Like Jason's Facebook Page

Thursday, August 15, 2013

My View of Moonraker (No, not that one!)

Moonraker, by Ian Fleming

To continue my study of the Ian Fleming Bond (see my review on Thunderball at Goodreads for an explanation of what I mean) I decided to give Moonraker a read.  It is, quite frankly, the worst movie of the series, and I thought I'd see if the book might turn out to be better.  (I'd had a hint of this from GoodReads friend Tracey (see her excellent review here.)  I was happy to discover it was much, much better.

Keeping with the Fleming characterization of Bond, we still see him as a bit more lucky than skilled.  However, we begin to see flashes of his too-good-to-be-true accomplishments.  (I won't spoil it for you, but the welding torch bit is, well, ahem...tough to swallow.  If I tried that in one of my books I think I'd be embarrassed to let someone read it.  But I digress.)  He seems less petty here than he did in Thunderball.  In keeping with the lengthy golf game in Goldfinger, Fleming shows Bond at another "sport", this time the not so glamorous game of "Bridge".  I know this was a popular game back then, and my parents played it all the time, and I even learned to play it with them for a time, but this does date this book a bit.

I enjoyed the mystery here.  It is one of those stories where you really don't know what is going on for most of the book.  We are as clueless as Bond.  We aren't given any early warning from Fleming as to what Hugo Drax is or what he is up to.  This keeps the book mysterious, but leaves too much of a far-fetched revelation scene (yep, Bond and the girl, tied up, listen to Drax tell his life story and his evil plot all in one sitting).  Drax never really reaches the menacing point as Auric Goldfinger did.  But he does fill the role of evil Bond villain pretty well, with the massive concrete lair, evil doctors, and jumpsuited men running about.

The girl in Moonraker is Gala Brand.  So far, she is one of the best female characters I've ever seen in a Bond movie or book.  She is intelligent, beautiful (of course), an agent (not a victim) and she has her own ideas (it is her idea that 'saves the day' for Bond and all of England), including what man she wants to be with.  Yes, Fleming gets her out of her clothes at some point, but it is in an action scene (not to be confused with a scene in which Bond is getting some action) and Fleming actually points out that there is nothing sensuous about it.  Like Felix Leiter, who is a no-show in this book, I wish Gala Brand could show up again in another Bond outing.

Bond drives a 1933 Bentley 4.5 litre, similar to the Bentley
shown here in Moonraker.
The story takes place in Great Britain, which is supposed to be a no-no for the 00 agents.  But that is dealt with plausibly, I suppose, and I'm glad Fleming chose this location.  For those of us who don't live in Britain, it too, can be an exotic location.  Especially the Britain of the 1950's.  We are treated to a fantastic car chase (Fleming excels here) and Bond and Brand are also forced to deal with some uncommon physical extremes.  And there are no tricks to getting through them.  Just grit your teeth and deal with it.  (And again, Brand holds her own--no shrinking violet is she.)

One little extra I enjoyed was the behind the scenes look at Bond's office.  His secretary, Ms. Ponsonby, is a nice touch, and Fleming gives her some dignity and gallantry in the short scenes she appears in.  Also, during this book, there are only three 00 agents.  (007, 008, and 0011)  M gets a bigger role here than I've seen before, too.

All of it added up to a wonderful Bond adventure, which begs the question: what happened to the collective mind of the Broccoli production when they tried to make this movie?  Christopher Wood wrote the screenplay for it, and frankly, I hope he regrets it.  With this novel as the source material, I can't imagine what he (or the producers) were thinking.  I still believe that Bond fans should get together and plead with United Artists to scrub this movie from our collective memories.  I love James Bond movies, Roger Moore was my favorite Bond growing up, but this movie is just impossible to watch.

No comments:

Post a Comment