Continuing from where I left off last time, I have since watched all of the Roger Moore films in the James Bond series. Some people don’t like Moore because he infused a bit too much tongue in cheek humor, but I think it suited him well. Every actor gave Bond a unique personality. This is probably the reason why the series has been able to continue for so long. Each time we get a new Bond, we get a new personality, and not a bunch of different people trying to play the role exactly the same way.
Ranking the Roger Moore films in order from best to last would go something like this:
- The Spy Who Loved Me
- Live and Let Die
- The Man with the Golden Gun
- For Your Eyes Only
- A View to a Kill
If you’re interested in why I ordered them the way I did (and how could you not be?), read on.
The Spy Who Loved Me – Without a doubt, this is Roger Moore’s best Bond film. Just about everything works, and it stands a great example of what it takes to make a good Bond movie. The first half, in Egypt, contains some of the best stuff ever seen in any Bond adventure. It’s fresh, has an exciting new location, and imbues the viewer with a genuine sense of intrigue. The second half is a bit more derivative, but still solidly entertaining. The opening song, sung by Carly Simon, is perhaps the most popular Bond theme ever recorded, and the rest of the music is powerful. With a large orchestra, certainly this has the best score of any Bond movie. The Bond theme itself got a disco remix, and while I wouldn’t want to hear it in every movie, it is defintely cool enough for one go around here. Even better, a classic Bond villain, Jaws, makes his appearance in this movie. He is so good, in fact, that his death was rewritten so he could live to harass Bond another day. Jaws is one of the Bond canon’s most iconic characters, and the battle in the archeaology site alone, makes this movie worth watching. The other thing that makes this a fun Bond outing is the car. His Lotus Esprit is featured in a fantastic car chase (perhaps the second best of all the movies), which culminates in a underwater excursion when it morphs into a submersible vehicle. Of course, there were a few things I didn’t particularly like about this movie. First, the villain was completely generic and unmemorable. He barely makes an appearance, and is so old that he is completely non-threatening. Second, the girl, while certainly beautiful, could not act to save her life. She has a completely flat affect, and her lifelessness on screen is not a good match for Roger Moore’s more fun demeanor. Despite these minor drawbacks, this is by far one of the best Bond movies of all. With a great soundtrack, a good performance by Moore, cool gadgets, an awesome villain in Jaws, and a tight, well-paced plot, this is definitely one Bond film to check out.
Live and Let Die – Roger Moore slipped comfortably into the role of James Bond. He pulled it off effortlessly, and brought a whole new level of sophistication to the character. He certainly is different from Sean Connery’s Bond, but in a good way. While he isn’t as believable physically, he upped the suaveness and charm, and infused more humor into the role. As Moore’s first movie in the Bond series, Live and Let Die is quite good. For the most part, the film is bound in the real world, with little reliance on extravagance or spectacular gadgets. As far as I’m concerned, it also features one of the best title songs in any of the Bond movies. The fact that the song is reused during action sequences is an added bonus. Taking on a Voodoo cult, and a group of Harlem bad guys seems a bit odd for a Bond film, but it actually worked out nicely. The action is varied, and, similarly to Dr. No, Bond functions more like a detective, working to piece together clues about what is going on. The only thing that really bothered me about this movie was the inclusion of the stereotypically dumb, tobacco-chewing redneck Sheriff. He was meant to be a comic relief, but served as more of an annoyance than anything else. On the postive side, the speedboat chase and the alligator escape scenes were a lot of fun. Also, a young Jane Seymour is the Bond girl, and she does an excellent job. I particularly liked when she used Tarot cards to predict that Bond would “bring death and destruction with him.” Quite true. Overall, a very solid Bond adventure.
Moonraker – Personally, I can’t quite understand why so many people hate Moonraker. It’s really not that bad of a film. Okay, I’ll admit that if it wasn’t a Bond movie, it might suck, but with the inclusion of all the usual Bond trappings, it’s not half bad. Sure, it’s very campy. It could have been improved by excluding the gondola hovercraft, the fake-as-hell space battle, and some of the general goofiness. Nevertheless, these things alone do not ruin the movie as a whole. People tend to focus on the campy, negative aspects of this movie without ever focusing on the positive. First, its got a ton of action. Seriously, there must be an action sequence about every 10-15 minutes from beginning to end. Moonraker is certainly not one of the boring Bond movies like the sleep-inducing On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Also, the action scenes are rather varied, ranging from a fight in a glass works museum, to a speedboat chase, to wrestling a python, to shootouts, and even more. Second, Jaws returns, and while he does changes sides at the end, he is a fun villain to watch before that. Third, the acting is quite good. Fourth, the plot is not any less ridiculous than any other Bond movies, like the highly praised The Spy Who Loved Me. Fifth, it had great locations and sets. Sixth, Hugo Drax was a good, if not underrated Bond villain. But there are bad points, too, like the aforementioned extreme campiness, the overdrawn outer space sequences, cheesy special effects (e.g. everyone moving in slow-motion in zero gravity – why?), Jaws becoming a good guy, and the obvious attempts to cash in on the then current Star Wars craze. I do give them props for depicting the use of the space shuttle before it had a successful mission in real life. The good points and bad points balance themselves out in this particular Bond film. While it certainly isn’t one of the best, it also isn’t nearly as bad as some people make it out to be. Is it skippable? Yes. Should you skip it? Not necessarily.
