless affair and Jaws lands on a circus. 

After that, Bond travels to exotic locations around the globe, this time California, Venice, Rio Di Janeiro, the Amazon and lastly, space, the final frontier. Bond meets the new Bond girl Dr. Holly Goodhead (Lois Chiles), a name laced with sexual inuendo in the likes of ‘Pussy Galore’ from Goldfinger. Bond will then get his state-of-the-art gadgets from Q (Desmond Llewelyn) all while staying strictly professional with Miss Moneypenny (Lois Maxwell). 

Due to the success of Star Wars in 1977, Moonraker was originally slated to be released after For Your Eyes Only – the film that was said in the end credits of The Spy Who Loved Me to be released next. This is a business after all and where the fans go, the money will ultimately follow. Putting Moonraker out when they did in 1979 compared to 2 years later looks to be the smart decision at the time – no one could have predicted the bigger success of 1980’s The Empire Strikes Back (the best Star Wars film ever made). Either way, Moonraker would have been successful if it released in its original date.

In Roger Moore’s fourth time playing Bond, the character has become his own, looking completely comfortable as the fictional international M16 agent. Though, nearly 2 decades later, the character of James Bond feels like he could exist in the real world. Moore has been a great Bond – adding his own charming, charasmatic personality to the role but he’s still not Connery. Connery is still the quintessential Bond, No one has come close to the way Connery could embrace the silliness of the Bond stories he was in yet take it as serious as one could – looking completely comfortable in the role. 

For the era that Moonraker came out the visual effects are gorgeous – it’s some of the best work in the series to date with Derek Meddings getting nominated for an Oscar.


The return to the megalomanic villain was the right move for the franchise. Straying off path with Live and Let Die and The Man with the Golden Gun, the first two Moore era Bond films didn’t have the stakes and the grandioso spectacle the villains promised. Hugo Drax (Michael Lonsdale) should be in the conversation with a Goldfinger, Blofeld or a Dr. No. looking at Drax with a current view of the world he’s the precursor of Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk minus the murder of millions of people. 

Moonraker has possibly the silliest premise of any Bond film and leans more toward self-parody than any installment that has come before it. With that silliness comes entertainment – Moonraker embraces the silly choosing style over substance. Thank goodness that stereotypical southern character doesn’t return. Stylistically, the Moore era has placed more emphasis of the gadgets and tech than what has come before. Each subsequent film has out done itself – last time we saw a car submarine, now there’s a motorized Gondola that can go from water to land and a space station large enough to house a new race of humans. 

As the franchises signature, Moonraker’s third act is a giant set piece with many moving parts that ultimately always end with Bond saving the world from destruction and then finally getting his reward from the Bond girl. As far as the character goes, not much development has come Bond’s way over the past 10 films, he’s essentially the same man we were introduced to in Dr. No – very little growth has come his way. 

Moonraker also proves that a villain, for how evil and how much of a threat he can be, can change his ways for love and a little reverse psychology.

Written By: Christopher Wood

Directed By: Lewis Gilbert

Music By: John Barry

Cinematography: Jean Tournier

Starring: Roger Moore, Lois Chiles, Michael Lonsdale, Bernard Lee, Richard Kiel, Lois Maxwell, Desmond Llewelyn

Distributed By: United Artists

Release Date: June 26, 1979

Running Time: 2 Hours 6 Minutes

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 60%

My Score: 3 out of 5

Based On: Moonraker by Ian Fleming

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