Mini-Review: Terminator: Genisys (2015)

TerminatorGenisys_1Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jason Clarke, Emilia Clarke, Jai Courtney, J.K. Simmons, Dayo Okeniyi, Matt Smith, Courtney B. Vance, Byung-hun Lee

Directed by Alan Taylor

Expectations: Absolutely zero.

onehalfstar


Terminator: Genisys goes to great lengths to craft a story that can serve as both a reboot and a sequel to Cameron’s original movies, and while this is initially promising, it quickly becomes ridiculously convoluted and lost in a sea of nearly unending exposition and nostalgia hooks. In the end, I felt rather indifferent about the whole thing. I mean, I definitely didn’t like it, but it was entertaining in a generic science fiction manner (and I always enjoy watching Arnold do pretty much anything). It’s really missing the feeling of dread and inevitable apocalypse that permeates Cameron’s films, though, so it only feels like an approximation of a Terminator film and not an honest continuation.

The story begins in the Future War era in the hours before John Connor’s final assault on Skynet. Spoiler Alert: They destroy Skynet a few minutes into the movie! Woo hoo, that was easy! Roll the credits! But right before that happened, Skynet sent a T-800 to 1984 to take out Sarah Connor. Yes, this is the same Arnold Terminator that we all know from the original film. He said he’d be back, and he wasn’t lying! Anyway, mid-way through the 1984 Terminator’s encounter with the punks at the Griffith Observatory, an older Arnold Terminator comes over and starts blasting him with a shotgun! Whoa, what’s going on?

It does have a Terminator driving a truck, though.

It does have a Terminator driving a truck, though.

This is just one of many direct connections with the Cameron originals, but before too long Terminator: Genisys moves in an entirely new direction. Unfortunately, this brings about a barrage of exposition that continues for most of the movie. It’s never a good sign when a movie explains tons of stuff to the viewer — film is a visual medium and all that — but Terminator: Genisys is mostly explanation! Which is weird because it’s also mostly action. I don’t know, I can’t explain it. There’s a scene where the heroes get their mug shots taken to the Cops theme Bad Boys, for God’s sake. What am I supposed to say to that?

Terminator: Genisys is just a strange film, and one that’s hard to understand no matter how you look at it. On one hand it’s an entertaining, inoffensive sci-fi action movie, but it’s also horrendously convoluted and without an ounce of character chemistry or heart. I give them kudos for going in an interesting direction with the franchise (as opposed to just following the basic Terminator framework like T3), but all it does is expose how they shouldn’t really be making any more Terminator movies.

Next up in this chronological journey through the films of Arnold Schwarzenegger is… some cameos! If I knew better I’d just skip these and move on to other things, but I don’t know better! I am going to speed it up by just doing Quick Take reviews of them, so Arnold will continue to hit these digital pages for a little while longer. Up next is Happy Anniversary and Goodbye, a 1974 TV Movie starring Lucille Ball and Art Carney, the Ivan Reitman film Dave, and a starring turn for Arnold’s lifelong friend Franco Columbu called Beretta’s Island! See ya then!

Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003)

t3_1Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Nick Stahl, Claire Danes, Kristanna Loken, David Andrews, Mark Famiglietti, Earl Boen

Directed by Jonathan Mostow

Expectations: I remember liking the crane chase and the ending… and not much else.

twostar


If you’ve seen Terminator 2, you will know that by all accounts there shouldn’t be a Terminator 3. They destroyed everything related to the Terminators and Skynet, averting Judgement Day and saving the world from a future robot war. “But what if–” said the greedy executive, “What if they only pushed Judgement Day back?” Herein lies the foundation of Terminator 3, and it’s a rocky, unstable one at best. So understanding that this is where the film is coming from, it makes complete sense that it’s something of a mess.

What’s a little harder to take as a Terminator fan is how the film gives John Conner amnesia about the terminators. He actually asks Arnold’s T-800 if he remembers him! Remember him? John, don’t you remember the Terminator that came to save you as a teenager was lowered into a vat of molten lava? This one’s completely different! I can understand a normal person making this kind of error, but the future leader of the human resistance that has supposedly been educated and trained specifically in all things Terminator since birth? Come the fuck on! I get that the scene is there to help the first-time audience members or ones that don’t have a great working knowledge of the Terminator mythology, but we don’t need to make the main character forget something so integral to the series just so Arnold can explain it to us. Ugh.

Continue reading Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003) →

Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)

Terminator_2_posterStarring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Edward Furlong, Robert Patrick, Earl Boen, Joe Morton, S. Epatha Merkerson, Castulo Guerra, Danny Cooksey, Jenette Goldstein, Xander Berkeley

Directed by James Cameron

Expectations: I’ll be back.

fourstar


You shouldn’t need me to tell you that Terminator 2: Judgment Day is an incredible movie. One of the greatest blockbuster films of all time, T2 is a total thrill ride that, like the Terminators themselves, never stops. It is expertly paced and written in such a way that it is both a perfect sequel to the original film and completely self-contained and accessible to anyone in the audience. And does it hold up nearly 25 years after its original release? No problemo.

T2 brought revolutionary FX to the screen, and honestly they still look fantastic to me. Due to the limitations of the time, the CG is used exactly how it should be: to augment real footage to create incredible illusions of fantasy. The grounding in the real world makes the unreal feel all the more real because it’s seemingly happening in the same world we live in. The physical FX work is top-notch as well, with the scene when Arnold tears off his skin to show Miles Dyson his cyborg endoskeleton remaining my favorite. It blew my mind when I was a kid, and it still looks so real to me. I guess that’s what you get when your movie has a crazy budget and you’ve got Stan Winston on the case. Practical FX work may have gone out of style, but I stand by the claim that it does and will continue to age much better than CG.

Continue reading Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) →

The Terminator (1984)

terminator_1Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Michael Biehn, Linda Hamilton, Paul Winfield, Lance Henriksen, Rick Rossovich, Bess Motta, Earl Boen

Directed by James Cameron

Expectations: Super high. Can’t wait to see it again.

fourstar


Everyone already knows that James Cameron’s second feature The Terminator is an incredible, groundbreaking film. Even if you don’t like it (for shame!), you still have to give it credit for the undying fan support it has garnered over the years; as Elvis would say, “50,000,000 fans can’t be wrong.” I’ve seen this film and its sequel more times than I could possibly count, yet it remains a perennial favorite.

This time around I noticed a few things I never had before. The most notable thing is that the film is almost purely visual during its first half. Hell, even a good portion of the second half is largely driven by pure action and carnage too, but its the first half that I want to focus on. The film begins with a quick scene of the future war. These scenes have always had a deep effect on me; I remember being absolutely riveted to them as a child. This ultimate manifestation of the post-apocalyptic, war-ravaged city ignites the fires of imagination, and even though we have little context for what’s happening on-screen, we cannot deny the power of the imagery being used. I mean, who saw this as a kid and didn’t remember the tank treads crushing human skulls?

Continue reading The Terminator (1984) →

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