Moonraker is the only Bond movie I didn't see growing up, and since it's often cited as the nadir of the series -- though how you determine that when it can be awfully hard to tell tongue-in-cheek Bondery from inadvertent foolishness -- I wasn't exactly eager to make up the gap in my viewing. It was a reasonably pleasant surprise to discover that it really isn't that bad. Sure, the reappearance of Richard Kiel's character Jaws is mindless, while the film loses the plot entirely once it goes into orbit -- Bond and Dr. Holly Goodhead (Lois Chiles) make no attempt whatsoever to conceal themselves and yet it takes an age for anyone to cotton on -- but the first hour is solid Bond entertainment.
Especially, that is, for Bond himself: there's an even longer parade of women than is usually the case, so much so that it becomes hard to sort them out, and the unreconstructed nature of the character comes to seem all the more jarring as the world around him changes. On the plus side, Michel Lonsdale is very enjoyable as the slithery, urbane Hugo Drax, delivering even his silliest lines with low-key relish, and playing straight man to the indestructible Bond. Lewis Gilbert, back for his third Bond, films a remarkable number of scenes almost wordlessly, and many of the action scenes have virtually no dialogue at all. At times, this is really quite effective: there's an especially good sequence when James goes exploring Drax's mansion at night, with Gilbert panning the camera away from Bond towards the door to track an unexpected arrival. It's just a shame that as we leave the earth such simple craftsmanship seems to fall away too.