Tuesday, June 30, 2015

What say the early reviews of "Terminator:Genisys?"

Sometimes, I myself am a sucker for advertising. When I originally heard about "Terminator: Genisys" I wasn't completely turned over to it. I had been burned by the ongoing need to reinvigorate the franchise. I was never a fan, and I felt that the only good Terminator movies we would ever see would be the first two James Cameron films. Recently, James Cameron himself has been name-dropped quite a bit in "Terminator: Genisys." That kind of gave me hope, the trailers themselves didn't, but Cameron himself saying what's-what sure did. Now the first few reviews for "Genisys" have begun to pop up online. So far, the consensus isn't too grand.

Here are a couple early reviews for you guys.


""Goddamn time-traveling robots."
"Precisely, JK Simmons. Precisely.
Yes, I am aware that James Cameron's name is all over the commercials for "Terminator: Genisys" right now, and yes, i am aware that both of the writers on the film (Laeta Kalogridis and Patrick Lussier) are people I dig whose work I like a lot. And while I'm even willing to concede that this is probably better than either "Terminator: Rise Of The Machines" or "Terminator Salvation," that is such a low bar that I'm not sure I'd consider it a compliment.
From moment to moment, "Terminator: Genisys" is decently produced, and there are a few beats here and there that are clever or decently staged. But taken as a whole, "Terminator: Genisys" is representative of the worst of franchise filmmaking, and as someone who fell in love with the original "Terminator" in a theater in 1984, it sickens me. I had a palpable reaction of disgust tonight, one that I masked until I dropped off my kids.
 They loved it, by the way. I suspect that in some ways, they represent the Terminator fans who keep saying, over and over, "I WANT TO SEE THE FUTURE WAR!" I have good news and bad news for those fans. There is indeed more of the future war this time, and it's staged on an impressive scale for a few minutes. But the bad news is, it's exactly as boring as I would have guessed. Look! Giant machines! Look! Explosions! Look! Very technically well-rendered images that basically look exactly like the Fantasy II stuff that was done for no money back in 1984! Only longer! And more expensive!
The most interesting idea in "Terminator: Genisys" is that the timeline is being rewritten yet again, and in a way that suggests that they could keep doing so as long as they can afford to keep making digital Arnold Schwarzeneggers. The film opens with what feels more like a big budget remake of the original, complete with some shot by shot recreations of events we've seen before. There is an inevitability to things as John Connor (Jason Clarke) leads the human forces against the machines on several fronts, finally beating them and then pushing forward to seize the time machine that sends Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) back in time to protect the helpless and vulnerable Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke). Events either play out in the exact way we've seen them play out, or they show us something we've known but haven't seen. It's only once Reese shows up in LA that things take a left turn, and the scene that this entire film seems to have been built around is the exact moment that the film starts to get interesting. When the original T-800 shows up, everything's identical. He approaches the punks to demand their clothes, but before he can kill them, he's interrupted by another T-800, this one older, leading to a big brawl between the digital young Arnold and the current Arnold, a sort of irresistible pop culture moment. The twists continue as, instead of Kyle Reese tracking Sarah Connor down over time while the Terminator stalks LA, murdering every Sarah Connor in the phone book, Reese finds himself facing a cop (Byung-hun Lee) who is also a T-1000. The only reason he survives the encounter is because Sarah shows up, already kicking ass, giving her a chance to deliver his iconic line: "Come with me if you want to live."
Unfortunately, once those two scenes play out, the movie turns into a far less interesting thing, The goal here is "Destroy Skynet before it goes online," and there is a ton of energy spent on trying to keep the characters in motion before they descend on yet another building full of computers that must be destroyed. There is even a convenient and literal ticking clock displayed throughout the building so we can appreciate just how tense everything is, so you know it's all terribly important.
