There’s nothing more bewilderingly mind-numbing than watching a science-fiction movie franchise get butchered and killed then brought to life again, re-butchered and murdered once again. It’s sad in a way because I really love this time-bending, robot monster, chase story. The potential, even without branching away from the hunter and the hunted plot device, is endless. Bewildered? With all this goodwill and talent, and money involved, how the hell could they get it so wrong? This is a major iconic brand. “The Terminator” is embedded in the brains of at least two or three generations of consumers. There is no shortage of creative talent nor money that prevent this story from working its magic, yet the IP owners have achieved nothing else but toss stools of shit at audiences across the globe. Sure, the movie industry wins, artists, technicians and executives got jobs, and the marketing machine scored, but tossing shit at audience’s faces was still the end result.
Now the next time Skynet returns to threaten our future chances are audiences will be a little suspect before handing over money, or even waste time and bandwidth to illegally download it. Skynet will hopefully learn from past mistakes and deliver the killer blow they’ve been trying to throw since it first hatched up the plan to go back in time and kill John Conner.
How hard can it be? Well, Skynet will need to understand the three basic ingredients for a killer movie.
- Killer Story.
- Killer Cast.
- Killer Soundtrack.
Then by looking back at each of its outings, Skynet will need to take all the elements that made it work, eradicate the stuff that made it suck, and formulate a strategy to exploit the fears hiding within each of us, to deliver the thrills we all hang for each time Skynet enters our timeline.
James Cameron gave us his nightmare. Plus a simple, gem of a story, iconic cast and thumping Brad Fiedel music didn’t impede this from becoming a timeless piece of entertainment. Even the dated special effects, or the time-travel science, (what, clothing can’t travel back in time?) are easily forgivable.
Nothing really to fault here, moving along.
Terminator 2: Judgement Day
With the effects department catching up with the universe of the story, but still slightly lacking in the science, (what, you can’t replicate inanimate objects?) this movie blew everyone’s mind back in 1991. The story was utterly inspiring, what with future John Conner sending back a hacked Cyberdyne Systems Series 800 Model 101 to protect the present John Conner. The cast returns, each dwelling in the opposite sphere of their respective character arcs. Teenage Conner may have seemed a little annoying at the time, but Edward Furlong’s performance didn’t hurt the film. And the soundtrack ripped.
Again nothing to fault here.
Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines
First up, the story is still a chase story. Another T-800 sent back to help JC. No one’s messing with the formula. Sure there are a few twists, and the ending takes a sharp turn away from the previous two endings, but that’s a good thing. A brave, brilliant move in my opinion. Arnold is back, with the addition of Kristanna Loken.
Okay, put the brakes on. There is no Edward Furlong. Why? Nick Stahl did a good job but why not use the same talent for the sake of continuity. Why put the audience into the harrowing position of readjusting to a new John Conner? But I guess this was out of the producer’s scope to influence. Furlong’s life at the time was spiralling out of control, so Skynet was forced to deal with this as best it could. It goes to show how a simple tampering with the cast can have the wind sucked out of a project, even if Arnold is the star of this show. His T-850 ageing is explained at this stage but this didn’t help. At least Marco Beltrami didn’t try something off the wall with the soundtrack.
Nevertheless, I don’t agree with the negative reviewers on this one, I found it entertaining, a little pedestrian, but a joy to watch. The carnage was awesome, full stop.
Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles
Josh Friedman pitch to develop this franchise into TV series was a genius move, in a sense that the story could move away from the chase formula and explore this universe. The cast let it down a little; It took me a while to buy into Lena Headey as Sarah for some reason. Thomas Dekker was acceptable enough and Summer Glau carried the show pretty much the same way Arnie carried the movie franchise. Bear McCreary’s score although departs mostly from the films, is worthy of any soundtrack playlist. This is a TV series and a good, entertaining one at that.
Okay, here we go. We have one big star, Christian Bale, for no other reason but because he’s a big star. An up and coming star who would end up coming and going as fast as he arrived, Sam Worthington. You have SIX writers. An over-the-top director. You have Danny Elfman doing the music. A $200 million budget. You have two whole minutes of CGI Arnold Schwarzenegger. And all they succeeded in doing was fling a giant turd at the audience.
Why? Because the story was a mess. No, it was a made for television, Matrix Revolutions, post-apocalyptic soap opera kinda mess.
We start off with Conner, a low-rank resistance commander who leads his team into a Skynet facility. Things go to shit and JC is the only survivor in a post-nuclear holocaust landscape. Awesome so far, right. But instead of John embarking on a treacherous journey back to base, with knowledge of Skynet’s dastardly plans, and encountering Marcus, who may or not be a new type of Terminator, and running away from one ‘special’ Terminator, which hunts down John and company, which may include Reese, across a post-apocalypse United States, leading eventually to the heart of Skynet. In other words an epic chase story with a definable nightmare stalking the protagonist. Instead, we get this melodrama which would have played barely better in a TV series than on a big screen. Christian Bale couldn’t save this turkey no matter how loud he yelled into the comms.
