|Moonraker (1979) is the eleventh spy film in the James Bond series, and the fourth to star Roger Moore as the fictional MI6 agent James Bond. The third and final film in the series to be directed by Lewis Gilbert, it co-stars Lois Chiles, Michael Lonsdale, Corinne Clery, and Richard Kiel. Bond investigates the theft of a space shuttle, leading him to Hugo Drax, the owner of the shuttle’s manufacturing firm. Along with space scientist Dr. Holly Goodhead, Bond follows the trail from California to Venice, Rio de Janeiro, and the Amazon rain forest, and finally into outer space to prevent a plot to wipe out the world population and to re-create humanity with a master race.
Moonraker was intended by its creator Ian Fleming to become a film even before he completed the novel in 1954, since he based it on a manuscript he had written even earlier. The film producers had originally intended to do Moonraker in 1973 with Roger Moore making his debut as Bond, but it was put on hold and not released until 1979, coinciding with the rise of the science fiction genre in the wake of the Star Wars phenomenon. Budgetary issues caused the film to be primarily shot in France, with locations also in Italy, Brazil, Guatemala and the United States. The soundstages of Pinewood Studios in England, a traditional location for the series, were only used by the special effects team.
Moonraker was noted for its high production cost, spending almost twice as much money as predecessor The Spy Who Loved Me, but eventually became the highest grossing film of the series with $210,308,099 worldwide, a record that stood until 1995’s GoldenEye. The film’s visuals were praised, with Derek Meddings being nominated for the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects, but reviewers were mostly critical of the writing and comedic tone.
A Drax Industries Moonraker space shuttle on loan to the United Kingdom is hijacked in mid-air and MI6 operative, James Bond, agent 007, is recalled from Africa to investigate. En route in a small plane, on an unrelated case, Bond is attacked by the pilot and crew and is pushed out of the plane by the mercenary assassin Jaws. Bond survives by stealing a parachute from the pilot, whilst Jaws lands on a circus tent.
Bond proceeds to the Drax Industries shuttle-manufacturing complex where he meets the owner of the company, Hugo Drax, and henchman Chang. Bond also meets an astronaut, Dr. Holly Goodhead and survives an assassination attempt via a centrifuge chamber. Bond is later aided by Drax’s personal pilot, Corinne Dufour, as he finds blueprints for a glass vial made in Venice. Bond then foils another attempt on his life, shooting a sniper with a hunting shotgun. Upon discovering that Dufour assisted Bond’s investigations, Drax kills her.
Bond again encounters Goodhead in Venice. He is chased through the canals by Drax’s henchmen but escapes. Bond discovers a secret biological laboratory; by accidentally poisoning the scientists there, he learns that the glass vials are to hold a deadly nerve gas. Chang attacks Bond and is killed. During the fight, Bond sees evidence that Drax is moving his operation to Rio de Janeiro. Rejoining Goodhead, he deduces that she is a CIA agent spying on Drax. They promise to work together, but quickly dispense with the truce. Bond has saved one of the vials he found earlier, as the only evidence of the now-empty laboratory, giving it to M for analysis, who permits him to go to Rio de Janeiro.
In Rio, Bond meets his Brazilian contact Manuela. Drax hires Jaws to finish Chang’s job of eliminating Bond. Bond meets Goodhead at the top of Sugarloaf Mountain, where they are attacked by Jaws on a cable car. After Jaws’ car crashes he is rescued by Dolly from the rubble, and the two fall in love. Bond and Goodhead are captured by henchmen, but Bond escapes and reports to an MI6 base in Brazil and learns that the toxin comes from a rare orchid indigenous to the Amazon jungle, which is deadly to humans but harmless to other life. Bond travels the Amazon River looking for Drax’s research facility and again encounters Jaws and other henchmen. Bond escapes from his boat just before it hits the Iguacu Falls, and finds Drax’s base. Captured by Jaws again, Bond is taken to Drax and witnesses four Moonrakers lifting off. Drax explains that he stole the Moonraker because another in the fleet had developed a fault during assembly. Bond is reunited with Goodhead; they escape and successfully pose as pilots on the sixth shuttle. The shuttles dock with Drax’s hidden space station.
Drax plans to destroy human life by launching fifty globes containing the toxin into the Earth’s atmosphere. Before launching them, Drax also transported several dozen genetically perfect young men and women of varying races, to the space station. They would live there until Earth was safe again for human life; their descendants would be the seed for a “new master race”. Bond persuades Jaws and Dolly to switch allegiance by getting Drax to admit that anyone not measuring up to his physical standards would be exterminated and Jaws attacks Drax’ guards.
Bond and Goodhead disable the radar jammer hiding the station from Earth. The US sends a platoon of Marines in a military shuttle. A laser battle ensues in which Drax’s guards as well as his new master race die. During the battle, Bond shoots Drax with a cyanide-tipped dart, then pushes him into an airlock and ejects him into space.
The space station, heavily damaged in the battle, disintegrates. Jaws helps Bond and Goodhead escape in Drax’s space shuttle. They too escape the space station as their module breaks away before the station explodes. Before the battle Drax launched three of the globes towards Earth, which Goodhead and Bond destroy from their shuttle.