For more on my process of rating the James Bond movies, read this.
Moonraker isn’t a bad movie. Released in 1979, two years after Star Wars, the filmmakers attempted to ride its coattails to box office success. Apparently in that respect it was a success. No, Moonraker suffers from being sort of boring, which I realize is a weird thing to say about a movie that has both a zero-gravity laser fight between astronauts floating hundreds of miles above Earth and a love story involving two mutes who infiltrate a project to breed a new super species of people to replace the soon-to-be destroyed human race.
I cannot imagine Sean Connery’s 007 stumbling his way into this film. Gone are subtle spying techniques or meeting Felix to share covert intelligence. Instead we’re jumping from airplanes without parachutes (and surviving) and having laser fights with astro-marines in space. In just 15 years (and 9 movies) we’ve gone from Bond escaping a slow moving laser using his watch to literal laser fights in space. We’ve replaced henchmen falling over rails a few stories inside of an army base with henchmen exploding in space and plummeting hundreds of miles to earth. Special effects and extraterrestrial settings replace small scenes and fist fights inside an elevator. Bigger and bloated.
In the world of Moonraker, a watch with only a GPS seems barbaric.
Speaking of barbaric, Jaws returns for his third Bond movie and in addition to a love interest he has a line! Jaws himself perhaps embodies this film series’s tonal shift more than anything else. He reaches full super-villain status in Moonraker, where he should have died no fewer than three times by my count:
In the opening scene, Jaws has jumped from an airplane in pursuit of Bond only to find that his parachute doesn’t work … so he flaps his arms to move above a circus tent, which he lands in after falling tens of thousands of feet. (What is it about James Bond and circuses?)
His cable car crashes into a building, which promptly falls on top of him. He has to wipe some dirt and dust off his shoulders.
He falls from a space station to Earth. I repeat: he falls from an exploding space station which does not have non-exploded space vehicles hundreds of miles to Earth.
In other words, this is the movie where Bond filmmakers abandon any grounding in reality and jump with two feet into the world of sci-fi. It’s not all bad, but, to its detriment, it’s certainly not a typical Bond movie.
On to the ratings!
Roger Moore is at his Roger Mooreiest in Moonraker with some terrific one-liners:
Drax: Why did you break up the encounter with my pet python? Bond: I discovered it had a crush on me.
Bond (to Drax, who is about to be ejected into space): Take a giant step back for mankind.
Moore is of course suave as he seduces several women, only some of whom die as a result. My biggest laugh came when Bond sees Goodhead through a public telescope, smiles, lets go of the telescope, and the thing goes full vertical.
I cannot find fault with Moore’s performance. It’s not his fault the story, script, and much else doesn’t rise to his level.
Bond girl (0)
Lois Chiles plays Dr. Holly Goodhead, an astronaut working for Drax Industries who is actually a CIA agent. Before we go any further: How lazy is this name? Couldn’t they even it make Güdhëd or some other German-sounding name? At any rate, the performance Ghiles provides is wooden and uninteresting, made all the worse by dialogue that doesn’t help her:
Bond: “I’m looking for Dr. Goodhead.” Goodhead:“You’ve found her.” Bond: “A woman?” Goodhead: “Your powers of observation do you credit.”
There are even times when her voice sounds dubbed over in sequences where other actors are not. It’s all just weird. I’m going to call it: the worst non-Denise Richards Bond girl performance in 60 years. But, you know, congrats on the telescope gag.
Bond villain(s) (0)
The big bad here is Hugo Drax, an uber-rich industrialist with his own space program. His plan … well I’ll let him explain it as he did to his team of astronauts:
“First there was the dream, now there is reality. Here in the untainted cradle of the heavens will be created a new super race, a race of perfect physical specimens. You have been selected as its progenitors. Like gods, your offspring will return to Earth and shape it in their image. You have all served in public capacities in my terrestrial empire. Your side, like yourselves, will pay deference to the ultimate dynasty which I alone have created. From their first day on Earth, they will be able to look up and know that there is law and order in the heavens.”
