Tag Archives: terminator salvation

Terminator Genisys

Whilst it’s great to see Arnie back in the leather jacket, and although it’s an improvement on the previous two films in the franchise, Terminator Genisys is far from reaching the impossible heights that James Cameron set.

by Owen Hughes (@ohughes86)

terminator genisysSet in the year 2028, Joel Kinnaman plays Murphy, a brutally murdered cop who — wait a second. Sorry. I appear to have started this article off by reviewing the 2014 remake of RoboCop. Let me try again. Ahem…

Space. The final frontier. Or rather the first of many frontiers for director JJ Abrams as he and Chris Pine — Oh man! I appear to have done it again. I’ll try once more.

With a surprising and disappointing lack of Colin Farrell getting his ass to Mars, the Total Recall reboot is — Oops!! This is trickier than it looks.

OK. For real this time.

It’s very rare in Hollywood for a much beloved franchise to get a reboot some years later and turn it into a huge success. For every Jurassic World, or Rise of the Planet of the Apes, there are ten alternatives. After The Halcyon Company fought hard to acquire the rights for the Terminator series, they produced the bore-fest that was 2009’s Terminator Salvation. Alas, it was critically panned and the company folded not long after the film’s release due to various financial difficulties, despite making a profit on McG’s futuristic sci-fi actioner.

Thus with the rights to the series not reverting back to James Cameron until 2018, we now have Terminator Genisys (that’s without the colon in the title, unless you’re from America in which case you do get a colon), the fifth instalment of the franchise that began way back in 1984 with Cameron’s original movie. Although an argument could be made for placing this as the sequel to the original The Terminator, rather than the fifth in a series, and in the process wiping T2: Judgement Day, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines and Terminator Salvation completely out of cannon. Not to mention the short lived TV series Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. They’re all ultimately pointless as director Alan Taylor (and writers Laeta Kalogridis and Patrick Lussier) retcon the entire job lot.

Or… do they?

You see, the plot and the placement of Genisys within the sequence of movies is almost as convoluted as the history of who has owned the franchise itself at various points over the past 30 years. Its opening scenes are almost carbon copies of the original, albeit with less visible buttocks and silhouetted Arnold Schwarzedongs as this is a 12A certificate film, after all. It also cuts out the Kyle Reese narrated opening scene of a Terminator drone flying over a dystopian future wasteland, kicking off instead immediately with a T-800 (played by an Arnie body-double) arriving in 1984 with a flash of light shortly before approaching a group of punks on Washday Eve. Then things get a little less familiar. Waiting for our original Terminator is a visibly older version of the killing machine, dubbed “Pops”, and the two duke it out in a bout of fisticuffs.

As it transpires, this “good” Terminator, Pops, was mysteriously sent back in time even earlier to await the appearance of the 84 Terminator in a plot device that sends ripples through the timeline, distorting all manner of logical and illogical story lines. Jumping from the altered past to the future-future, we’re then treated to a show of Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) and John Connor (Jason Clarke) taking out Skynet in the final battle. An enactment of an event that the original Kyle Reese (in Cameron’s movie) talked about occurring. Only now, it isn’t the final battle, as Skynet had one last trick up its sleeve. Back to the past, and Reese (now also naked and in need of a hobo’s trousers) is on the run from yet another Terminator in a 1984 that is unlike the one he expected. Waiting for him is a dreaded T-1000, played by the often under-appreciated Lee Byung-hun doing his best Robert Patrick impression. Apparently, the unassuming waitress Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke) that Reese went back to save was now never a waitress at all, but is in fact a heavily armed survivor ready to take the impending apocalypse head on. She’s also apparently fully prepared for Kyle’s arrival and his involvement in her future, and invites Reese to come with her if he wants to live. And so begins the unravelling of an entire woolly-jumper-only-wardrobe’s full of threads after one tiny quizzical tug.

I realise that all sounds rather confusing, so to help you understand all this, here’s a quick summary. You ready? Stuff that we don’t really know about yet (wait for the sequel) has now happened in the alternate-past (1973) that has affected the current-past (1984) leading to alterations in the future-future (2029) that have changed Judgement Day in the prior-past (the mid 1990’s) to the new-present (2017). Clear as day, right?

And yet, despite this convoluted soft reboot, struggling to grasp when and what is taking place is not actually that difficult. In fact, whilst you’re watching what is yet another generic blockbuster blueprint executed to the required standard for a generic summer blockbuster box-ticking exercise, having to think about how each set piece fits alongside the other is a welcome relief. If you’re worried about whether you will be able to keep up, then have no fear. Exposition is your friend. “Mr Exposition” to be precise, played by JK Simmons, who helpfully pops up every so often to either personally explain what’s just happened, or to ask the other characters in the film if they wouldn’t mind quickly filling him (i.e. us) in on everything, just in case we missed it. You might mistake that for me complaining about Simmons. I’m not. I only wish he were in it more and had better dialogue to work with. The same could be said for Lee Byung-hun. Both actors were incredibly underused.

