Thursday, April 11, 2013

Bond-arama: No. 0020 Moonraker (1979)

Today we continue our journey through the James Bond films with No. 0020 of 0023: Moonraker. It’s fitting that Moonraker starts with a theft because everything in this film was stolen. This film uses a carbon copy villain, a recycled henchman, and a plot stolen from the prior movie. That’s really lazy writing. In fact, everything about this movie feels incredibly lazy.

Plot Quality: Moonraker tries to cash in on the popularity of Star Wars and other science fiction films. They even play the Close Encounters theme at one point. On its own, the plot doesn’t sound half bad. Crazed billionaire misanthrope Hugo Drax wants to wipe out humanity so he can repopulate the planet with his own master race. To do this, he’s built a secret space station. But he draws the attention of James Bond when he steals back a space shuttle he’s loaned to the British government. Bond investigates and saves the day.

Unfortunately, this is the exact plot of the prior film, The Spy Who Loved Me, except that Spy’s villain Stromberg built his paradise under the ocean. Again, Jaws (Richard Kiel) is brought back as the henchman. Again, Bond is quasi-competing, quasi-partnering with a hot secret agent, only this one is American instead of Russian. And, once again, Director Lewis Gilbert gives us a rage-inducing moment as Bond emerges from the ocean in a Lotus drivable gondola as we watch animals do double-takes, people stare mindlessly as others somehow don’t notice, and a f***ing drunk look at his drink as if he’s %$#@#% hallucinating!! I swear to God, Gilbert, I will p*** on your grave one day! Oops, did I say that out loud?
So... what else to say? Well, beyond that, this movie is just lazy and there seems to have been no filter on whether or not ideas made sense. Let’s start with the theft of the space shuttle. Why is a space shuttle being loaned to the British? They have no space program. Who in their right mind would load the space shuttle with fuel before putting it on the back of a 747 to transport it? The space shuttle is not even close to capable of launching off the back of a 747 in any event. Why would someone wire the 747 to give them a sensor to tell them that someone was starting the shuttle’s engines? Why wasn’t the shuttle destroyed in the same explosion it caused which blew up the 747? Why on earth did no one ask these questions and change this whole idea?

It gets worse. Doctor Goodhead (Lois Chiles) infiltrated Drax’s empire long before the shuttle was stolen, yet the shuttle theft is supposed to be the reason she’s there. I guess the CIA’s psychic branch sent her. . . they felt a great disturbance in the farce. When Bond gets to Brazil, after a brief stop in Venice, he needs more equipment, so he puts on a poncho and hops on a fricken horse and rides out into the countryside to the local headquarters of MI-6 in a fake monastery. Uh. Did no one ask why MI-6 would be somewhere Bond couldn’t get to quicker or easier? How does he plan to bring his equipment back to wherever the action is? What if he doesn’t have a horse? Did no one ask if anyone with a brain would really set up a spy agency like this?

Finally, Bond hops a boat and heads straight to Drax’s hidden lair. There is no way he would ever find the hidden lair except that Drax’s henchmen chase Bond right to it, where Bond kills a snake and finds Drax’s super-harem. Bond is captured and escapes and he and Dr. Goodhead, who was not killed for reasons unknown, sneak aboard a space shuttle as the pilots. Conveniently, the space shuttle is programmed to take them directly to the space station. Once there, they turn off the cloaking device, which allows NASA to see them and to immediately launch two shuttles so we can have a zero-G space fight. But where did NASA get the two shuttles and how can they be ready to launch immediately? How does this cloaking device work anyway? Launches are monitored. Satellites can be seen from earth. How did everyone miss this? And why build a space station at all? Wouldn’t it make more sense just to build a large bunker? And why didn’t Drax kill Bond and Goodhead? This has become such a cliché you can’t do that anymore! This is all because the writers were too lazy to work their way through problems. They just pretended the problems weren’t there.
Bond Quality: This is Roger Moore’s fourth outing and he’s well past his prime by this point. He’s lost the tough-guy Bond he played in his first couple films and by now consists largely on being smug and providing comic relief. He’s not too old yet to play the role, but he already comes across as disinterested. This is a Bond who does not run, he walks. This is a Bond with no sense of urgency. This is a Bond who does not seduce, he lazily assumes women want him because it’s in the script and he lets them do the work for him. This is a Bond who needs to take a breather during his fight scenes. This is a Bond with “low T.” And at no point, does Moore develop any chemistry with any other actors in the film.