Cicero he is not. He’s bland and forgettable, but is responsible for one of the hardest to watch sequences in classic Bond movies. Bond has seduced one of Drax’s female employees so he could snoop around his house, which Drax has discovered. Upon returning from a hunting trip with Bond, the villain fires the young woman and asks her to pack her things. And then almost immediately — as she is walking towards the woods that will take her back to the house — Drax releases his hunting dogs, who chase her down sink their teeth into her flesh. It was interminably long and pointless. We already know Drax is a bad guy. This whole thing is redundant.
Shirley Bassey also returns for the third time for the theme to Moonraker. She sounds great! The lyrics do not. “Just like the Moonraker goes in search of his dream of gold / I search for love, for someone to have and hold.” Uninspiring.
After a US space shuttle being transported on Earth is hijacked and presumed destroyed, 007 is assigned to the case, where he meets Hugo Drax, founder of Drax Industries. There he meets Dr. Holly Goodhead, a terribly boring astronaut who lets Bond take a ride in a centrifuge. Drax’s henchman Chang turns the thing up to 11 (or something) and nearly kills 007, piquing his interest in the millionaire.
Bond goes to Venice where he bumps into Goodhead, who is also tracking Drax because she is actually a CIA agent. Because they are in Venice, they have a boat chase in which Bond kills Chang. The two spies team up and discover Drax’s poison plans. Bond reports his findings to M, but when MI6 comes to the site of Drax’s project, they find an empty laboratory.
Embarrassed, M is forced to put Bond on leave, so the spy goes to Rio de Janeiro “on vacation” to continue his investigation. During the Carnival, Jaws, now working for Drax, tracks down Bond and Goodhead on a cable car. Bond escapes and Jaws is rescued from his crashed cable car by a young mute, pigtailed blonde named Dolly.
Jaws eventually finds Bond again — because the plot deemed it necessary — and takes him to Drax. Finally, at the 1:32:00 mark of a film called Moonraker, our hero sneaks aboard a shuttle and finds himself on the Drax space station.
After Bond learns the extent of Drax’s evil plan (see above), he convinces Jaws that he and Dolly don’t have a future in the evil genius’s plans for paradise and so he helps Bond escape. Meanwhile, US Marines have followed Moonraker 6 into space and engage in an “epic” battle where men in spacesuits shoot lasers at each other. Bond ejects Drax — not wearing a space suit — into space, and he and Goodhead climb into an escape pod which won’t undock so Jaws — who seems to realize he and Dolly will die on the exploding space station — helps release it and pops some champaign to drink with his love. (“Well, here’s to us,” Jaws says in his only line in any Bond film.) Mere minutes later we learn that the Army has “… reported picking up two survivors from the space station. A tall man and a short blonde woman.”
The allied forces celebrate saving humanity by opening a video feed with 007’s escape pod only to see the two spies engaged in adult activities.
That line from Q alone is worth extra points. What a classic.
0% of this movie takes place on the moon.
“They’ll make it. It’s only a hundred miles to earth.”
I mentioned that Jaws jumps out of a plane but the full scene is cool: bad guys throw 007 out of a plane without a parachute so he finds his way to one of the bad guys with a parachute and takes it off his back. This is how he lands on the guy:
The opening scene of Octopussy is among the best in the Bond series. Bond drives a small jet out the back of a horse trailer (after the fake horse ass and tail fold out of the way) and flies, tailed (no pun intended) by a missile, through a hanger which of course blows up. 007, enemy military defeated, flies to a gas station, rolls up (wings folded up) to a gas pump and says, “Fill’er up” in the way only Roger Moore could pull off.
If only the rest of the movie had the charm of the first 8 minutes.
Octopussy is not as bad as its reputation. In fact, I would say like the majority of Bond films, this one is enjoyably re-watchable. The plot is recognizably Bond and includes a convoluted villainous plan with villain double-crossing, a few twists, and exotic locations. Octopussy has all the elements of classic Bond, if done inconsistently.
