Moonraker

James Bond is not very much like Calvin of the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes. One is a grown man with the impulse control of a child, the other is a small child that voices a grown man's thoughts about philosophy. One is a spy who travels the globe, the other is a spaceman who goes to school. One beds a lot of women, the other shares a bed with a stuffed tiger. Given how dissimilar they are, it's pretty surprising that James Bond is so good at playing Calvin's favorite game Calvinball.

For those of you who don't know what Calvinball is I'll explain: it's a game where there are only two rules: anything you decree to be a rule instantly becomes a rule and you can never use the same rule twice. It's an imagination game, and the purpose is to thwart your opponent by imagining a way out of whatever trap he's dreamt up for you. Moonraker proves that James Bond is very, very good at Calvinball.

You see, if James Bond is kicked out of an airplane without a parachute - as he is in the beginning of Moonraker - he just has to head towards another diver who does have a parachute and steal it. Easy as pie!

Later, James Bond will get into the pilot's chair of a space shuttle, and he will look slightly concerned because he has no astronaut training, but his companion will tell him not to worry because the ship's course is already pre-programmed. Of course it is!

When Bond's ship docks to the floating space station where the bad guy is hiding Bond will realize that he needs back ups - so he disables the cloaking device that's been hiding the space station from Earth's intelligence agencies. This allows NASA to see a new blip in the sky, which they immediately understand to be a threat, so they hustle a crew of astronauts carrying laser guns into an already prepped ship and shoot them into space post haste. Because in James Bond's world there is no such thing as "launch windows" or "worrisome atmospheric conditions" or "astronauts who aren't prepared to fire space lasers at a moment's notice."

 This would make a great screen saver. But a scene in a movie? Not so much.

This would make a great screen saver. But a scene in a movie? Not so much.

There's a reason why I'm talking about so many flying things: it's because the villain of this turkey is Drax, and he's an evil captialist whose company makes the Moonraker space shuttle. The film's plot - insomuch as this film has a plot - is kicked into motion when Drax sells Britain a Moonraker, then realizes that one of his personal Moonrakers is broken, so instead of, you know, making another shuttle or fixing the broken shuttle he already has, he decides to steal back Britain's Moonraker while it's in transit. It's a good thing he did that, because if he hadn't, there would be no reason to investigate his affairs, and if there's no investigation, then his plan to sterilize the human race wouldn't have been stopped. Phew! That was a close one.

Although I will admit that sterilizing the globe is a bit much, that does remind me: someone needs to make it so that James Bond can no longer have sex. You see, Bond basically abuses his Calvinball powers to rape multiple women. If he establishes the rule "you should sleep with me" then the other player has to do that - whether they want to or not. There's a scene where Bond is at Drax's house, and he corners one of his assistants in her bedroom. He kisses her, and she tells him that he's being presumptuous. He basically shrugs and kisses her again, and suddenly she's so into it she sleeps with him. The sex must have been unbelievable, because post-coitus she gives a known representative of a foreign government access to all of Drax's incriminating files. James Bond then leaves Drax's compound and never looks back, so he has absolutely no idea that her punishment for committing such treason was to get mauled to death by Drax's dogs. Like I said: maybe we'd be better off if he was sterilized.

There is a certain amount that I can forgive Moonraker for being an escapist fantasy, but even fantasies should have some internal logic. Nothing follows in this movie. Whenever Bond needs a clue he just walks into a room (which is always unlocked and unobserved) and there it is, waiting for him. And it won't even be a red herring - it is always without fail a real clue that only points in one direction. Of course, since the Bond movies have to criss cross the globe, all of the clues point to different locations - but is there any real reason for Drax to be building space ships in Brazil during Carnival? I'm not asking the film to be realistic, but it does need to have some logic to its plot developments because otherwise the movie has no forward momentum. As it is, Moonraker isn't a story, it's a series of barely related scenes stacked next to each other.

To me, there's a difference between a film that's making it up as it goes along and a film that's playing Calvinball: a Calvinball film isn't just illogical, it's also childish. Yes, there are some mature elements here - mostly due to James Bond's constant sexual advances towards every woman he meets - but there's far more goofiness here than seriousness. I'm not even talking the movie climax (which, as I mentioned earlier, involves an outer space laser battle), I'm talking about it's tone in general. At one point Bond is in a gondola chase in Venice, Italy, and he needs to get his boat out of the water, so he flips a switch and the boat deploys wheels. (Because of course his boat could also be a car.) The sight of Bond driving a gondola-car down the street is so outlandish that all the waiters he drives past get so distracted they start pouring wine onto their customers. Hell, it's so outlandish that when he drives past a pigeon it does a double take.

Look: it's implausible that when James Bond goes into a room he automatically knows which books have explosive darts in their spines and which pens have poison tips. But fine, he's just an expert at finding traps. Sure, it makes no sense that a professional assassin would try to murder Bond with a wood sword (!), a decision that only makes sense if you know that the only weapon Bond would have access to was a glass sword (!!) and that the iron law is that Bond can never be overmatched. Hell, I dunno, maybe James Bond lives in a world where metal blades don't exist. I won't even complain about how all of the action scenes keep switching from Roger Moore as Bond to very obvious stunt doubles and how the location constantly switches from blatant sound stages to real places - although that's another fantastic element which is pretty unbelievable. But a double taking pigeon? That's too far. That's not just total garbage, Moonraker, that's Calvinball territory.

Winner: The Cat

Moonraker on IMDB