Literary Bond III-Moonraker (or how one novel became three separate Bond films)

Moonraker’s kind of interesting. Like Live And Let Die, although the basic idea inspired the movie that shares it’s namesake-the 1979 film starring Roger Moore-several other elements of the novel wouldn’t be used until later on-notably in Pierce Brosnan’s “Goldeneye” and “Die Another Day”.

The novel mainly deals with Bond investigating a rich socialite, Hugo Drax, who is working on Britain’s nuclear missile program, the Moonraker. In the movie, this is turned to space shuttles, and a giant (and hidden) orbiting space station where Drax hopes to re-start civilization by poisoning Earth. The film version largely borrows the plot from the previous film “The Spy Who Loved Me”, with a rich industrialist trying to re-start civilization in a twisted fashion (and also with the help of steel-toothed henchman Jaws). “Spy” also adapted many elements from the earlier Connery movie, “You Only Live Twice”. All three films have the same director, Lewis Gilbert.



Unlike it’s movie adaptation-which goes from California, to Venice, to Rio, the Amazon, and then finally to orbital outer space(!);and the previous novel, Live and Let Die, “Moonraker” largely remains in Britain. The action starts at the London Blades social club, where Bond discovers Drax is cheating at gambling.



Although Bond discovers various gambling deceptions in many of the later novels and books, an actual confrontation at Blades isn’t actually seen until the final Pierce Brosnan movie, Die Another Day, at that isn’t really about cards, but diamonds-that Bond suspects that bad guy , mysterious British diamond tycoon Gustav Graves has been using African conflict diamonds as his own stock (In the movie it leads to a sword fight, one of the better parts of the much-maligned film).

In both Moonraker and Die Another Day, Bond befriends a woman working as Drax/Grave’s assistant, but is actually an undercover British spy (This also inspired the character Holly in the Moonraker film as well). In the novel, her name is Gala Brand (A name not yet used for a film Bond girl). Both (mostly) resist Bond’s advances as well. However, in Die Another Day, the British agent-in this case, Miranda Frost-turns out to have been working for Graves all along as a triple agent, whereas Brand’s loyalties remain with MI6.

Drax’s-whose droll movie version isn’t really much like that in the novel-evil plan in the book involves using one of his missiles on London-and also buying London stocks, somewhat similar to Alec Trevayan’s plan to mess around with London finances prior to using the Goldenye over it in that film. Drax and Trevalyn’s plans are largely motivated by revenge for past injustices, both also stemming from World War II.



Bond: A worldwide financial meltdown… and all so mad little Alec can settle a score with the world 50 years on.

Here’s also another similarity between Drax and Graves-neither are who they say they are. Drax is in fact a former Nazi, Graf Hugo Von Der Drafe  injured, disfigured, and left for dead, and was able to establish a new identity as Hugo Drax while working on his revenge. Drax, Trevalyn, and Graves likewise come back from the dead in new identities (Although Alec mainly sticks to the shadows as criminal mastermind “Janus” at least at first), although with Graves-especially since he had a prior confrontation with Bond as Colonel Moon in the film’s opening teaser action sequence. Drax’s final defeat in the book is when his own nuke is turned against his own submarine, similar to how Bond foiled Stromberg’s plan in The Spy Who Loved Me film.

It’s worth also noting that while both “Moonraker” and “Die Another Day” were big hits financially, critically they took quite a lot of criticism from moving away from the espionage roots of Bond by incorporating far too much science-fiction goofiness into the series. The next films would largely go back to basics-1981’s “For Your Eyes Only” (Which would also draw from several Fleming works, mainly his short story collection) and 2006’s “Casino Royale” (Which would be based on the original Bond novel, and covered in an earlier article).






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