Moonraker does it better
Received fandom wisdom has it that The Spy Who Loved Me is the apex of Sir Roger Moore's tenure as 007, while Moonraker is often cited as the silliest, if not the worst, of all the Bonds.
Two articles from last year on this very site reinforced that viewpoint, but the two films are reversed in my affections, and I'd like to respectfully submit why this is the case, after which I really must try to find Gibson and his solar cell...
I'm a big fan of Moore, with Live and Let Die, For Your Eyes Only and Octopussy among my favourite 007 flicks, but I've always had misgivings about The Spy Who Loved Me. Having given the matter careful consideration, I've concluded that while there are classic standout moments that everyone remembers — the ski jump, the submersible Lotus, and the battle aboard the Liparus – large sections of the movie are actually rather dull.
Take, for instance, the section set in Egypt. The exchanges between Bond and Hosein and Felicca are somewhat stilted, and the fights with Sandor and the Russian goons at the Pyramids are underwhelming, with the obvious use of a stunt double for Moore.
And why exactly must Bond, before meeting Kalba, first make contact with a man called Fekkesh — Aziz Fekkesh, apart from to pad things out a bit?
Later in the film, the fight with Jaws on the train is unbelievably similar to that with Tee Hee, especially given that the latter had taken place only four years and two films previously.
Bond's arrival at Atlantis is marred by the weak visual effect of juxtaposing the sea with the model base, and the fact that Barbara Bach is wearing a knitted tea cosy on her head. Talking of Bach, she may be beautiful, but she is undeniably wooden, as are several other cast members. Even amid the climactic battle, the sequence where Bond and co. go off to defuse the nuclear warhead, is a drag on proceedings.
On the flip side, during recent viewings of Moonraker, I've been struck by just how solidly entertaining the film is. Unlike its predecessor, it has no longueurs and flirts from one entertaining sequence to another.
The pre-credit sequence, while undeniably similar, cuts more quickly to the chase, and despite the silly appearance of Jaws, the stunt work is equally jaw-dropping. Lois Chiles is usually overlooked in lists of Bond leading ladies, but I think her performance is very effective, and the chemistry and banter she shares with Moore are reminiscent of a screwball comedy at times.
The locations of Moonraker are more varied, and more beautifully filmed by Jean Tournier than his predecessor Claude Renoir. I will admit that the Bondola chase, complete with double-taking pigeon, is a step too far, but the film's second boat chase is very successful.
Possibly the film's trump card is the score by John Barry. Barry's music is beautiful and varied, making several scenes that could have been unremarkable — such as Bond's arrival in Rio and being lured to the pyramid — very remarkable. Even the samba music played by Snoopy and his chums is entertaining.
This is all in stark contrast to Marvin Hamlisch's effort for The Spy Who Loved Me, which I feel is sometimes conspicuous by its absence at crucial moments, and somewhat repetitive.
The space scenes are a triumph, with impeccable visual effects, and again, with great help from Barry. It's just a shame that the same care couldn't have been lavished on the cable car sequence, which is marred by some particularly poor back projection.
So there you have it. With a better villain and Bond girl, and the same henchman (he even talks in this one!), I'd say that trying to make a case for Moonraker being more entertaining than The Spy Who Loved Me is, on balance, easier than attempting re-entry in zero gravity while being ogled by Jimmy Carter and the Queen.
David lives in Leeds and has been a 007 fan for more years than he cares to remember. When not working as a mild-mannered market researcher, he enjoys musing on all aspects of the Bond universe.