Nothing about Hellraiser has the remotest sense of dread (besides perhaps that sense that it’ll inevitably become a franchise). Even Frank as he gradually corporealizes has the sad eyes and questionable brow anatomy you may expect less from a Barker body horror than from an alien ambassador on Star Trek: The Next Generation.
The film blasts an affectionate symphony of action spy movie set pieces, which Bird composes with such a self-believing style that he reminds me less of a director than of a virtuoso performer. And even they become a back-drop to what is essentially a mid-life crisis film, about a man who misses himself so much that he doesn’t even notice he has a family. Bird offers a genre fattened on mythic pretension a trimming alternative of joyous energy and dazzling characters.
The title card of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, blazoned in its pulpy font across the opening dance act of shimmering waists at club Obi Wan, was the moment a great movie became a brand. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. After all, Indy’s adventures were born as serials, each entry a new exotic locale, another damsel, another sidekick, a new hellish fortress to conquer with a whip-cracking grin.
Moonraker skips the part where all is as it seems, a noble approach for a film in a formula series (they might have made it stick as self-aware humor, but even that would have been too “wink-wink” with Moore at the Helm). “You appear,” says Drax after Bond’s fourth miraculous escape, “with the tedious inevitability of an unloved season.” Here is an oddity: a franchise that doesn’t know it knows itself.