My largest takeaway from this movie is: Roger Moore is old.
I was constantly reminded of his age, from a meandering low-speed slide down a banister to the most obvious stunt double face reveal (atop the plane in the climax) in the entire run of the series. A movie about Bond getting old could be tremendous fun. (See a couple of movies in the Top 10.) This movie, however, ignores that Bond is old and inserts him in those traditional Bond positions where his age distracts from the film. And Moore’s age is too much to ignore.
And that’s just one “too much” of many. Ultimately this movie is one of too muches. Octopussy herself is a fine character with an interesting backstory, but that name is too much. James Bond going uncover in a circus has potential, but dressed as a clown with a tear? Too much. The final nail in the too much coffin was the Tarzan yodeling sound effect while Bond is swinging on vines. Way too much. That would be too much for a Mel Brooks movie. In a Bond movie? Frustratingly too much.
Let’s get to rating Octopussy.
Roger More was 54 when he filmed this, his final James Bond movie. He is as charming and comfortable in the role as ever; it’s not his fault the producers failed to take his age into account with the script. Moore charms women (some half his age ;/ ), nails one-liners as always, and is quite surprising in his desperation when pleading with officials that there’s a bomb planted in the circus.
He loses half a point (though not entirely Moore’s fault) for the scene in Q’s workspace when he zooms a camera into a female colleague’s cleavage so it displays on the giant screen. #007iscancelled
Bond girl (1)
Maud Adams was 40 when she filmed Octopussy, which by the admittedly terrible standards of Bond movies approaches refreshingly age-appropriate range. (Before patting the producers on the back, read the last paragraph of the previous section one more time.) Octopussy is a wonderful character with a terrible name, which relates to her leadership of the Octopus Cult, a smuggling outfit based in India. Her empire includes circuses and a female army of bodyguards that wear matching red leotards and help Bond avert nuclear war. (Just wait ’til we get to the Plot section ….)
Needless to say, the plot badly lets her down. In a movie almost two and a half hours long, Octopussy doesn’t appear until more than an hour in and disappears for long stretches as numerous villains and conspirators pop in and out of the story.
Bond villain (0.5)
Octopussy has two main villains … I think. General Orlov, a Soviet general who traffics in phony Faberge eggs and plots a strike of a US airbase as preamble to an invasion of Western Europe. He works with smuggler Kamal Khan, an exiled Afghan prince and member of the Octopus Cult. Khan reports directly to Octopussy and has an army of circus performers who double as assassins.
Like the plot, the villains are confusing and the less said the better.
The 80s was a confusing decade. Paul McCartney (“Live and Let Die, 1973) thought duets with Stevie Wonder (“Ebony and Ivory”) and Michael Jackson (“Say Say Say”) were good ideas. On the other hand, Duran Duran made an all-time classic with the next Bond film in 1985, “A View to a Kill.”
The producers went for a non-Octopussy song title for this one, “All Time High” sung by Rita Coolidge, a low point for the franchise’s songs. A bland, boring ballad that doesn’t even have the movie title anywhere in its lyrics, this song was a failure on every level.
After Bond attends an exciting auction where a buyer pays entirely too much for a Fabrage egg that Bond has switched out with a fake, 007 follows the buyer to India, where he immediately defeats him in backgammon. The buyer, exiled Afghan Kamal Khan, kidnaps Bond, who escapes and learns that the villain is working with Soviet General Orlov. Orlov is going to detonate a nuclear warhead at a circus performing in a US air base in West Germany. This, obviously, will lead NATO to disarm because they for the first time realize that nuclear weapons are dangerous. With Europe unprotected, the USSR can take over. Khan is working behind the back of the leader of the Octopus Cult, Octopussy, whose father Bond had been sent to arrest (pre-movie) but allowed to commit suicide. This act ingratiates Bond to Octopussy, who refuses Khan’s request to kill the spy.