Bond isn’t helped by the script either as Drax, Goodhead, Jaws and even Drax’s generic henchmen Chang all prove smarter than Bond at one time or another, and Goodhead is always one step ahead of him. Moreover, Goodhead and Jaws both save him during the movie. And while Drax proves more than a match for Moore’s Bond, it’s hard not to think that Connery’s Bond would have just shot him at the start of the film and been done with him. It really feels like Drax only gets as far as he does because Bond isn’t really interested in catching him.
The Bond Girl: As usual, this film has two Bond girls: Lois Chiles and Corinne Clery. Clery plays Corinne Dufour, Drax’s personal pilot. She flies Bond to the estate and tell us about Drax through exposition until she hands Bond off to Chiles. Later, she finds Bond in Drax’s study and he seduces her. She never really realizes that Drax is evil, but Drax has her killed by his dogs in any event. In a strange way, her death is unsettling. As far as I can tell, she’s the only Bond girl who is truly innocent of knowledge of the evil of the villain and whose death then goes completely unnoticed by Bond. Usually, Bond kills the evil Bond girls or laments/avenges the deaths of the good Bond girls. Corinne kind of gets the cinematic equivalent of an unmarked grave.

Lois Chiles plays Holly Goodhead, a CIA agent and astronaut, who infiltrates Drax’s space program and then competes with Bond to solve the mystery. Chiles is sexy and smart, which is good, but she’s also rather disinterested, which is bad. As with everything else in this film, she comes across like she’s going through the motions and can’t really get worked up about anything. Shoulder shrugs and “oh well” seem to be the extent of her interest in the film.

Villain Quality: Oh boy. The main villain is Hugo Drax (Michael Lonsdale). He’s an industrialist who wants to kill everyone and then repopulate the planet with his own master race. Unfortunately, he’s a carbon copy of Karl Stromberg from Moore’s prior film, The Spy Who Loved Me. What’s more, Lonsdale’s acting feels totally lazy. He speaks in a monotone. He doesn’t even move around – every scene has him standing in place or sitting. He seems bored by the film and disinterested in Bond or Goodhead or even his own plot.
His plot is kind of nonsense too. He plans to drop nerve gas on the human race from a string of satellites, but it’s not really clear how that will work. Then his team of about 50 people will “descend from the Heavens” and rebuild mankind. Sure, but why put them in space at all? Why not just build a bunker? And doesn’t that seem like a small number of people to use? Talk about inbreeding! And why bother killing everyone else anyway? Why not just buy an island and start the master race there? It doesn’t seem that Drax has really thought this through, yet he doesn’t seem crazy enough to plan what he’s planning either.

Beyond Drax, you have two henchmen. First, you have Drax’s Asian manservant, who is actually Japanese and does Japanese martial arts, but answers to a Chinese name because the writers were too lazy to think through his character. He tries to kill Bond, but fails. There’s not much more to him.

After Chang dies, Drax needs a new henchman, but the writers are too lazy to think of one, so they bring Jaws back from the prior film. . . a retread. They don’t even explain how he gets there, except through some garbage phone call which makes it sound like Drax called a temp agency. Jaws is not a great character either. Jaws is one of those henchmen who only works when everyone else gets stupid. Indeed, Jaws has no skills except the bear hug, so the people he kills need to mysteriously run out of bullets right before he arrives and then need to freeze in terror so he can grab them. Deus ex Machina is lazy writing.
Jaws arrives and tries to kill Bond by doing things with his metal teeth which just aren’t possible, but again, the writers are too lazy to do it right. Then it gets worse. After Jaws fails to kill Bond, Jaws somehow survives a crash which should have killed him – he’s tall, ergo he’s indestructible. He then meets the Swiss Miss and they fall in love on the spot. Completely against character, Drax takes both Jaws and the Swiss Miss to his space station of love, where they realize (after Bond tells them this) that they will eventually be killed by Drax to preserve his master race, which means it made no sense for Drax to bring them. Jaws then becomes a good guy and saves Bond. He also impossibly lands safely on the earth after riding debris to the surface. Lazy, lazy writing.


There is something about this film which makes it watchable. It has the grandeur and the big themes of a James Bond, which make it feel like a James Bond film. But the details and the execution really do stink: a stolen villain, stolen henchmen, stolen plot, uncaring Bond-girl, and a lazy Bond do not a great Bond film make. That’s why this film is No. 0020 of 0023.


shawn said...

No doubt Drax called the "Guild of Calamitous Intent", everyone knows that they help to set-up the pairings between villains, heroes and henchmen.

Loved this movie when it first came out. Of course I was 12 at the time. And who doesn't like spaceships and laser fights at that age? Now, it's a different story. Too silly and non-sensical.

Looking at the picture of Drax above and remebering the scene with the dogs- I'm wondering if it inspired Higgins in "Magnum P.I."?

AndrewPrice said...

Shawn, I won't lie... I liked this as a kid a lot. It was fun to watch and references like the Close Encounters theme were easy to get, which made you feel like the film was talking to you. But by the time For Yours Eyes only came out, this film had started to feel dated and a bit silly. And now that I'm older, the film is actually hard to watch because everything in it is just so stupid. Everything from the writing, the direction, the acting, the costuming, the sets... it all feels like they made it up in one sitting and signed off on it without every bothering to think about what made sense.

