Friday, 11 November 2011


Lowdown: Bond in space.
When this little child first saw 1979’s Moonraker at the cinema I thought I went to heaven and back in a bit more than two hours. The film had laser shootouts in space, a watch that shoots killer darts, and space shuttles! Who can ask for anything more!
Moonraker was one of my favorite films for a long while back then. Later I grew to regard it as rather silly, but when opportunity presented itself this very film became my four year old’s first James Bond experience ever. Why shouldn’t it? He’s excited about the same things I was (and still am) excited about. The film is tame enough for a little child, especially given that all sexual innuendos pass way over his head; it's PG rated. Indeed, I can report that thirty something years later, Moonraker has worked its charms on yet another child.
Moonraker comes in the middle of Roger Moore’s reign as James Bond, which means it is not the most serious of films. Essentially it features a Bond trying to identify who’s behind the stealing of a space shuttle, but in general it is all about Bond showing the various people who try to kill him in various ingenious ways how he can outdo them. All the while and in between Bond tries to outdo the women of the world to bed. He does the first using an array of gadgets and he does the latter using charm that reeks of so much chauvinism it would not be tolerated today by anyone other than Liberal party voters. Thus, in between charming various beauty queens who just love to fall for this much older guy, and while flashing us with ample product placements for 7Up and Seiko watches, Bond realizes he’s facing an enemy (played by Michael Lonsdale) who is set out to get rid of humanity from space and has the funds and the technology to do so.
By far the most interesting character in Moonraker is the villain Jaws (played by the giant Richard Kiel while wearing a metal teeth prop). My four year old was absolutely fascinated by this character, much more than Bond could ever hope to be.
If you read till here you may be under the impression Moonraker is a silly film fit for kids and perhaps the chauvinists amongst us. You won’t be wrong, but I will add to that: I consider Moonraker an excellent testimony for the seventies. Granted, it only shows the glossy side of the seventies, but there’s nothing wrong with having a nostalgic look at the past: a past where space shuttles (whose first real space mission took place in 1981, two years past Moonraker's release) were the promises of a new space age (but reality showed they could only reach low orbits and way less frequently than promised); a past of care free jet setting in a world devoid of computers, mobile phones, tablets and global warming awareness; a past where AIDS was still an unknown; and a past where special effects had to be done the old fashioned way, as in through models and mounting one shot on top of the other. At its time Moonraker was futuristic; today it allows us to see how we thought our future would turn out. Today we have the advantage of witnessing how foolish we were.
Best scene: The speed boat chase that inspired hours of playing Spy Hunter some years later on the Commodore 64. Jaws & Evil Co fire mortars and sub-machine guns at Bond, who answers back with magnetic mines and self guided torpedoes before converting his boat to a hand glider and flying over huge falls. How many times did this child dream of this scene at night!
Overall: 3.5 out of 5 stars. Sure I’m biased!

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