The writers couldn’t define what story they were telling. McG nor Danny Elfman could get us to care about anything, let alone any of the characters. And CGI Arnie didn’t sweeten the deal either, especially when they burned off his face two minutes into an uninspiring fight scene. Maybe they did this to save money on CGI rendering.
Best way to watch this mess is without any sound, played in the background, with TV ads.
This time we have big (approaching his End of Days) star Arnold Schwarzenegger on board. A more than capable director in Alan Taylor. And two more than capable writers. A more than capable composer. A more than ample budget. You’d think studio executives and producers would learn from past mistakes, right.
They ended up serving a bigger turd than its predecessor. It was like they were trying very hard to destroy the franchise’s reputation before it reverted back to James Cameron like they were doing this on purpose. On the face of it, it should have worked. On paper, the story was sort of impressive and clever.
Let’s go back to 1984 and go on a different tangent. Cool right. I agree that was a cool idea. The mechanics of this paracosm allows such things. I risked going to the cinemas on this concept alone. I believed they actually had this done right. Holy shit I was wrong.
First up. If you’re going back in time to 1984 with Kyle Reese, at least have an actor that kinda looks and behaves like Michael Biehn’s Kyle Reese.
If your gonna have someone play Sarah Connor, here’s an idea, hire an actor that kinda looks and behaves like Linda Hamilton’s Sarah Connor. You’re going back to 1984. This is The Terminator. Lorne Balfe should have been hitting the 80’s synthwave, at least for this part of the film. The first Terminator had a few science issues it had to deal with but managed to get away with it. This Genisys is hamstrung by the simple paradox; if and when Reese has sex with Connors. John Connor will be a different personality because sperm and eggs are …. Biologically the future person who is to become John Connor will depend on the moment of ovulation and conception. So focusing on this for so long gives the plot a lameness not matched by the other films.
Two. If not reflecting Michael Biehn’s Kyle Reese was detrimental enough, Jai Courtney’s portrayal of a block of wood sank the film even deeper. Plot-wise you can expect Sarah to be a different person because she grew up different, but Reese just came out of time displacement the same guy as the 1984 guy. It’s the same guy. A CGI Michael Biehn would have worked better, but they couldn’t even sustain a CGI Arnold. Within two minutes into the fight scene, CGI Arnold’s face is blown off. I guess this sort of thing is expensive.
Three. Pregnant talky scenes. The opening features the dullest talk-fest in Terminator alternate history, a time-waster that did nothing to strengthen the relationship between JC and Reese. Unnecessary and boring.
Four. Sarah and Pops had prepared to take on the T-1o00. How did they know it was coming? How did they know to destroy it in the acid trap?
Five. The helicopter chase scene looked dodgy as hell, like really bad, unless they were trying to emulate 90’s CGI. Here’s a tip, use real helicopters or scrap this scene.
Six. Pop’s could never have built a Time Displacer in 1984. It’s like building a Hadron Collider with spare parts from an 80’s electronics store. Even if the t-800 had the schematics implanted it’s its head, it would need a trillion dollars, the resources of a government to build such a thing.
Seven. Mimetic poly-alloy. Why couldn’t old Arnold return as CGI Arnold?
Eight. Sarah Connor’s childhood. This two-minute flashback could have easily been the basis for the entire film.
So if they went about casting this correctly, beginning it with the T800 going back to the 1970s to protect nine-year-old Sarah, spent the money on CGI Arnold for at least the first act of the film, then jump to 1984 and encounter the Lee Byung-hun T-1000 before Reese’s arrival, culminating to the non-Courtney Reese time-displacement. Battle the T-800 and T-1000 in 1984, (why not stay there a little longer?) The Golden Gate Bus Flip could work in 1984. And use a real bus. When the T-1000 is finally destroyed in an improvised acid bath, the couple is captured by the cops/government. JC arrives from the future but is shot by Pops, revealing bad John Connors. JC takes out cops/government, in a violent 80’s style showdown. Helicopter chase with real helicopters. Pops self-sacrifices. Chase ending up at an airport, Reese and Sarah commandeer a Boeing that taxis onto a highway smashing through an urban city while JC tries to kill them. They crash the plane into the corporate building housing Genisys, which plans to eliminate every timeline that has been breached by the resistance. Reese and Connor enter a time displacer being built by Genisys since the fifties, they escape to the fifties while abandoning the 1984 timeline, in which civilisation is destroyed by Genisys sooner than anticipated. Just like in Rick And Morty (Rick Potion #9)
That would have been a worthy sequel/reboot/prequel or whatever they were trying to achieve. Why pollute a time travel chase story with convoluted complexity?
It’s really not a hard gig to get right. Yet they failed twice at it. Hopefully, they don’t make another attempt before the man who originated the idea gets a chance to save the franchise.