I can't imagine this was the inspiration for Higgins, but I guess it could be. The thing about Higgins is that he's humorously frustrated. Drax is just constipated.

K said...

Well deconstructed, or should I say destructed, and deservedly so.

The movie, for me, has one saving grace. It presents the Space Shuttle system as it was advertised and supposed to be used. No other movie even comes close. I always get a lump in my throat when I see the formation of 5 shuttles cruising along in formation.

AndrewPrice said...

Thanks K! I can forgive a little theivery and a few mistakes here and there -- those things are practically unavoidable. But not when it reaches this level where the whole film feels like they swiped another film, jammed everything into the template, and just didn't care if it works or not.

On the space shuttle, I agree. I still remember how the whole thing was explained and it sounded like we would be using them almost like commercial airliners with constant flights. Instead, they were rarely used and they did little that couldn't be done with a standard rocket. I think that ultimately that hurt the image of NASA a lot that the shuttles didn't really pan out as anything all that interesting.

Anthony said...

I like iconic, impossible henchmen such as Jaws, Oddjob, Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd (the gay assassins) and Baron Samedi (the voodoo spirit of death) so I enjoy Moonraker, though I recognize that objectively speaking, its not a good movie.

Alex said...

Bahaha this sounds terrible but hilarious. Right up my alley!

Anonymous said...

This is the movie that shows my attachment to the Bond franchise isn't as passionate as that of others. I don't hate the movie - I think it's silly (and the gondola scene is downright embarrassing), but I can't quite muster the venom for it that I have for Die Another Day or even The Man with the Golden Gun.

They wanted to do "Bond meets Star Wars" and they did. Then they learned their lesson and scaled things waaaay down for the next one. It's a cycle and it's been repeated a couple times since then.

Th heroes of this film, IMHO, are John Barry, Ken Adam (his last Bond film), and miniature FX guru Derek Meddings. I even like the title song.

tryanmax said...

I have a hard time separating Moonraker from The Spy Who Shagged Me. It's an awesome send-up because it basically plays for laughs what should have been played for laughs in the first place.

Jason said...

"But where did NASA get the two shuttles and how can they be ready to laugh immediately?"

By making them ticklish?


(I know you meant "launch" but I couldn't resist)

Anyway...I saw this movie once and I remember thinking the space battle was pretty neat, but I recall little else other than seeing Jaws again. It also occurred to me that this was a lot like The Spy Who Loved Me. Other than that, I'm kinda meh on it.

Anonymous said...

Okay, 'Moonraker,' we meet again, for the, uh, latest time. Say hello to my henchman. He goes by the name...SCIENCE! That's right, movie. I've got an Iludium Q-36 Explosive Space Modulator with your name on it! So, break out the astrophysics book and put on the Thomas Dolby music. HERE WE GO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Disclaimer: The poorly portrayed shuttles in this movie are clearly based on the U.S. Shuttle Program. And, no, I don't care that this film was released in 1979, while the shuttles didn't start launching until 1981. If you're going to base a movie on existing technology, GET IT RIGHT! (Gondolas on land..? Ah, forget it.) Let's get started already...


Anonymous said...

Let's start with the theft. Andrew, your question was why would the shuttle be fully fueled on the back of its 747 transport plane. (Lawrence Meyers asked the same question in his review of this film on Big Hollywood.) Actually, the question should be how on earth is the shuttle getting fueled at all!

The shuttles' RS-25 main engines were fueled with liquid Hydrogen and liquid oxygen from the External Fuel Tank (ETF- I'm going to be using a LOT of abbreviations here). They started burning at T-6.7 seconds and continued burning until T+8.5 seconds, when they were shut off and the EFT was jettisoned. The engines were NOT used for the rest of the mission. (In the event of emergency, however, they could be shut shut off until t-0, when the Solid Rocket Boosters- SRB's-were ignited.)

In other words, this scene is impossible! And, no, there was no way to put fuel on the 747. It would never have been able to get off the ground due to the weight. And this isn't the only problem with this scene...


Anonymous said...

This is one of my pet peeves- and other movies like 'Armageddon' are just as guilty. The scene then has the shuttle portrayed as flying like a jet fighter. Notice my choice of words- "jet" and "fighter." When planning this scene, did the filmmakers notice that the shuttles were clearly lacking JET ENGINES?

Okay, I'll admit, this is a common mistake. Most people looked at the shuttles and assumed they fly like planes because they vaguely resemble planes. This isn't the case. The shuttle have wings, but not for flying. The shuttles had no engines for re-entry. They actually glided in and were controlled solely by their air brakes. (Remote-controlled from Houston) NASA employees I've spoken with described landings as the shuttle just dropping out of the sky. No circling the tower here.

Shuttles lacked the necessary aerodynamics, wing length, flaps, fuselage, horizontal stabilizers (they only had vertical stabilizers- um, you know, the 'tail'), and the aforementioned engines, jet or propeller.

