Moonraker appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, dual-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. The film provided an inconsistent transfer.
Sharpness was an occasional concern. At times, the image appeared fairly crisp and clear, but other occasions offered less defined visuals. Moderate edge enhancement seemed to cause some of these issues, as haloes popped up through the flick. I also noticed considerably heavier indications of jagged edges and shimmering than usual. Source flaws came up in the form of specks and small marks. These weren’t as bad as during some of the other Bonds, but they created a mix of distractions.
Colors seemed acceptable but also varied. Some scenes stood out with bright, vivid hues - the parties in Rio come to mind - but for the most part, colors were decent but a bit bland. Even black levels - usually the strongest aspect of the Bond DVDs - appear duller than usual on Moonraker; I found them to be generally okay but they seemed somewhat muddled and flat at times, and shadow detail looked about the same. Low-light shots tended to be more opaque than I’d like. Moonraker wasn’t an unappealing transfer, but it suffered from too many flaws to merit a grade above a “C”.
The film's Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack offered some notable strengths and weaknesses. First the negatives: even for a movie that's more than 25 years old, the audio quality seemed flawed. Dialogue appeared consistently thin and lacked much of a natural tone. The lines seemed agreeably intelligible but the dull quality hurt it. Music appeared similarly flat and lifeless, and at higher volumes could be rather strident.
Effects tended to be loud and offered some good low end, but they also displayed too much distortion. The harshness wasn't extreme but it was bad enough to be a distraction. Admittedly, the quality of the sound wasn't radically bad for a movie from 1979, but it seemed weaker than I'd expect.
One way in which Moonraker improved upon the prior Bonds came from its very good soundfield. This was easily the best-defined of the Bonds up through 1979. Although 1974's The Man With the Golden Gun and 1977's The Spy Who Loved Me offered decent soundscapes, they didn't compare to the activity level of Moonraker.
Unsurprisingly, the forward soundfield offered most of the action, with plenty of nicely localized audio from all three front channels that blended together well. The rears also provided quite a lot of information. They bolstered the forward mix in a satisfying manner and even tossed in a fair amount of split surround usage, such as during the centrifuge and throughout the climactic space scenes.
The quality of the soundfield was so strong for the era that I really felt bad about sticking the audio of Moonraker with a less-than-stellar "C+". However, I think that no matter how exciting a soundfield may be, if the quality of the sound seems weak, then the entire package suffers as a whole. After all, a monaural mix can work very well as long as the quality appears good, but even the best 5.1 localization and integration can't overcome mushy or distorted audio.
As we move to the package’s extras, we open with an audio commentary from director Lewis Gilbert, screenwriter Christopher Wood, associate producer William Cartlidge, and executive producer Michael Wilson. They all sit together for a running, screen-specific chat in which they offer a refreshingly frank and fun view of the movie.
Okay, it's not so honest that the guys actually strongly criticize the movie, but they do poke some fun at it. For example, Wood bitches about how some of his lines were changed, and the speakers just seem not to take things too seriously. Mainly they convey a lot of fun information through anecdotes, and the piece even gets in a contemporary note through a mention of Blair Witch Project. For some reason, the participants get in a lot of jabs at famed set designer Ken Adam; they're all gentle and in good fun and they add some real spirit to the commentary. I didn't much like the movie, but this track is very enjoyable.
Next we get the standard documentary about the film, this one called Inside Moonraker. The 42-minute program uses the format well-established for these Bond features: it combines contemporary interviews from participants such as actors Moore, Chiles and Kiel and crew like director Gilbert and set designer Adam with film clips and lots of great behind the scenes footage from the set. We see material like Chiles' test shots and a variety of raw stunt footage. The show offers the usual fine description of the creation of the movie, and it makes for a very entertaining and informative piece.
The Men Behind the Mayhem gives us a 19-minute tribute to the folks who fashioned the special effects for the Bond series. The program makes sense on this DVD, since Moonraker stands as the most effects-intensive Bond, but the show covers technical aspects of many other Bonds as well. As usual, the piece gives us a great look at the behind the scenes work done for the movies.
Surprisingly, this DVD cuts back on the plethora of promotional materials we typically find on the Bond DVDs. The others toss in multiple trailers plus TV ads and radio spots. However, on Moonraker we only discover one theatrical trailer. Why so little? I have no idea. Perhaps they've gotten lost, but it seems odd that a relatively recent Bond would lack these components whereas much older efforts still boast lots of materials.
The standard plethora of stills appear as well. The Moonraker Gallery includes almost 100 pictures spread across 14 different sections. While the photos themselves are mildly interesting, I must say the style of the interface seems unnecessarily awkward. On one hand, it's good that the pictures are split into different areas because it makes future access easier. If you want to check out a certain shot, you won't need to wade through dozens of uninteresting snaps to get there. However, many of these sections feature only between one and three pictures, and the awkwardness of access through a DVD player - which is relatively slow at going from menu to menu - makes exploration of these photos more of a chore than it should be.
Finally, Moonraker tosses in the usual terrific booklet, similar to those found in all the other DVDs. As always, it's a fun and valuable little extra.
Unfortunately, that and the other strong supplements aren't enough to redeem Moonraker, for it remains a fairly lame movie. I like the Bond pictures and find enough fun in Moonraker to get me through it, but it's possibly the worst Bond to date. The DVD provides decent but flawed picture and sound plus some fine supplements. Despite the poor quality of the film itself, the DVD is good enough to warrant purchase from serious Bond fans; all others should probably skip it, however.
To rate this film visit the Ultimate Edition review of MOONRAKER