Wednesday, 11 November 2015

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - Terminator Genisys

Directed by: Alan Taylor

Produced by: David Ellison
Megan Ellison
Dana Goldberg

Screenplay by: Laeta Kalogridis
Patrick Lussier

Based on: Terminator characters created by James Cameron and Gale Ann Hurd

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

Music by: Lorne Balfe

Cinematography by: Kramer Morgenthau

Editing by: Roger Barton

Studio(s): Annapurna Pictures
Skydance Productions

Distributed by: Paramount Pictures

Release date(s): July 1, 2015 (United States)
July 2, 2015 (United Kingdom)

Running time: 126 minutes

Country: United States

Language: English

Production budget: $155 million

Box-office revenue (as of publication): $440, 603, 537

Hey gang, just want to let you know that this and my upcoming review for The Lazarus Effect will be my last ones for my 2015 interim period. I'll do a sort of round-up for the interim, and then I'll be shooting on with the month of October from there. A lot of different things taking shape, the blog only just being the one of them. So, with that being said, for all the latest and greatest as regards the movies, keep your eyes posted!

And I said in my last review where have the Sarah Connor's gone? Well here she is! Terminator Genisys is the latest instalment in the Terminator film franchise. For those of you who don't know, I have a more than inordinate fondness for anything Terminator related. Started in 1984 by James Cameron and Gale Ann Hurd with The Terminator, a low-budget guerilla science-fiction action movie with big-budget aspirations and ideas (which also just happens to be in my not-so humble opinion the greatest film of all-time), it spawned an entire franchise. This included three film sequels, the first (Terminator 2: Judgment Day) of which I just watched again recently, and I forgot just how damn good a film it is and how well it stands up today with it's incredible pacing, storytelling and action sequences. The two Cameron films were followed by two lesser sequels, 2003's Rise Of The Machines, which was essentially a decent enough extended chase movie, and 2009's Salvation, a film that endured a serious amount of critical derision upon release, but I found to be a good (not great) war movie set within the Terminator universe. Even still, with this and the different problems involving the series' owner Halcyon filing for bankruptcy, Pacifor purchasing and selling the rights, Universal Studios' proposed Terminator packages, the latter of which was picked by Megan Ellison's Annapurna Pictures (and later her brother David Ellison's Skydance as a producing partner) and Paramount confirmed as distributor, this is only the fifth time the franchise has been brought to the big screen over it's thirty-year plus history. Justin Lin, Rian Johnson, Denis Villeneuve and Ang Lee were among the names involved to take the helm, with Alan Taylor being selected, along with Arnold Schwarzenegger returning the fold in the main cast. So, story goes that in 2029, Human Resistance leader John Connor (Jason Clarke) launches a massive final offensive against Skynet, the artificial intelligence system out to eliminate the human race. Before they can win, Skynet activates a time machine to send back a T-800 Terminator to kill his mother. Seizing the machine, Connor sends back his right-hand man Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) to find and protect her. As Reese goes through, he witness a Resistance soldier attacking Connor and has a vision in the memories of his childhood. Upon arrival, Skynet's T-800 has been deactivated by Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke) and the Guardian (also known as 'Pops', played by Schwarzenegger), a reprogrammed T-800 sent back to protect Sarah when she was nine years old. When Kyle arrives, he is attacked by a T-1000 (Lee Byung-hun). Sarah and Pops join Kyle to destroy the T-1000 using acid, and then reveal to Kyle they have constructed a makeshift time-machine to go forward to 1997, the year Skynet becomes self-aware. However, Kyle in convinced from a warning in his childhood memories that the timeline has been altered, persuading Sarah to travel to 2017 instead to stop Skynet. What a bloody mouthful! Shall we dance?