Wow, two big mistakes in the first scene alone! Oh, this movie if fertile ground for blunders.


Anonymous said...

The centrifuge scene. Really? Why is the thing not being monitored? Judging by Bond's reactions, he should've passed out long before hitting the fatal mark of 15 G's. How convenient he got the exact device for the exact situation! Bravo, Q! Bravo!

Did you know that most roller coasters don't exceed 3 G's? Okay, I've had my wiseguy moment.

I guess this scene is more sloppy writing than bad science. But why, Drax? You're being investigated by MI6. Can't you guess what would happen if their top agent suddenly turned up dead in your own home?!

Moving on...


Anonymous said...

The launch of the shuttle inside an underground lair. Oh, this is painful.

You know, if you've ever seen a launch, you'll notice that launchpads 39-A and 39-B have- well, had- massive structures under the Mobile Launch Platform (MLP) that deflected the exhaust AWAY from the launch pad. This was to keep the exhaust from reverberating backwards and into the space vehicle. (The same applies to the Saturn IV and V rockets of the Apollo Era.) There were also waterfalls directly under the engines that acted as shock absorbers. There are none to be found in Drax's lair.

In this cave, the ignition would bounce backwards and smash into the shuttle, destroying on the launchpad. That's 418,000 pounds of thrust from the main engines alone. And I haven't even mentioned what happens when all that fuel in the tank explodes...

Oh, and the exhaust definitely should've followed Bond and Goodhead down that vent and fried them both.


rlaWTX said...

haven't seen it - but Andrew's and Rustbelt's ---um--- discussions are pretty entertaining on their own!

Anonymous said...

Okay, I'm gonna try to wrap this up in last post...IN SPAAAAAAAAAAAAACE!!!!!!!!

First, the shuttles are still behaving like jets. This is completely unnecessary, since space is a vacuum and has no aerodynamics. (Also, see above) The only purpose of that is to remind the audience of what they're watching. (In 'Star Wars, Lucas and co. have admitted that X-wings are made to look like jet fighters while Y-wings are supposed to remind filmgoers of heavy bombers. It seems TIE fighters are the only ships that take advantage of the environment.)

The station. Excuse me.

(Rustbelt runs away and screams at the top of his lungs. Then comes back.)

First, how is this thing being hidden by radar-jamming devices? Those just create disturbances on the radar screen that look like snow on a dinosaur TV. It doesn't cause invisibility. At the least, the radar operators should know something is there, or at least wrong, at that point in space and investigate. ('Star Trek' actually gets it right, though. Ships in that universe use cloaking devices that bend light and reverberate nothing. Still, there is the distortion problem...)

And what to say of centripetal force? If the station gets artificial gravity by rotating, everyone should be walking on the interior surface of the outer walls! Not standing parallel to the thing's axis! If you want to see a station that got it right, watch 'Babylon 5.'

Finally, lasers. [insert Dr. Evil joke here] More of a general complaint. Lasers are cool in sci-fi, but not really practical. In reality, they'd just pass through something without causing too much damage. This is why, at one point, a focusing rod was considered for the Death Star's super cannon, but scrapped for artistic purposes. This is also addressed in 'Babylon 5,' by the way. Their guns still use bullets, albeit futuristic ones.


Anonymous said...

Okay, that was tiring. Science and I need to catch our breath. What a morning!

If you guys have any other questions about the shuttle program, (why are some EFT's white while others orange? where did they get their names? etc.), please ask away! I love this subject and I rarely get a chance to discuss it these days.

Now back to the movie.


Anonymous said...

Oh, forgot something. Now that we've discussed how filmmakers screw up spaceflight, lets see how the adults do it.


AndrewPrice said...

Anthony, I agree about iconic henchmen, but Jaws rubs me wrong because of the way he is used. Someone like Oddjob worked because he was surrounded by guys with guns who would hold people hostage until he could kill them or found himself in believable scenarios where people had no guns. Jaws isn't used the same way, his victims should be able to kill him except they get stupid as soon as they see him.

AndrewPrice said...

Alex, I wouldn't actually call the movie funny. It's quite earnest. It's just not a very smart movie at all.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, I don't hate it. As movies go, this one is much better than 99% of the summer blockbusters today and I don't mind rewatching it. It's just not a good James Bond film. When you see something like From Russia With Love, it's hard to watch this one next and feel like you're watching the same character.

the gondola scene is downright embarrassing... Yeah, on so many levels. I honestly don't understand how anyone could have thought including that was a good idea.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, True. The Austin Powers stuff is hilarious, and it has hurt some of the James Bond film, but to me it's really only hurt the bad ones. Because even though it parodies films like Goldfinger, it doesn't really expose anything stupid in those films. But from films like this, it kind of rings true... like you knew all along this was really a joke and shouldn't have been taken seriously.