Meanwhile, Khan has been replacing Orlov’s Russian treasures with fakes and smuggling the real ones through Octopussy’s circus, whose performers double as highly trained assassins I guess. Bond discovers this plot and it makes sense to him. He tracks Orlov to a train and gives chase only for Orlov to be shot as a defector. Bond infiltrates the US base dressed as a clown, a single black tear painted on his face. He finally convinces Octopussy and the US brass that there is a bomb that will explode and ruin the human cannonball show they are enjoying way too much. Bond disarms the bomb as Khan retreats to India.
<<movie not over>>
Bond and Octopussy and Octopussy’s red army attack Khan’s palace, killing many people. Khan takes Octopussy prisoner and takes off on his jet. Bond, with the vigor of a man half his age, jumps onto the plane and climbs above and then aboard mid-flight. After a struggle, Bond and Octopussy jump from the plane seconds before it crashes into a mountain. The explosion probably kills Khan.
Aside from being too long, the film could have benefited immensely from a more streamlined plot. The twists and turns complicate the story needlessly.
I’m American, so forgive my ignorance. But is there big money in European and Asian circuses? Why would a criminal enterprise invest so heavily in circuses? And do hundreds of military members go to them without their children? I need to know.
At any rate, Octopussy would get an additional half ab for the opening scene but the unnecessary and unfunny cleavage on tv scene negates it.
The Soviet military leaders meet in an enormous, mostly empty board room — which rotates to view a map — to discuss invading Eastern Europe. It’s goofy, like something out of Dr. Strangelove. They even shout arguments while turning!
The snake charmer in India begins playing the Bond theme to attract 007’s attention. Does James Bond have a theme in this world? Did he commission someone to write it for himself? I have so many questions.
For more on my process of rating the James Bond movies, read this.
It’s easy to dump on this movie, easily the worst of the Pierce Brosnan era and, in my estimation, the worst of the entire franchise. Because it’s easy and I’m lazy, I’ll do just that.
The first Bond of the 21st century (and the first post-9/11), Die Another Day doesn’t look like a Bond movie: GCI replaces impressive vistas; torrents of double entendres replace witty, interesting dialog; green screen stunts replace specular feats of daring action; a Jesus-style beard replaces Bond’s clean shaven, suave look; Bond’s car literally disappears in the middle of the film. Yes: Bond has an invisible car. The movie completely abandons style (and reality) to spend several more million dollars on pointless special effects. Everything in this movie is artificial (the surf scene is obviously shot day-for-night) and it is the most (only?) Bond film that is antithetical to what makes a Bond movie.
Let’s just dive in.
Pierce Brosnan made for an excellent Bond, convincingly charming with deeper, obvious conflicts bubbling just under the surface. However, much like the horrible CGI and ugly fake-night surf scene, the film fails at even making Brosnan looks like 007. Bond is an empty shell of cliche and boredom. The dialog with Jinx is embarrassing, lacking any subtlety to hit you over the head with “innuendo” that would make hack romance writers blush. Between the script and the direction, Brosnan is entirely wasted in his last Bond movie. I don’t blame him; how could anyone contribute their best work to this mess?
Bond girls (0)
Instead of continuing to bash Halle Berry’s Jinx in this section, I will instead use this first review to complain about something else. After the first couple of 60s Bond movies that had one-dimensional female characters intended, mostly, to bed Bond, we are treated to more complex characters who don’t fall into the black/white, good/evil camp. Lacking a clear distinction, how do I then classify Rosamund Pike’s Miranda Frost? She’s a double agent, working for MI6 and serving the villain. She also sleeps with Bond, which, you know, is a thing Bond girls do. So do I rate her here or under the next section?
I’m going to cheat for this one. There is no way I can give more than 0 to a movie with this dialog:
Bond villains (0.5)
The villain’s plan (and story) is complicated and stupid, so I’m not going to summarize. Instead, I give you this Gustav Graves/James Bond back and forth:
And then Gustav puts on a Power Glove to virtually fight Bond and Jinx in the “epic” finale. Exciting!
Madonna! Auto-tune! The line “Sigmund Freud, analyze this!” “Like a Virgin” this is not.