The Man with the Golden Gun – This is one of those Bond movies that is universally panned. Honestly, it’s not really that bad. Unfortunately, it’s not really that good, either. The problem with this film is that it is mediocre. There’s nothing worth mentioning here, and seems like a paint-by-numbers Bond mission more than anything else. While the premise is good (and reminiscent of the superior From Russia with Love), Bond has a show-down with a world class assassin, it never really delivers. The final battle with Scaramanga is weak, when it should have been anxiety-filled. In the movie’s favor, Scaramanga’s golden gun is very cool. The movie also gets bonus points for casting the incredible Christopher Lee as Bond’s adversary. To my friends’ constant frustration, the golden gun was my favorite weapon in the classic Goldeneye 64 video game. This outing never manages to get your heart going, and is a rather lackluster affair. Not a bad movie, but certainly one you can skip.
Octopussy – After the mediocre For Your Eyes Only, James Bond returned to the world of campy spy antics. Fortunately, Moore thrives in this environment, and makes it a lot of fun. Unfortunately, this Bond outing is kind of a mess, and the weak story makes it hard to really enjoy. Things start off good with Bond taking his first trip to India. The scenes there were quite good, but you can pinpoint exactly when the movie starts to slide into bad territory: the jungle chase. We see Bond taming tigers, grappling with snakes, and running from hunters on elephants. The whole thing brought a new level of ridiculousness to the world of Bond. After that things just never quite let up. It remains ridiculous for the remaining hour of the film. The overly long train scene, and the gorilla and clown disguises were also needless. Nevertheless, this movie isn’t without its merits. All of the stuff leading up to the jungle chase were vintage Bond. Octopussy is one of the better Bond girls, the battle at the end was all right, the Indian henchman was cool, and, best of all, Q gets some action. The good and the bad balance themselves out well, and this one gets an average rating overall.
For Your Eyes Only – This is the most realistic Bond film since From Russia with Love. Unfortunately, it is also one of the most lackluster movies in the entire canon. I appreciate the fact that the producers wanted to go back to basics by eliminating the outlandish gadgets and campiness. However, when you get rid of all of those things, then it really isn’t a Bond movie any more. For a Bond movie to feel like a Bond movie, you need to have a couple of gadgets, and a little bit of humor. Otherwise, it would just be another generic spy film. There are quite a few stretches where nothing happens, and the editor should have excised more. Nevertheless, the action sequences are quite good. Standing out most of all is the rock-climbing scene, which was a lot of fun. The keelhauling sequence was also cool, and one of the more inventive attempts at killing Bond, although my all time favorite would be the laser scene from Goldfinger. Overall, there really isn’t much to say about this one. Roger Moore is still good as 007, but you can tell he’s starting to look a little bored with the role near the end. Although I had seen it before, I hadn’t remembered any of it. It’s mediocre, and completely unmemorable.
A View to a Kill – This is Roger Moore’s final adventure as James Bond. They scaled back the extreme campiness from the previous movie, Octopussy, and brought in a little sense of reality to the affair. Similarly to For Your Eyes Only, there isn’t a lot of action in this film. The action that is to be found isn’t particularly great, either. The horse chase scene was exciting, but nothing else picqued my interest. Part of the problem is that Moore is getting too old for the role at this point, and you can tell that here he is 100% bored playing the part. Casting Christopher Walken as a psychotic genius created by the Nazis and trained by the KGB was certainly an awesome idea. Unfortunately, Walken doesn’t get much screen time. He should have had a role similar to that of the villain in From Russia with Love, but instead he is given the standard Bond villain role and isn’t allowed to really get into the character. May Day as a henchwoman was not at all exciting. The music isn’t memorable, the acting is fair, and the plot a retread of Goldfinger. Overall, this the weakest of Moore’s films, and one that should be skipped by all but the most hardcore Bond fans.
Well, it’s time to move on to the Timothy Dalton/Pierce Brosnan era. I’ll write up another batch of reviews once I get through those.
- The Spy Who Loved Me – Awesome
- Live and Let Die – Awesome
- Moonraker – Good
- The Man with the Golden Gun – Average
- Octopussy – Average
- For Your Eyes Only – Average
- A View to a Kill – Bad