AndrewPrice said...

Jason, LOL! I have fixed the typo... the first ever at the site. ;P

When Lawrence Meyers did his series on James Bond, this one drew an amazing amount of hate from the fans of the series. I definitely don't hate it, I just think it's silly. It's not anywhere near the top of my list for rewatchability, but I also don't disdain it like Die Another Day or License To Kill. And I do give it credit that as a kid, it seemed pretty cool.

AndrewPrice said...

rlaWTX, It's worth checking out, as all the Bond films are. But it does feel silly and dated. Glad you're enjoying the show! :)

AndrewPrice said...

Rustbelt, So you don't really have any particular thoughts on this one, huh? :P

Commander Max said...

This one will always be one of my favorites, partly because 1979 was one heck of a year in space movies. Mostly because Moonraker was goofy fun. Whether is was Drax faking playing the piano(I can't believe they showed it), Jaws biting(imagine the taste) through a cable that would need hydraulic assistance(the physics behind that whole scene, lolololol), to one of best names for a Bond girl. Clearly Moonraker was making fun of itself, while attempting to cash in on the space craze of the day.
What really stands out in the film, the special effects and the production design.
But you have to know something about special effects to really appreciate it. The guy behind the model shots was the late Derek Meddings. Without him special effects would not be what it is today.
Sorry Rustbelt but going off on the accuracy of Moonraker's space shots is a complete waste of time. Your not going to find much in the way of accuracy. In fact you will be hard pressed to find any accuracy in any space show.
But at the time the shuttle was hyped to death, very few realized it was going to be a really poor system. Which had very little to do with space.
The Bond guys were always about style, even the best of Bond films were often loose on reality.

tryanmax said...

Andrew, if nothing else, Austin Powers provides a reason to revisit the Bond series of the 60s/70s, including the awful ones.

AndrewPrice said...

Rustbelt, On the shuttle, I can forgive some design changes, like letting them fly, but the whole idea of stealing it off the back of the plane is too much for me. Even if they could fuel it and it could fly, they wouldn't fuel it for transport and it couldn't take off the back of a 747. Even as a kid before having seen a space shuttle fly, I knew that.

On the centrifuge, I totally agree about him having the precise equipment, that's always a hallmark of bad writing, especially when it's really specialized equipment. I also agree that if you're going to stage an accident, there are better ways to do it -- and it doesn't make a lot a sense to kill Bond in any event... just scream "outrage" and send him home.

On the underground launch, you forget, they had air-conditioner-vent sized vents, so everything is explain. ;P

Anonymous said...

Andrew, nothing really. My henchman, Science, on the other hand, well, he makes Oddjob look like Roger Rabbit. He has VERY strong feelings on this film.

Max, I know. Bond movies have always been about style. But my feeling is that if you invite real-life science, you invite the wrath of the full and part-time science geeks. (Like ME!) I have no problem with bending some rules (such as sound in the space battles from 'Star Wars'), as long as its done well and in good taste. But this movie is the equivalent of having cars run on ice cream. Maybe if they'd used unobtainium...


AndrewPrice said...

Rustbelt, You and science have earned a break! LOL!

Why are some boosters orange?

AndrewPrice said...

Max, The effects are quite good really, I definitely agree with that.

And the movie is fun in a silly way. It just doesn't compare all that well to the more serious tone of the others.

Anonymous said...

Andrew, you got me. I can't believe I forgot the air-conditioner-sized vents! It all makes sense. You're right, I AM taking this too seriously. You know, if you sit back and think about it- aaahhh!

(sounds of fight ensue, some gargling...)

[computerized, Stephen Hawking-ish voice]




AndrewPrice said...

Be back soon. Work calls.

djskit said...

I too saw this when I was 12 and thought is was "super cool". Perhaps that was the filmaker's intent? To appeal to the 12 year old boy in all of us? Or maybe only actual 12 year old boys.

Backthrow said...

MOONRAKER actually starts out very well indeed, with 007's fight on the plane with Jaws and company that continues in free-fall (great stuntwork by the skydivers!)... but then the movie immediately goes into the crapper once Jaws is saved by a circus tent instead of suffering a suitable death.

The Barry score is nice (with Shirley Bassey back one last time for the title tune), as are the special efects and locations. This was the first Bond adventure I saw in the theater, at age 11, and I liked it, but I still liked the earlier Connery films I was watching at the time on the ABC FRIDAY/SATURDAY/SUNDAY NIGHT MOVIE a whole lot more. A few years later (and now), and most all of what I see in this, as has been said, is STUPID-STUPID-STUPID! LOL

Lois Chiles is beautiful, but is not just bored, she's astonishingly charisma-free. Michael Lonsdale, a good actor, is just dull, though he has a couple of good lines.

