The film starts with a British-staffed plane, transporting a space shuttle named “Moonraker” across the Atlantic. There are hijackers aboard! White guys in brown leather jackets have snuck onto the shuttle. They take off in the shuttle, exploding the plane in the process.
Meanwhile, Bond is on a private jet getting cozy with a stewardess. Suddenly, the stewardess pulls a gun on Bond. The pilot enters the cabin, wearing a parachute and also brandishing a gun.
Bond and the pilot brawl. In the chaos of the fight, the door to the plane is opened. Bond tosses the pilot out of the plane. A second later, motherfuckin’ Jaws from the previous film appears from nowhere, shoving Bond out of the plane.
Bond, freefalling without a parachute angles his dive toward the pilot, and catches him. They fight in the air, and Bond manages to wrench the parachute off of the pilot. The pilot flies off at an angle while Bond attaches the chute.
But Jaws is right above him, having dove out of the plane with a chute of his own! He grapples Bond, tries to bite him. Bond pulls his rip cord, and breaks off from Jaws as his parachute deploys.
It’s a spectacular set piece. One that is then ruined when Jaws’ parachute fails to deploy, causing him to desperately angle his fall so that he lands on a circus tent, breaking his fall and saving his life. It’s a terrible comedy beat, almost as ruinous as the slide-whistle in “The Man With the Golden Gun.”
After the opening Credits, Bond meets with M, Q, and the Minister of Defence. America is mad because the lost shuttle was in British care, so they want Bond to investigate. Before Bond leaves for California, Q gives him a wrist-mounted dart gun.
Corinne Dufour, a beautiful lady helicopter pilot flies Bond into the compound of a wealthy industrialist named Hugo Drax, the manufacturer of the Moonraker. Drax has a giant campus with a giant mansion in the center, which had been shipped stone-by-stone from France. He is developing his own space program.
Bond exchanges brief pleasantries with Drax, who plays at being cultured, but instantly comes off as a dull creep. Bond is sent to meet with a lady scientist named Dr. Holly Goodhead. With the addition of this character to the canon, somehow “Pussy Galore” has been beat as the laziest suggestive name in the franchise.
Goodhead shows Bond some astronaut stuff and straps him in a centrifuge before being called away. After she leaves, at Drax’s command, his specifically-Asian manservant, Chang spins Bond faster and faster, having disabled the kill switch for the centrifuge. As Bond approaches fatal speeds, he uses a wrist dart to disable the machine. For some reason, politeness, I suppose, this is treated as a mechanical mishap and not as an obvious homicide attempt.
These proceedings are all more or less fine enough, but Goodhead is dull. Chang is dull. And Michael Lonsdale as Drax is easily the villain with the least charm, spark, or personality the series has had to date.
Corinne has a bit of personality, but Roger Moore has aged to the point where her role as the woman who sleeps with him and shares all of her boss’s secrets after falling for the charms of James Bond is fully implausible, boring and irritating. Which is not to say that it was a welcome archetype when Bond was younger and hotter. It’s just dumber now.
At any rate, having served her plot function, Corinne can now be murdered by Chang in an unpleasant extended scene where she is set upon by dogs.
Bond, having photographed some blueprints is ready to leave, but not before Drax attempts to have him killed in a pheasant hunting “accident”. Bond just shoots would be attacker and takes off as if nothing ever happened. All Drax’s attempts to have Bond murdered are doing are red flagging himself as a bad guy.
Bond now travels to Venice on a very thin lead. He ends up visiting a glass museum and runs into Dr. Goodhead. He keeps trying to ingratiate himself with her and she keeps rebuffing him. This should be endearing, but the character is just so flat.
Later, Bond is lounging on a gondola when he gets beset by a knife-throwing assassin. The assassin kills the gondolier but misses Bond. Bond throws the knife that missed back at the assassin, killing him in a cartoonish manner that is not worth describing. Seems like using the dart gun would have been easier.
It appears that this is no ordinary gondola, as Bond pulls out controls for motorized operation. He begins piloting the gondola as if it were a speedboat, now pursued by gun-toting assailants in actual speedboats. There is a chase through the canals, played not for suspense, but for what one would technically call comedy.