My major beef with this fifth instalment isn’t even to do with the acting, which a lot of other reviewers seem to have taken issue with. Jai Courtney – who I’m not ashamed to admit to have defended in public before – he in particular is used as a stick to beat the film with and I’m not entirely sure why. After speaking to Failed Critics writer Nick Lay about it, he told me that people dislike Courtney because “he just seems to be the type of lead that comes off a dull production line”. I get that. When you see him compared to actors like Sam Worthington, Taylor Kitsch etc, I totally see where folks are coming from. He’s good looking, well built, gradually getting bigger and better roles in bigger and better movies (or at least more expensive movies) without the average Joe being able to recognise his name if you sent them a CV with photo and portfolio of work. But still, I like him. He’s perhaps not made the best choice of film yet (let’s not talk about A Good Day To Die Hard or I, Frankenstein ever again), but he’s got charisma and can genuinely act, unlike a lot of his comparators. Like a lot of things about Terminator Genisys, Jai Courtney is fine.

Emilia Clarke as Sarah Connor is fine. Regardless of the fact she spends more time literally kicking arse than Linda Hamilton in the second Terminator film, she still seems less like an arse-kicking heroine and more like an adequate requirement for the story. But she’s fine. No better or worse than she’s been in Game of Thrones, for example. Jason Clarke (no relation), playing a slightly larger role than was perhaps expected in this time-hopping fiasco, is also fine. No better or worse than he’s been in Lawless, Zero Dark Thirty or last year’s Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, for example.

I don’t really care what anyone else says about “The Cyberdyne Systems Model 101 Series 800 Terminator”, “Pops”, “Uncle Bob” or whatever you want to call him, it’s always great to see Arnold Schwarzenegger back in the role. In the atrocious Terminator 3, he remained one of the best things in it, both in terms of his performance and having the best individual lines and scenes. Again here, he’s the outstanding performer. There’s call-backs aplenty to the more humorous wise-cracking T2 interpretation of the character, with the third film’s goofyness toned down considerably. Expanding on the idea that he potentially has the capacity to not just fake human emotions in order to better integrate himself into society and ultimately infiltrate human rebel bases, but actually organically acquire and increase his own emotional depth over time, effecting his decisions, ties quite nicely into the overall arc of the movie reflecting Skynet’s ultimate aim. It might come across as corny, but have you seen Judgement Day recently? Exactly. Original film aside, they’ve all had their fair share of cheese.

Technically speaking, Terminator Genisys hits the majority of the right notes. It’s by no means perfect, but it’s also not boring. It makes you laugh whilst simultaneously turning the action set pieces into progressively bigger and louder (and usually dumber) old fashioned fun. Sure it might sound a bit complex at first glance, but it’s actually a bog standard A-Z time-travel 12A family blockbuster. And that is its biggest problem. There are zero risks taken here. If there’s any part of the plot that veers from the already tried-and-trusted big-budget formula, I must’ve missed it. Having not just one, but a number of high-tech killing machines who stop at nothing until you are dead, it should be far more menacing a movie than it actually is. Instead, any moments of potential darkness are bizarrely steered well clear of, either through deus ex machina or – more often than not – characters just doing the complete opposite of the easiest / simplest solution in order to prolong events.

Need to kill Sarah Connor? Need to save Sarah Connor? Need to have certain events still happen to ensure the future works the way you want? Need to change the past radically to keep things how they are? It’s all a load of complete and utter nonsense that follows neither rhyme nor reason. Complete and utter gibberish with things happening simply for the sake of continuing the story longer than would realistically be necessary. But, I didn’t hate it. It’s dumb, but so are so many other movies of this ilk.

Come five years time, if somebody asks me whether [scene A] happened in Terminator Genisys, Star Trek Into Darkness, Jurassic World or Men In Black III, I won’t have the foggiest. It’s as indistinguishable from the next $155m movie as any other before it. However, if you scratch hard enough, you’ll be able to glimpse the relatively decent concept buried underneath the astonishingly stupid and generic exterior. I can think of worse ways to spend two hours. Hell, I can think of two worse films within the actual franchise that this film belongs to!

Owen’s 2015 In Film: Part 2 – And The Award Goes To: February

In this second entry to a new series of articles where Owen will be taking a look at the films he’s seen during each month of 2015, he talks us through the films he’s seen during February 2015. A month notoriously associated with “awards season”.

by Owen Hughes (@ohughes86)

terminator salvation 1I ended January’s article by saying how much I’d bloody loved Werner Herzog’s 1974 film, The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser, and how you could expect to see reviews of Fitzcarraldo, Heart of Glass and Stroszek in this month’s piece. Well, sorry to disappoint you if that’s what you were expecting, but unfortunately I still haven’t gotten around to them. Instead they are taking up space on my TV planner. However, I am still desperate to see them so hopefully they make it into March’s entry to my 2015 In Film series.

