Moonraker (1979)

Ah, Moonraker. Shall I compare thee to another Bond film? Thou art more absurd and more simplistic. Sometime too seriously does Bond brood, and often is his complexion covered in facepaint like in Octopussy. And every fair from fair sometime declines, by chance or waning box office returns on the Dalton Versions. But your eternal ridiculousness shall not fade, Moonraker, nor will your incorrigible fan service be overlooked, so long as men can breathe or eyes can see — so long lives this and this gives life to thee…or, well, not exactly life, per se, but at the very least a juvenile rundown of Bond henchmen.

Jaws bites stuff. It’s sort of his thing. He chomped his way through The Spy Who Loved Me and was meant to die at the end of that film, but apparently test audiences preferred an ending where Jaws survives to bite another day. That might not necessarily have meant that audiences wanted to see Jaws again in the very next Bond outing, but see him they did. Consistently. I mean really, he’s in like every scene simply because.

We discussed Bond villainy — whether it’s straightforward world-domineering, true rivalry, minor annoyance or memorable henchman…ness — in our look back at The Man with the Golden Gun, a film that made me cry out for more Weird Bond! After Moonraker, I cried for more Old School Bond! and I cried for more Old School Baddies! and I just straight-up cried.

Part of the thing with Bond henchmen is that they’re not really meant to be forefront players. It’s a fine line between creating a memorable character and creating a character who ceases to just be a background guy. Goldfinger‘s Oddjob is the best example. He has no backstory, simple and subservient motives, no explanation whatsoever as to why he is the way he is. He just is. Most importantly, he doesn’t overshadow Auric Goldfinger himself. The relationship the two of them have actually makes a bit of sense story-wise.

From that point in the Bond franchise it’s a bit hit-or-miss. A “Bond henchman” became something that had to be shoehorned in to nearly every film in the same way the Bond girls had to appear. Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd slowed down the plot played a significant role in Diamonds Are Forever, Baron Samedi did his damnedest to be the only redeemable thing in Live and Let Die (and still failed), and by the time the Pierce Brosnan Bonds rolled around they’d resorted to a Russian assassin who kills people by squeezing them between her thighs. For my money, Golden Gun‘s Nick Nack is the only one who truly occupies the same space as Goldfinger‘s Oddjob — he’s memorable without overshadowing the primary antagonist. I love Red Grant in From Russia with Love, too, but I hardly remember who the primary villain was supposed to be in that one.

What about Jaws? Sigh. Like Red Grant, Jaws is memorable as all hell in The Spy Who Loved Me. He’s menacing, he’s tougher than Bond (but not as smart) and most of all he’s not meant to be completely understood. Why does he have steel teeth? Who cares! But like Red Grant, Jaws doesn’t really have a master worthy of his badassery. Moonraker might be viewed as an attempt to fix that, then. It might also be viewed as a massive bungling of that attempt, too.

On one hand, Jaws is meant to play second fiddle to Hugo Drax, the idiotic maniacal idiot mastermind behind the Moonraker projects that aim to create a New World Order and wipe out most of humanity in the process. That would solve the problem of having a more memorable bad-guy plot than that of Spy Who Loved Me if not for the little fact of Hugo Drax being the most absurd and least intimidating Bond villain of all time. On the other hand, though, Jaws isn’t playing second fiddle at all. Again, the dude is in nearly every scene whether it makes sense for him to be there or not.

The first of sixty-five costume changes throughout Moonraker.
The first of sixty-five costume changes throughout Moonraker.
The best of sixty-five costume changes throughout Moonraker.
The best of sixty-five costume changes throughout Moonraker.

And then, of course, they really crossed the line: they made Jaws a character instead of a henchman. After battling Bond in midair and during a parade and on a boat and on a cable car, Jaws meets a petite blonde woman and falls in love, taking her with him onto the space station and fighting for her love at the end of the film and if you haven’t seen Moonraker you’re probably baffled right now and if you have seen Moonraker you’re probably baffled right now. Jaws in love? And you’re telling me that’s not the most ridiculous part of Moonraker?

The space theme is apt, because if Jaws were to exist in a vacuum he’d be the perfect Bond henchman. He has all the individual character traits, and in The Spy Who Loved Me he only lacked a more villainous counterpart to solidify his place towering over Oddjob and Nick Nack. Moonraker tried to fix that and ended up doing exactly the opposite, but, alas. Such is life. As the old saying goes, sometimes you just have to realize that you’re not going to survive in the New World Order, revolt against your master, do everything you can to chum up with the only lady in the world (or off-world) who would possibly find you attractive, and presumably spend the rest of your days gazing longingly out the window of a doomed space station.

"We'll be fine! Don't worry about a thing!"
“We’ll be fine! Don’t worry about a thing!”
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3 thoughts on “Moonraker (1979)”

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