To start off with the good, I have to say that the return of Arnold Schwarzenegger to his most iconic role is welcome to say the least. Even though Schwarzenegger is regularly lampooned, sometimes not without justification, there is no doubting that when he's on form he's someone who can, despite his advancing years, be a powerful physical presence and is a natural when it comes to deadpan humour, which is always played to the nth degree with his robotic Terminator depictions. Speaking of Terminator depictions, some great special/visual effects are at work in the film. Between the usual T-800 and T-1000 you've got good stuff, but the real leap is in the T-3000, which is not only conceptually a good idea but is effectively pulled off. There's some extremely complicated matte cell involved in achieving the effect of a mass of living nanomites and it's transformation being developed in successive layers. I this looked up and found out that it sometimes took over twenty hours to render, and is one of the film's real visual treats. Finally, the initial premise of the official timeline of the film being altered is an interesting idea. For starters, the first Terminator film was about a man and a machine travelling through time, the former to prevent the latter from the altering the past but ends up unwittingly playing a part in bringing about the prophecy he seeks to preserve, so not only is it in keeping with the franchise, it gives Genisys a nice starter point to build the foundations of something new and different (a la the alternate reality concept J.J. Abrams' rebooted Star Trek).

Now, I have to get down to the crux of this bad boy, because frankly, much as I htmonths!)tor franchise, this is indeed a bad movie. At least I can say that Rise Of The Machines and Salvation are enjoyable for their pukpish genre sensibilities. In the case of Genisys, while I can admire some aspects of the production, overall it is a dull, unsatisfying experience. Even mustering the enthusiasm to scribe this review has been wanting. As I write, it is nearing six in the morning while I am on night shift and I'm figuring this is about the only decent time to be doing this. The script for starters is an absolute mess. Contributing nothing to the franchise and lacking the distinction to make it a stand-alone work, the story moves in such a scrambled, multitudinous way that it borders on preposterous (while also botching up it's attempt at re-writing the rules of the series), and the characters lack the necessary development to make their arcs credible (woeful dialogue too...). This also has a detrimental impact upon the performances of the actors. Emilia Clarke and especially Jason Clarke are both wasted, while Jai Courtney fails to convince full-stop, and Lee Byung-hun just seems to be there to give the film some international flavour. Even the might J.K. Simmons, fresh off his Oscar-winning performance as the menacing Terence Fletcher in Whiplash, can't seem to give the impression that he's particularly interested in the project. There have been some good composers involved in these films, most notably Brad Diesel but also the likes of Danny Elfman, but Lorne Balfe score to my ears just sounds like audio-filler histrionics with odd motif to invoke Fiedel's iconic groundwork. Also, from the technical side, as far as photography goes, I know it's a big-budget movie, so there's no good reason why the film at times looks as ugly as it does and has such a drab colour palette. Editing wise too it should been sifted through more. You could chop a whole lot of expositional guff (i.e. about thirty minutes!) and still have a relatively coherent film. There's no good reason for this to be over two hours long! Finally, while I like Alan Taylor for his past television work on The Sopranos, he has been saddled with a real Trojan horse of a film to helm. No matter how much you dress it up (and perhaps I'm doing pigs a disservice by comparing them to this film), as the old saying goes, if you put lipstick on a pig it's still a pig. All I got from this was that those in production felt they had to do something with the franchise (having bid for it, Arnie now being available, etc.), but they didn’t have much to do with it to begin with. A good bit more time in development and they might have had something here. All they have here and they're getting from me is a big fat tumbs down. You want my advice? Go watch Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. While it's not perfect (it was cancelled too early to do something special), it does far more justice to the franchise and has enough originality to be something distinctive. It's a hell of a lot of fun and Emilia Clarke’s Game Of Thrones co-star Lena Headey makes a great Sarah Connor.

So there you have it. Arnie may be back (and in good form), there may be some terrific special effects work and the central concept may be initially interesting, but Terminator Genisys is a real dud of a film. The script is a convoluted mess story-wise that botches it's attempt to re-write the rules of the franchise, and lacks true character development to make their arcs believable. It negatively affects the acting performances of just about everyone involved, Lorne Balfe score is just audio-filler histrionics and Alan Taylor is saddled with a complete Trojan horse. This is the only time I have ever been able to say I didn't enjoy a Terminator film, or anything Terminator-related for that matter. That this was the only one to get James Cameron’s seal of approval makes it all the more terrifying!

The Thin White Dude’s Prognosis - 2.3\10

The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Alright (considering the mind-boggling prospect of my timetable over the next few months!)

P.S. Please excuse the terrible line-spacing