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Sunday 8 December 2013

Burl reviews Moonraker! (1979)

Ha ha, it’s Burl, neither shaken nor stirred! I just watched a James Bond picture, and it was a bit of a nostalgia trip for me, because it was the first Bond picture I ever saw in the movie theatre! I was pretty young, and I recall it being a big deal at the time to go see such an adult movie!
Well, ha ha, it doesn’t look so adult now, except for Roger Moore, who looks a zillion years old! I mean, Daniel Craig is not looking like the springiest of chickens in Skyfall, but he’s got pep that Moore – as much as I appreciate him as a performer in pictures like ffolkes – never had! (I’ve never seen him as Simon Templar, the Spirit, and maybe it would cause a reappraisal if I did!)
It doesn’t help matters that he’s trapped in what I think might be the worst Bond picture ever made, or what would be the worst if not for Die Another Day! It’s much worse even than You Only Live Twice, which as you’ll recall had Sean Connery slathered in silly Coppertone makeup half the time! Moonraker starts well though, with a fairly thrilling skydive sequence in which Bond, ejected from a plane without a chute, zooms after the bad guy in order to claim his chute from him! But along whizzes Jaws, the silver-dentured giant, who ends up landing in a circus tent!
This impossible landing signals what’s to come! Ha ha, it’s goofy antics from Jaws, who finds romance with a Brazillian lady glasses-nerd; and even from Bond, who transforms his Venetian gondola into a motor-car and causes people, pigeons and dogs to do comedy double-takes complete with musical accompaniment! While all this is going on, Bond is doing his sexual maniac schtick, pulling open the robe-ties of his various female contacts! To Moore’s credit, beneath the leer he seems as put off by this ungentlemanly behaviour as anyone!
Eventually of course it all ends up in orbit, on a space station from which the bad-guy Drax is staging his nefarious plan to wipe out all of humanity and start again with his genetically (and racially?) pure specimens! Jaws turns good during this climactic encounter, belying all we’d previously known of his character! And the action somewhat recalls that of the climax of Thunderball, which is a good picture except for all the  s-l-o-w-w-w   m-o-t-i-o-n-n-n  underwater stuff! Here it’s zero gravity, and just as slow and boring! And let’s just say that the movie doesn’t put quite the same value on orbital verisimilitude as a picture like, say, Gravity!
On the plus side, many of the stunts and trick effects are actually pretty good! I recalled them as being shabby and fake, no more convincing than a television ad for Space Lego, but I was wrong! There’s plenty of great miniature work, and the John Barry score lends it an almost Kubrickian beauty at moments!
Otherwise it’s pretty dire, and unless you’re trying to entertain a child, almost any Bond picture would prove a better evening’s entertainment than this one! I’m going to give Moonraker one and a half super-speed centrifuges!  

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