The reason this review has been particularly difficult to write is because it takes so much energy and so many words just to describe the basic ideas in play, while my main impulse is to just say, "A bunch of stuff happens that should never have happened." I feel like I beat this broken drum, but nothing after the end of "Terminator 2" has ever felt narratively necessary. Even worse, all of it feels like wheel spinning. What this film seems to reinforce is that this entire franchise is "Groundhog Day" at this point. John Connor, Sarah Connor, and Kyle Reese will spend eternity locked in this same redundant dance, constantly destroying each other and constantly being reborn in an infinite number of timelines. The world blows up and dies an endless number of times, and every single time, the Connors and Reese all have front row seats. By telling us that this reset button can be hit, what "Terminator: Genisys" does is tell us that none of it matters. It is a Sisyphean struggle, and an exercise in pure futility. "There is no fate but what we make" has become "There is no fate because time is a circle that cannot be escaped."
There's another "big twist" in the film, but it is wildly uninteresting and underserved plot point, and Matt Smith (Toshi leaned over to me when he showed up and loudly whispered, "OH MY GOD IS THAT DOCTOR WHO?!?") has a very small but significant role. Wait, did I say significant? I meant he plays a role that is designed to be shocking and amazing and instead just feels like a very silly attempt to keep dragging this damn thing out.
There are some big weird problems with the various performances here. From the first trailers, it seemed shocking to me how much Emilia Clarke looks like young soft Linda Hamilton from the first film, but she never figures out how to play this person, and because of the refigured timelines, she can't just imitate what we've seen before. Jai Courtney is, sadly, a bust as Kyle Reese. It was easy to believe that Michael Biehn's Reese had grown up on a battlefield in the shadow of a dead civilization. He was like a hunted animal, all sinew and jitters and teeth and claw. Courtney plays this as... well, nothing. He says his lines, and he runs around and shoots, but there's not even a hint of actual character work or emotional inner life. He is bland on bland on bland, and Jason Clarke seems determined to go toe-to-toe with him to see who can be the most boring playing robot-killing future soldiers. Schwarzenegger's fine in his role, but they keep writing the character too broad, and JK Simmons almost successfully turns a nothing role into something fun.
Alan Taylor's work as a director looks exactly like what a studio movie is supposed to look like right now, complete with an almost pathological distaste for the way physics work, but once he's done doing the Cameron shot-for-shot remake, his own sense of style seems to be completely generic. There's no joy in this filmmaking. Go back and watch the first "Terminator." Cameron is almost drunk on the momentum of that film, and there's an energy to everything that is palpable, whether it's the way Reese's crazy eyes seem to communicate both longing and horror so constantly or the deadpan humor that Cameron finds in the cold emotionlessness of the Terminator. In the second film, you can feel Cameron stretching into the realm of giant budget filmmaking, almost daring himself to dream up these giant set pieces just to see if they can be done. There's a constant sense of invention, and he has a great eye for story and character details. Once again, it feels like it was urgent for Cameron, like he had to make these films.
There is nothing about "Terminator: Genisys" that suggests that this film was a compelling, urgent, essential dream for anyone involved. This is all about squeezing cash out of people who are fond of the original films, calculated and without any of the soul of Cameron's films. Just as there is an assembly line we glimpse here, rows of T-800s on hooks, there is an assembly line that pushed this film out. That's a shame. The Terminator has been so thoroughly neutered that all that remains of the once-terrifying nightmare is a punchline-spouting Ken doll, a perfect central figure for a franchise content with simply spouting catch phrases instead of telling us a story with balls."