Andrew, I don't know if I'd necessarily blame Lewis Gilbert for the animals doing double-takes and the comic drunk. He was quite a good 'straight' director, not just on ALFIE ('66), but films like SINK THE BISMARK, DAMN THE DEFIANT and THE 7TH DAWN, and though it has its own set of problems, he did none of this type of goofiness in YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE. I'd place the blame on Cubby Broccoli.

The Bond producers had as heavy an imprint on the finished product as the directors on these, and Guy Hamilton (another decent director before helming 007 films) had similar dumb stuff in his '70s Bonds. I think the decision was made by Broccoli that they'd add a general level of lowbrow goofiness and slapstick to fit the lightweight Moore persona. Don't forget the use of the MAGNIFICENT SEVEN theme when 007 rides up as a gaucho! Groan! In fact, I think the drunk guy was a running joke Broccoli and son-in-law Michael Wilson decided to do, starting with THE SPY WHO LOVED ME; it was a cameo by one of the crew (I forget who) stretched through several films, at least through FOR YOUR EYES ONLY, but likely much further. It was mentioned on one of the DVD making-of documentaries, probably on TSWLM or FYEO.

Speaking of laziness... if this was a re-do of the plot of THE SPY WHO LOVED ME, then it's leftovers of leftovers, since TSWLM was essentially an earthbound re-do of YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE. On top of that, MOONRAKER has a suspiciously similar plot to a pretty lousy spoof/rip-off, KISS THE GIRLS AND MAKE THEM DIE ('66, starring... MANNIX!), from producer Dino De Laurentiis--

Info: (read the main user review, rather than the useless plot synopsis)


--to be fair, the original MOONRAKER novel, which was much different (and one of the better Fleming stories), would be pretty hard to film as anything but a period piece, since so much of its plot (and Drax's character/reputation) depended on it taking place in post-WWII Britain, in the very early days of the space race, pre-Sputnik.

Commander Max said...

Rustbelt, the movie makers sure don't think of reality. They think about what is entertaining.
One of the best examples I can think of came from Andrew Probert(who is known for the Refit from ST:TMP) he got into a shouting match with TMP's art director. Mainly over what are known as aztecking, the multi colored panels on the hull of the E. His point, in 300 years they wouldn't build starships like we make ships today. You know that little thing we call progress.

When you want accuracy in depictions of space flight. To be honest we really have no clue. Sure we have been up there, but no man has ever gone beyond lunar orbit. We can only guess at human inner system travel. There are parts of the solar system we may not be able to go. Simply because we do not have the ability to shield against radiation in places like Jupiter's orbit(how many movies have gone there?).

Now I look at Moonraker as a bit of campy fun. Now if you want to geek out about it. I would suggest you start on the ground. Vandenburg was nixed for shuttle launches because it was too confined an area. Now Drax launched shuttles in essence from silos, that's a really confined area. The engine's on any large rocket(like the shuttle) are not ignited on 1, they are being brought up to full thrust on the count of 1 the rocket is released. Bond and Goodhead(the second best girl name right after Pussygalore)would have been incinerated, and Drax as well since they depicted a winding up sound as he was still talking. Rocket engines have to work very precisely and quickly. Or they will blow up, not all the time. But most of the time.
What's remarkable is at least 6 Moonrakers were launched without a hitch. The shuttle never had it that good.

You want more reality, the resources to design/develop a shuttle are way beyond any single individual(that includes a corporation). That's why the government employs a number of corporations to design and build such hardware. Now try to that under wraps, just like building and launching a large space station. Like a lot of other satellites we can see them from the ground, they look like what people think are UFO's, a small light in the sky. You would think someone would take out their binoculars, and ask what is that?

I could go on all day, I know a lot about the subject. Which is why I never would take Moonraker seriously, when the Mookraker ignited it's main engines on the 747. That's impossible, since the shuttles fuel tanks do not feed those engines. Even if they fitted the cargo bay with a tank(Good luck getting that 747 in the air with the shuttle that loaded), it would be empty in seconds. But just having the shuttle release from the 747, they didn't think that was all that exciting. In true Derek Medding's fashion something has to blow up.

tryanmax said...

"...the resources to design/develop a shuttle are way beyond any single individual...Now try to that under wraps."

Still not as bad as the second transmitter in Contact.

AndrewPrice said...

Rustbelt, I think there is something to your point. When films try to seem "real life" then the science needs to be more realistic, at least to the extent that average people know it. When you do something that is more fantasy, then it's not a problem.

AndrewPrice said...

djskit, That's very possible. It strikes me though that they did think this would work with general audience and not just 12 year olds.

AndrewPrice said...

Backthrow, I can't disagree with any of that. It's interesting about Chiles too because you're right that she totally lacks any film-charisma. I wonder why? She doesn't seem to be acting under protest or anything, but she just comes across as someone you really can't care about.

I forgot about the Magnificent Seven theme. Yeah... that too.

And you're right, this is a remake of a remake. The idea here is very similar to You Only Live twice, which Connery handles much better. In fact, the whole idea of the volcano lair and Bond sneaking aboard the shuttle as the pilot come from that movie.

AndrewPrice said...

Max, I think the best depiction of space flight is Babylon 5. They seemed to put a lot of thought into how things would really work.

In terms of the "tech" used in Moonraker, I think the problem is that so much of it is simply clearly wrong to average people. It doesn't pass the sniff test. I think most people can accept things that aren't quite right, but they can't accept things they flat-out know are impossible. This film keeps crossing that line.

Even worse, I think that like always, there's a better movie to made if they had tried to do things the right way. For example, rather than just stealing the shuttle off the back of the plane, they could have come up with something more dramatic, like highjacking the entire plane and then crashing a duplicate or simply having it stolen and creating the tension of having governments search for it.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, That was a pretty laughable moment. Why on earth build two? Why hide it in Japan? Nothing about that makes sense.

Anonymous said...

Oh, hey guys...
I finally managed to shake off Science. It's not as hard as he makes it sound. I just pretended the probe droid was working and tricked him into streaming 'The Core.' Then I promised to delete it from his memory if he let me go.

Geez. Something about 'Moonraker' just brings out the ED-209 in him. You know, it makes me wonder how this movie would've turned out if Drax had hired him instead of Eegah as his henchman.


Andrew, here's the answer to your question.
It turns out, all EFT's were naturally red-orange. The color comes from the tank's insulation, which, along with the liquid nitrogen air-conditioning system, helped keep the fuel in liquid state.
The shuttle could potentially spend weeks on the launchpad, and, at times, run into traffic on the crawlway. NASA scientists were worried that long exposure to the sun's UV rays would damage the insulation. So, for the first 2 missions, a layer of white paint was added to protect the tank.
However, after Columbia's first 2 trips, it was determined that the paint was unnecessary. So, they took it off and lightened the assembly by a couple of hundred pounds.


Anonymous said...

Hm...that link's not working. Well, here's another try.


Kit said...

" And, once again, Director Lewis Gilbert gives us a rage-inducing moment as Bond emerges from the ocean in a Lotus drivable gondola as we watch animals do double-takes, people stare mindlessly as others somehow don’t notice, and a f***ing drunk look at his drink as if he’s %$#@#% hallucinating!! I swear to God, Gilbert, I will p*** on your grave one day! Oops, did I say that out loud?"

If anyone ever wanted to know what "Fan Rage" looks like, that's it.

Kit said...

"In terms of the "tech" used in Moonraker, I think the problem is that so much of it is simply clearly wrong to average people. It doesn't pass the sniff test. I think most people can accept things that aren't quite right, but they can't accept things they flat-out know are impossible. This film keeps crossing that line."

Like a really silly Godzilla movie?


Also, Shirley Bassey's song is good but she is an excellent singer so thats not really a surprise.

Dwizzum said...

As has already been mentioned this movie is just plain ridiculous. However as a young kid, seeing this in the theater I enjoyed this hell out of it. I was all into all things space and Star Wars, so this was right in my wheelhouse. Its appeal was kind of like the Buck Rogers TV show. Looking back on it now it's silly, but still entertaining. It's hard to take this movie seriously when they launch the shuttle off this 747 and then just for good measure the 747 blows up.

I guess I am the exception in that I do like Drax as a villain even though his evil plan is just a retread. He is just so dry and unemotional I think it's an amusing contrast to the crazy crap going on in the movie.

AndrewPrice said...

Rustbelt, The ED-209! LOL! Yeah, that's what we need!

Thanks for the explanation!

AndrewPrice said...

Kit, No, that's just my anti-extreme-stupidity rage kicking in.

AndrewPrice said...

I think most Godzilla films are forgivable because they're pure fantasy. I think the one in NYC made the mistake of trying to be too "realistic" without racketing up the realism.

AndrewPrice said...

Dwizzum, I love the Buck Rogers TV show and I have it on DVD. :)

Drax is definitely a contrast. I think the biggest problem with Drax, however, is that he often crosses over from dry/unemotional to bored.

Backthrow said...

Andrew said: "Drax is definitely a contrast. I think the biggest problem with Drax, however, is that he often crosses over from dry/unemotional to bored."

Exactly. For instance, Dr. No is unemotional, but he comes across as both reptilian and calculating. Drax just seems mostly bored and is going through the motions.

I recall Drax in the novel --who is much-loved and respected by the British, a national hero, but Bond detects something else, rather sinister, underneath-- being somewhat low-key, but fiery beneath the surface (sort of like an Oliver Reed, but with more self-control). Bond isn't even sent on an official mission against him; Drax happens to belong to the same club as M, and M suspects he's cheated in a card game they were playing, so he sends Bond in, as an extracurricular activity, to check and see if his suspicion is true. Very much like Bond stumbling across Auric Goldfinger cheating at cards in Florida, not knowing he's got a big scheme going on with gold smuggling and more.