After a few action beats, a second speedboat, this one with Jaw onboard joins the chase. However, Bond’s gondola is a spy gondola and he is able to transform it into a hovercraft, leaving the canals for the streets, and escaping his pursuers. This causes numerous doubletakes, including one by a pigeon.
The whole sequence seems to be aiming for the knowing goofiness of “Live and Let Die” but it painfully misses the mark. After getting increasingly dumb over the last few installments, the pigeon doubletake appears the be the moment where all pretense of the filmmakers respecting their own film making is abandoned. The Bond franchise seems to now primarily exist to lampoon itself, but not in a fun, smart “Scream” way.
After the chase, Bond is… somewhere? He has somehow found a secret lab. I suppose it is possible that I missed some minor clue, something that explained how he got here, but it feels like the film has abandoned the notion of having a plot that is at all legible. The lab is very sci-fi.
Bond’s meddling leaves a vial in an unfortunate location, which a pair of scientists accidentally knock over. Safe behind glass, Bond watches the contents of that vial fill the room with a smoke that instantly kills the scientist.
Bond sneaks back out, with another vial, and is attacked by Chang, now in fencing gear, wielding a bamboo sword. Bond ducks back into the glass museum. (Maybe the lab and the glass museum and the glass manufacturers are all part of the same glass consortium, but this is not made clear.)
Bond picks up a one-of-a-kind sword with a glass hilt from a display. The two fight with swords, smashing countless racks of rare glass.
I’ve always hated when adventure stories have fights in museums. I hate seeing supposed rare artifacts destroyed in the course of these shenanigans. This sequence, meanwhile, is reveling in smashing as much as possible. They smash it all, before Bond eventually kills Chang, again, in a way that is thuddingly played for unlanded laughs.
Bond then goes to see Dr. Goodhead at her lavish hotel room. He knowingly paws through her personal items, revealing several spy gadgets. It turns out that Dr. Goodhead is working for the CIA, and so the two decide to pool their resources. Which means that Dr. Goodhead is now willing to have sex with Bond. It just seems like work.
M and the Minister of Defence arrive in Venice, and Bond takes them to the location of the lab. Only, when he does, there is no lab at the location, but instead a large, ornate office. It is a room that it would be flatly impossible to put in the place of the lab. I don’t think I can underline enough just how impossible it would be to make this switch with anything short of magic, holodecks, or teleportation. In its own way, this breaks the plausibility of the movie just as badly as the pigeon. Drax is in the office.
Due to embarrassing the Minister in this fashion, Bond is taken off of the case, but wink-wink, will continue working on it. Bond will head to Rio, following a lead I did not catch.
With Chang dead, Drax makes a phone call and hires Jaws as a replacement. I’d really like to know who exactly he called to make this hire.
When Bond arrives in Rio, Manuela is waiting in his hotel room. She is an attractive young woman that gives him local color and sex. No clear indication is given about who she actually is. These movies have simply hit the point where Bond merely has to appear in a location and there will be a beautiful woman 25 years his junior ready to give him exposition and ready to sleep with him. There is no longer even a pretense of seduction. It is gross straight male fantasy at its absolute laziest.
After they sleep together, Jaws attacks them, dressed as a clown, but a crowd of parties sweeps Jaws away in their revelry. It’s even dumber and shittier than it sounds.
The next day, Jaws disables a gondola containing Bond and Goodhead by chewing through a steel cable. Gondola, as in cable car, not like the boats. (This movie covers the gamut of gondolas across the world.) Jaws and Bond fight on top of the gondola. It is unclear why Bond doesn’t use his dart gun to shoot Jaws. Instead, he wraps a chain over one of the gondola’s non-chewed cables, and uses it to slide down the cable, escaping Jaws.
Jaws meanwhile crashes his gondola into a building. As he pulls himself out of the rubble, a buxom, innocent young woman approaches and frees him from the rubble. She does not say anything but smiles at him demurely. He smiles back as the fucking Romeo & Juliet Overture plays on the soundtrack. Without a word, the two walk off, hand in hand.
