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You Only Live Thrice
on 12 December 2007
Roger Moore's biggest box-office hit during his tenure as Bond, Moonraker has seen its reputation plummet to the point where its widely regarded as the worst film in the entire series. It's not exactly difficult to see why. The ill-advised jokes that end the otherwise stunningly shot pretitle sequence of Jaws and a parachuteless Bond battling midair unfortunately give a hint of what is to come, but for the first 35 minutes it chugs along very competently, even throwing in one good setpiece in a G-Force simulator. Then comes the gondola/hovercraft sequence, a setpiece that abandons any notion of internal logic for cheap gags and illustrates one of the film's biggest problems: there's no real menace when we know Bond doesn't need to rely on his wits because he's got an absurd gadget for every occasion, and without any sense of threat the action scenes constantly fall flat. Many of them aren't even particularly well-staged but look rather haphazardly thrown together. Worse still, by offering the second consecutive reworking of You Only Live Twice's plot (all from the same director, Lewis Gilbert) it all feels like it's just going through the motions because they can't think of anything better to do.
While it doesn't show the contempt for Bond that Octopussy seemed to revel in as it seemed to go out of its way to humiliate Bond by making him literally butt of all the jokes, it constantly winks at the audience as if to say "We know it's nonsense, but at least it's very expensive nonsense." Unfortunately, it does set up two of the least welcome future developments in the series - as well as being the one where the product placement started to get out of control (my, didn't 7-Up and British Airways do well?), it also started the unfortunate tradition of the Michael G. Wilson cameo. Still, it's nice to see Bernard Lee getting to play a warmer M in his final Bond, finally proud of the boy (the film is very much the end of an era, with most of the surviving members of the old team breaking up - this was Lee, Gilbert and Ken Adam's last film), the great special effects are genuinely impressive even 28 years on and Michel Lonsdale provides the series with one of its best villains and gets all the best lines ("Look after Mr Bond. See that some harm comes to him") even if he is wasted by the derivative plot.
There's not a huge amount in the way of new extras on this two-disc Ultimate Edition - Roger Moore's audio commentary, a 1979 making of featurette, footage of the Rio shoot, test footage for the skydiving sequence and a couple of storyboard sequences. Sadly the teaser trailer sending up hairspray and perfume ads is still not included, although all the extras from the original edition have been carried over.