Read more at http://www.hitfix.com/motion-captured/review-terminator-genisys-squeezes-the-last-bit-of-life-from-the-franchise#FUEOyKO4rcigI0LX.99"
"Nordling here.
 If you watched any of the trailers, TERMINATOR: GENISYS’s marketing campaign spent a lot of time spoiling crucial plot points.  They even got James Cameron himself to give his Godfather’s blessing to the new movie, and Arnold’s always been a workhorse when it comes to selling his films.  I’ve been a Schwarzenegger fan since I was a kid, seeing CONAN THE BARBARIAN for the first time.  I’m always rooting for him to succeed.  I imagine it’s a lot like my dad seeing everything John Wayne ever did, even when Wayne advanced in years and he was no longer the box office draw he once was.  There’s a brand loyalty there that’s difficult to shake, so it definitely makes me wince a little bit to say that TERMINATOR: GENISYS is a terrible movie, full of bluster and nonsense.  Don't be mad at the TERMINATOR: GENISYS trailers giving too much plot away. Instead, appreciate how the ad campaign actually warned you of the film’s awfulness ahead of time.
 GENISYS, like JURASSIC WORLD, rides in on waves of nostalgia, and that may be enough for audiences.  But whatever you may think of James Cameron, he knew not to overstuff his two TERMINATOR films with more plot and action than they needed.  The first TERMINATOR is tight as a drum, and the second matches its spectacle with a big heart worn prominently on the sleeve. They work because they never try to be above the audience, while at the same time giving the audience lots to think about and chew upon. These are films with Arnold Schwarzenegger at the height of his action hero powers, and Cameron wisely directs Arnold to his strengths.  Alan Taylor is certainly no James Cameron, and more than anything, I just felt bad for Arnold, mugging for the camera and used as a running joke for much of GENISYS’s running time.  He deserved better than this script, which has to be one of the worst scripts in a very long time.
 These aren’t mere plot holes – these are plot singularities, sucking in all logic, theme, and character until nothing can escape.  Even now, I’m still trying to piece it together.  Alternate timelines, the motivations of certain characters, even the T-800’s backstory makes no sense.  Time travel movies normally orchestrate their plots with a little more finesse than this. The nonsensical plot makes it impossible to care what happens to Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke), Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney), or John Connor (Jason Clarke).  There are no stakes, because we’re constantly reminded that what happens is inevitable, and even when we’re told that certain events have changed the timeline, they change right back.
 The movie so desperately wants to be ranked with the first two that it even recreates much of the first act of the first TERMINATOR, but it does it simply for the nostalgic reminder to the audience.  It doesn’t mean anything.  Sure, watching an Arnold on Arnold fight looks fun, but the filmmakers are desperately hoping that you don’t figure out that the scene makes no goddamn sense.  It shouldn’t even exist.  In fact, much of the film’s plot would collapse on itself with a little syllogism. We’re constantly reminded of Kyle and Sarah’s great love, but if any of the writers ever thought it through, why not simply shoot Kyle and cause all these alternate timelines to cease to exist?  Where does Sarah’s T-800 come from anyway?  Who programmed it and why?  Does Skynet exist outside time, simply willing itself into existence?  Who knows?  There may be an interesting idea or two in GENISYS, but it’s buried under cacophony and distraction.
 The action sequences are good, but, again, they don’t mean anything.  Again, there are no stakes, and thus everything is simply interesting to look at but has no emotional or dramatic point.  Arnold gives as much as he can, but each sequence feels inert.  The story arc of John Connor is especially egregious, and feels like a plot point that the filmmakers wanted to anchor the film around as some kind of twist for the audience.  But the twist doesn’t work, because the filmmakers don’t allow us to get invested.  This is a singularly bad script, and writers Patrick Lussier and Laeta Kalogridis cannot bring together each plot strand to form a coherent whole.
TERMINATOR: GENISYS is likely the last of this franchise, and that’s a blessing.  It means that Arnold Schwarzenegger can move on to the next stage of his career, whatever that may be, and I hope for the best for him, and I’ll always be a fan.  If he picks roles that challenge him in his older years, all the better – although SABOTAGE isn’t a great movie, Arnold is actually quite good in it, and I think there’s a script out there that will absolutely give him the great role he deserves, playing to his abilities and reminding us all why we worshipped this guy in the 1980s and 1990s.  TERMINATOR: GENISYS is a waste of talent and money.  Don’t be back."
Definitely not the best news. But as always, I will judge the movie for myself. I will say that my expectations are about the same. We'll just see if this one surprises me personally.

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