Bond and Goodhead have some more adventures together, both getting captured by fake paramedics but they soon escape, with no help from Bond’s dart gun. Afterward they are separated. Later, Bond dresses like a vaquero for no readily explored reason.
He meets up with Moneypenny, M and Q, who have all temporarily relocated to a Rio monastery, like they did with the Egypt tombs last picture. Q branch is there, testing out straight-up laser rifles. Meanwhile, the fact that Moneypenny has aged out of flirting with Bond remains a bummer, despite the paradoxical fact that the notion of any human being wanting to flirt with Bond is also a giant bummer.
Q has found that the vial Bond had stolen contains a poison made from a rare orchid found in the region. The toxin is extremely lethal to humans, but harmless to flora and non-human fauna.
Bond takes a spy boat up the river, toward the source of this rare orchid, and has a boat battle along the way. Jaws ends up chasing Bond, as the boating continues, but Bond leads the chase over a waterfall. Bond hang-glides to safety while Jaws goes over the falls.
Bond then seems to randomly stumble into a villain lair populated by a large number of beautiful women several recognizable as associates of Hugo Drax. They are all wearing what appears to be “sexy astronaut” costumes from the Halloween store. Jaws is also there, somehow, despite having just gone over a waterfall because this movie appears to follow Looney Tunes rules.
It is, of course, Drax’s lair. He escorts Bond through the space, showing off his supervillain space command. This movie has been dreadful, but the base looks great. It’s quite an impressive set, a bigger, grander version of the volcano lair in “You Only Live Twice.” Bond is tossed into a room with Goodhead, directly below a rocket. Drax refuses to just have them shot, insisting they have a fun death. He wants them to burn to death when the rocket launches.
But Bond still has his stupid digital watch, complete with an explosive charge. He uses it to blow a hole in a large vent that he and Goodhead escape through.
Bond and Goodhead then sneak their way through the base and secretly commandeer a space shuttle, one of six in Drax’s fleet all taking off right now. Bond and Goodhead discover that the shuttle is full of what appear to be mating pairs of hot young humans. The shuttle is on a preprogrammed flight, able to take them to… Drax’s secret space station!
The six Moonrakers all dock at the secret cloaked space station. All the folk disembark, including Jaws with his new lady love.
Drax intends to use his toxin to kill all remaining human life on Earth, while the people now on the space station begin a new utopian society. It’s the exact same plot as the last movie, only upside down. This isn’t any sort of clever mirroring, it’s just lazy repetition.
Bond and Goodhead disable the radar jammer, making the station visible to Earth. Once they do, the U.S. send a shuttle to investigate, but Drax has lasers.
Bond and Goodhead are captured again and are about to be shoved out of an airlock, but Bond plants the seeds of doubt in Jaws that he and his lady will not make the cut in this new society, eugenically speaking. This causes Jaws to rebel.
At this point, all hell breaks loose. The station stops rotating, disrupting the artificial gravity. Drax sends a bunch of Astronaut troops outside of the station to meet the American Astronaut warriors, who have left their own shuttle. An exterior laser battle ensues. Eventually the spies help the Americans onboard, leading to an interior laser battle.
In the chaos, Drax tries to escape. Bond pursues, but Drax gets the drop on him with a laser pistol. Bond shoots him with the dart gun. Then he tosses Drax out of an airlock.
But things are not okay over yet. Drax had already launched three orbs containing the toxin toward Earth, enough to kill millions. Naturally, Bond and Goodhead hop into a Moonraker, armed with a laser canon. However, the docking release is jammed!
Jaws and his lady are left the lone living people remaining on the decaying space station. They are just happy to be together. They share some champaign. Jaws, having been mute up to this point, toasts the two of them. “We’ll, here’s to us.” Then they help the spies break free of the space station. Then the space station explodes.
Bond and Goodhead shoot down the toxin spheres. There is a vague line of dialog suggesting that Jaws and his lady survived somehow.
Then Bond and Goodhead fuck on the space shuttle.
This is the strangest Bond thus far. I don’t believe in “so bad, it’s good,” but this movie is “so strange, it’s compelling, despite being terrible.” Where do they go from here? Having sent Bond to space, the pendulum has to start swinging the other way, right?