22 January 2016

"Where is that moonlight trail that leads to your side?": Moonraker

"Star Wars? Never heard of it."
Alongside my reading of the James Bond novels, I've been coaxing my wife into watching the film adaptations with me. She'd never seen one before; I've see all of the Brosnan and Craig ones, and a smattering of Connery and Moore ones. Because the film release order bears no relationship to the novel publication order, it's an odd way to do it: so far we've gone from Daniel Craig in 2006, back to Roger Moore in 1973, forward to Moore in 1979. Once I read Diamonds Are Forever, we'll move back to Sean Connery in 1971.

Moonraker, I'd seen bits of before as a kid, all from the climax, but never the majority of it. It was nuts. Like, it's just one bizarre thing after another: one of those movies that's so inexplicable it passes beyond terrible into the realms of amazing because you just want to see what happens next.

Like, Bond is tootling around Venice on a gondola, and the bad guys go after him in a motor boat, knocking his gondolier off. Not to fear: he reveals a secret control panel, activating the gondola's hidden motor. A gondola chase through the canals of Venice ensues, which includes a scene where the bad guys crash through a gondola carrying a pair of tourists indulging in some intense makeouts. Their gondola breaks in half, and they don't even notice. This is all well and good-- until the chase sequence abruptly ends with Bond's gondola turning into a hovercraft that starts driving on the street, complete with comic reactions by passersby (including... a pigeon).

Cool is driving a motorized hover-gondola through Venice and acting like it's NBD.

Or: basically everything involving Jaws, the seven-foot man with metal teeth, but especially the moment where after he somehow drives a cable car so fast it crashes through the receiving station, he is helped out of the rubble by a short woman with pigtails and dorky glasses-- and the two instantly fall in love to the famous love music from Tchaikovsky's Romeo and Juliet. She accompanies him for the rest of the film, including the jaunt into space. (Let's not even get into Hugo Drax's plan, especially its total nonjustification.) The movie is a riot, because nothing about it makes sense.

"Here's to us!"

Moonraker is (as I said) the only Bond novel where Bond doesn't have sex. Of course the movie changes this: Bond has sex with Corinne Dafour, Drax's pilot, to get information; Manuela, his contact in Rio, to pass the time; and I think three times with Holly Goodhead, the CIA agent who he reluctantly teams up with for... I'm not sure why.

Sex in Moonraker is weird. It's perfunctory and dull. I watched Spectre last month, and Daniel Craig's sex scenes are... well, sexy. Obviously James Bond likes casual sex, but in Spectre you can see why him and these women decide to have sex; there's real sexual tension between him and Monica Bellucci's character.

This picture is probably overselling the sex quotient.
I guess it didn't help that I found Lois Chiles's acting really flat and monotonous.

Nothing about the sex scenes in Moonraker is sexy. Basically Bond's like: "Let's do it." The ladies are like: "Meh." Then he kisses them and BOOM! They're waking up naked next to one each other. It's weirdly bland, a total lack of erotic charge. Nothing in these movies reveals why these women might want to have sex with him, other than maybe that he's there and they're bored. The Daniel Craig movies make this work; the Roger Moore ones haven't. I'll be curious to see what I think going forward.

Corinne Cléry has a little chemistry with Moore, but the whole love scene really makes no sense.
"Don't steal from my boss. Oh never mind, let's do it."

Other Notes:
  • I didn't recognize Bernard Lee as M at first; I only realized it was him when I read the opening credits. He was looking very old; apparently this was his final performance as M.
  • On the other hand, this was our first time seeing Q, since he's in neither Casino Royale nor Live and Let Die. He doesn't really make much of an impression in this one.
  • They really took nothing from the actual novel, beyond the names "Hugo Drax" and "Moonraker," and Drax being in business, and the Moonraker being a thing vaguely involving launches. I guess Bond being placed in the Moonraker launch chamber is inspired by the novel. The Bond girl's name doesn't even carry over!
  • In the book, M and Drax play bridge together at the same club. The film transposes this to Frederick Gray, the Minister of Defense (who apparently appeared in six Bond films).
  • Lois Maxwell as Miss Monneypenny was 52 when this movie came out. I mean, good on them for not firing her the moment she turned 40, like you might expect (she's the same age as Roger Moore, actually), but the flirtatious vibe isn't quite there. 
  • The alien musical sequence from Close Encounters of the Third Kind is used on a keypad at one point.
Film Rankings (So Far):
  1. Casino Royale
  2. Moonraker
  3. Live and Let Die 

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