Seeds of good ideas can be found in Die Another Day, though most of those seeds bore fruit in far better movies the preceded or followed it. 007 infiltrates a North Korean army base in the opening scene but is captured and help prisoner for 14 months, long enough to grow a Jesus beard while enduring torture. M trades one the North Koreans Bond encountered at the base for Bond’s release and he’s not in good shape, and MI6 all but accuses Bond of talking and outliving his use. A movie following that thread could be exciting. Bond vs. MI6? Bond battling PTSD? Bond as a traitor? Those could be interesting ideas for a movie.
Instead Bond escapes and the film settles into a cliche revenge plot, with Bond single-mindedly trying to find a mole in MI6 who betrayed him in North Korea and get revenge on his captures. Bond follows a lead on Gustav Graves, who turns out to be the North Korean colonel from the opening scene with a new face but the same old daddy issues. Bond kills the male villain, Jinx kills the female villain. The end.
Released during the 40th anniversary of Dr. No, Die Another Day apparently has a reference to every 007 movie that came before it. The most obvious and well-known is the scene where Halle Berry as Jinx emerges from the ocean in a bikini, an “homage” to Ursula Andress’ famous first appearance in the original Bond outing. That this call back is the most well-known part of this movie — that a ripoff of a far superior film is what this one is most remembered for — damns this movie to the invisible car dump of film history.
Bond, taking on an entire army, announces that he has a license to kill. That’ll scare ’em!
I’ve focused on the negative, but the fencing scene between Bond and Graves was quite good and included zero (0) GGI.
John Cleese was in this one, too. I’m fairly sure he does not include it in his reel.
With so much product placement in this movie, interesting that they choose to literally hide the expensive car in this one.
People around the world have reacted to the global pandemic in unique ways. Some people have taken the forced time at home to complete ambitious projects, re-surface creative endeavors they had been too busy for, or simply revel in the unusual increase in valuable, all-too-fleeting time with family.
I myself rewatched every James Bond movie in order.
Those of you lucky enough to know me for a while may remember a previous blog in which I watched 80s movies and rated them using my unique Patrick Swayze abs system. (Coincidentally the last movie I reviewed was an 80s Bond movie.) While that system is obviously infallible, for this series of James Bond movie reviews I concocted an even more stringent set of guidelines for rating 007 outings. The scale remains 6 abs which will be awarded based on six Bond-specific aspects:
James Bond: The actor, the performance, that je ne sais quoi each man brings to the role.
Bond girl(s): Again: the actress, the performance, and the story (or lack thereof) developed in the film. Note: This will not be an exercise in commenting on their looks. They’re all portrayed by beautiful, famous actresses. If you want a “hot Bond girls” ranking, I’m sure Maxim or BroBible or some other site can help you.
Bond villain(s): Same as the Bond girls. No need to repeatedly point out that Telly Savalas is gorgeous.
Theme song: Not just the quality of the song but how it is used in the film itself beyond the trademark opening credits.
Plot: Self explanatory and entirely subjective.
Miscellaneous: Bonus points for creativity, casting, stunts, and anything else. Basically this is how I can create wiggle room for myself to ensure the final list is perfect. (Spoiler alert: it is.)
So in the coming weeks, you’ll be treated to multiple pictures of Patrick Swayze and, to a much lesser extent, capricious reviews of all 25 James Bond movies. (Never Say Never Again is included here … and perhaps shockingly high on this list.)
Our first review will be coming tomorrow. I anticipate zero controversy with this one. Certainly no internet Storm will be raging.
Sarah asks us at dVerse Poets Pub to have a conservation with a poem we’ve read. I choose this one by Atticus. I don’t smoke and find inspiration elsewhere, though ultimately it will all blow away in time.
They say not to judge a book by its cover but I need you to do just that. If you liked the cover of my book, The Alien in the Backseat, please vote for it for the Cover of the Month contest on AllAuthor.com! It takes just a few seconds and requires nothing more than a click. Vote for my book cover here: