The timeless James Bond series spans 26 full length feature films with six different men portraying Bond himself. A distinctly English series, the movie series has survived over fifty years, encompassing whole generations of culture and film production. Over time, however, the formula has stayed the same. To remain relevant, most of these films co-opt other themes or styles from their respective eras, and Moonraker is probably the best example of this.
For example, the 1989 film License to Kill features a Manuel Noriega look-alike for a villain, and gunfights with drug lords at a time when Pablo Escobar and the Medellin Cartel dominated international headlines. Moonraker follows the tradition of theme theft, but in an unlikely way. Premiering in 1979, the film was hot on the trail of the success of Star Wars: A New Hope, which had premiered to global acclaim only two years earlier. For context, Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back would premiere only a year after Moonraker‘s release. The resulting combination of the formulaic nature of James Bond films and 1970s-1980s sci-fi is a campy romp through space itself, with the beginning scene being the hijacking of a space shuttle. Entirely the movie revolves around space, with centrifuge brawls and cloaking devices becoming apparent by the end credits. In addition, the movie doesn’t take itself seriously at all, ending with one of the largest “zero-gravity” space fights to ever be shot on film, complete with the same rotoscoping effects seen in all three original trilogy Star Wars movies.
Moonraker isn’t remarkable if viewed in a vacuum. Of all Bond films, it’s arguably the most dull. The movie is a product of when it was created to ride on the hype generated by another successful film series. In the same way, the film is remarkable because it combines the formulaic nature of nearly all James Bond films with the sci-fi themes of the time, forming a complete memory of Hollywood marketing strategies in the 70s and 80s, a by-product that doesn’t age well but gives a look into what the producers in Hollywood thought would be profitable. From here we can separate what makes Bond films so iconic and memorable, and what sci-fi elements started to populate the silver screens of the world, even though the combination of the two is a mess that should’ve been jettisoned before completion.
Strap into your shuttle and blast off with Roger Moore by your side with this week’s Moonraker drinking game.
Moonraker Drinking Game Rules
Take a drink…
- When Jaws makes an appearance onscreen
- Whenever the word Moonraker is said or seen
- If Dr. Goodhead’s name is mentioned
- Every time a piano is destroyed because someone is thrown through it
Take this list as a suggestion, and drink responsibly. As always, enjoy the show.