Kit said...

"Kit, No, that's just my anti-extreme-stupidity rage kicking in."

In many cases, they are one in the same. :)


Godzilla movies are awesome.

AndrewPrice said...

Backthrow, That's a great comparison. Dr. No is emotionless yet dripping in evil. You can feel the arrogance and the fact he intends to do his plan because it suits him. I don't get that feeling from Drax. Drax feels more like someone who is doing his plan because he has nothing better to do with his time.

AndrewPrice said...

Kit, I'm a big fan of Godzilla movies.

Commander Max said...

The biggest problem with movies is people believe what is depicted on screen. Especially when they say they consulted some scientist. That really means the scientist the got paid for giving his opinion.

When they depict space flight it looks real easy. But the reality is very different, as we all know. Especially when they show interstellar flight. The reality of interstellar flight, it's physically impossible at this stage. Which means shows like ST are pure fantasy. Sure they inspire ideas(like cellphones), but how would a warp dive really work? How can you negate the mass of the ship to get to the speed of light? How do you protect the ship from micrometeorites?
The B5 universe did get past the interstellar problem, using jump-gates gets past a lot of hurtles. But invites a lot of other questions.
Such as how do you get to another dimension?
How do you get back?
How can you tell where you are in that dimension?
Will the same physical laws apply in that dimension?
The closest thing I can think of is a submarine, but going underwater is a transition from one fluid to another. You can still see the sub when it's underwater. But another dimension? Cross that barrier your gone, plus you can't see through it.

Normally technology has paths, take the sound barrier. It was broken years before Yeager, but nobody asked Von Braun and crew about it.

Andrew I love your take on Drax, "I'm bored, I think I will take over the word today, it will pass the time. Until I can impress more chicks with my player Steinway."

Gotta love Godzilla.

PikeBishop said...

Andrew: Agreeing with your point about movies using science needing to be more "real life."

Ever catch the few times "The Twilight Zone" ventured into science fiction? They had science that within about ten years elementary school children would be laughing at how dated it was.


1. Every space ship was an obligatory "flying saucer."

2. "Third from the Sun" featured them travelling about 11 million miles to a new planet.

3. The best one was "I Shot an Arrow into the Air" where three astronauts land on a body in our solar system with the same gravity and atmosphere as Earth and don't realize they ON EARTH!

And as a note to number two it always disappointed me that the first million dollar winner on "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" got in on a fact I learned in Sister Regina's third grade science in 1973. The earth is 93 million miles from the sun!

AndrewPrice said...

Max, That's how Drax strikes me.

On B5, I was talking mainly about the way they handled local flight and gravity and things like that. Clearly, the jump gates are fantasy, but I like that they thought about the rest of the show.

AndrewPrice said...

PikeBishop, Yeah, The Twilight Zone didn't do science fiction well, but that wasn't really the point to the show fortunately.

On "I Shot an Arrow," what always made me wonder was how these guys could think they'd even left Earth's orbit? "Let's see, we flew for five minutes and landed somewhere that looks a lot like Vegas... must be on Mars." Still, I like the episode a lot, I just don't think the setup itself works.

Commander Max said...

I heard that some guys at NASA made it a point to watch B5 as it came out. I wonder if it was on their lunch hour?

It was fantasy, but wasn't out of place. We know the Centari gave the tech to earth, so it must have come from one of the old races. I did like how the Starfury's were launched, JMS must have some friends that were engineers.

On a side note, Phoenix ComicCon is celebrating B5's 20th, just about the entire cast is scheduled to be there(that is all that are still with us). I'm looking forward to it.

AndrewPrice said...

Max, I'd heard that too about NASA. Of course, I also heard that JPL advised the Next Gen people... so I guess scientific advice can only go so far.

Commander Max said...

That's what was said, how many times have movie people said they had some real world consultants?
I can hear the JPL conversation, "What do you think about this?"
"Breaks all the laws of physics, can't be done."
"Can we use your name for $10K?"
"Sure, any other movies you want me to consult for?"

Makes me think of something funny, considering the relationship between Hollywood and Lawyers. One would assume all of their law shows would be far more accurate. But that might be giving too much away.

007 Fan said...

I have a question for you guys: What was the point in Drax stealing the shuttle en-route to UK? I understand Drax was the manufacturer of the shuttle, and he sold it on loan to UK, so why steal it considering that he hasn't been paid yet?

PS: Let overlook the other silly mistakes already pointed out about the shuttle theft scene.

AndrewPrice said...

007 Fan, He says in the film that one of his own developed a flaw that couldn't be fixed for whatever reason, so he needs to steal this one back. That is, of course, silly. As for why he didn't try to get it back in other ways, my guess is that he didn't want anyone thinking he needed it.

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