Instead, the month started off with me watching a mix of Terminator movies and catching up on one or two of those nominated for Oscars at the 87th Academy Awards ceremony. I don’t know whether or not you listened to our Oscar predictions podcast earlier in February, where I said that I’d love it if Birdman won best picture, but couldn’t see past Boyhood dominating the awards. Well, I couldn’t be happier to be wrong. I was delighted when I woke up, checked the news and found out that Alejandro González Iñárritu had walked away with the two big awards. Not because I have a deep-rooted hatred of Boyhood or anything. I just really, really enjoyed Birdman. A little over two months in and it’s still my favourite film released in the UK this year.

I also put myself about a bit this past month, in a manner of speaking. I made my first debut on a non-Failed Critics podcast when two awesome gents called Jack and Chris were kind enough to invite me onto Not This Again to talk Oscar predictions. I then somehow ended up being invited onto another podcast by another awesome gent called Tony Black, as we reviewed Jupiter Ascending, Kingsman and others. I also recorded two short preview pieces for Tony’s ‘Black Hole Cinema’ podcast ahead of the Academy Awards; one for Whiplash and another for American Sniper.

Throw in an extremely busy period during my day job and it’s just resulted in a hectic month for me, which has left less room for films throughout February, particularly compared to January. Still, there’s plenty enough for me to talk about! On with the reviews…


Week 1: Sunday 1 – Sunday 8 February 2015

Sunday (1)Boyhood (2014), The Terminator (1984), Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991); Monday – Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003); Tuesday – Point & Shoot (2014); Wednesday – THE INTERNET’S OWN BOY: THE STORY OF AARON SWARTZ (2014); Thursday – [absolutely nothing]; Friday – Ip Man 2 (2010); Saturday – [absolutely nothing]; Sunday (8) – She’s The Man (2006), Jupiter Ascending (2015)

the internet's own boyOriginally I had planned to talk about Boyhood during this segment. It won BAFTAs, Golden Globes and plenty of other awards and until a couple of days before the ceremony, it was hotly tipped as the favourite for best picture. However, I cannot top Barry Shitpeas and Philomena Cunk on the latest episode of Charlie Brooker’s Weekly Wipe, Besides which, I really want to talk about a documentary I watched on BBC’s Storyville series called The Internet’s Own Boy. I knew nothing at all about it beforehand; I had no idea who Aaron Swartz was, what had happened to him or why someone had decided to document his life. By the time the end credits came up, I was proclaiming him as the internet’s Che Guevara, a modern day hero, and telling all and sundry to watch this film and learn about this amazing man. For those like me who were unaware of who Aaron Swartz was, I’ll give a quick summary. He founded Reddit and openlibrary.org amongst others, he was partially responsible for inventing RSS and Creative Commons, he was a child prodigy when it comes to coding, and a social and political activist. This documentary explores 26 years of his life, from first learning to read, to his eventual suicide after being involved in an excessive, relentless and bullying persecution by the federal government. Tribute style documentaries can often be a bit of a let down. They’re too respectful, too soppy and too personal a project for those involved to really translate well to the screen. However, there are obvious exceptions such as this (and Grizzly Man, Life Itself, etc) when you truly feel educated on a cause worth knowing about. Rarely do documentaries inspire the level of emotion in me as The Internet’s Own Boy did, and for that, I had to talk about it in this month’s article. It’s still available on iPlayer until 11.30pm this Wednesday. Watch it! I urge you.


Week 2: Monday 9 – Sunday 15 February 2015

Monday – TERMINATOR SALVATION (2009); Tuesday – The Interview (2015); Wednesday – [absolutely nothing]; Thursday – Virtuality (2009); Friday – Hitman (aka Contract Killer) (1998); Saturday – Wing Chun (1994); Sunday – Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead (2015); Dracula Dead & Loving It (1995); War of the Worlds (2005)

terminator salvationThis is less a review of Terminator Salvation and more a general thing about the franchise as a whole. You may have noticed that I started off the month by rewatching the first three Terminator movies. The first of which is an absolute classic of the sci-fi horror genre, as per its rightful inclusion in Matt’s 1984 Decade In Film piece. It’s an extraordinarily tense, atmospheric, brilliant film that never ceases to entertain, no matter how many times you watch it. I seem to have vague memories of James posing the question on one of my first podcast appearances as to whether or not I preferred it to James Cameron’s sequel, T2: Judgement Day. At the time, I definitely said T2. Having now seen them back to back, the spectacle of T2 is still there, and it’s still an immensely entertaining action blockbuster, but something drew me more to the original. The unrelenting machine vs woman battle and inevitable apocalypse brought on by our playing God (*ahem*) is so horrifying, it has far more impact than in the flashy, fun and over-the-top sequel. The less said about Terminator 3, the better. I don’t think John Connor got into a vehicle or building that didn’t explode in that movie. Sheesh. Suffice to say, after suffering T3 again, expectations were low for Terminator Salvation. Aside from the fact I don’t think I can trust a grown man who refers to himself as McG, I’d heard bad things about it. I knew how troubled the production was and it just sounded dull. You don’t set a Terminator movie in the post apocalyptic future, for crying out loud. Nevertheless, I gave it a chance and… it wasn’t that bad. Bizarrely, it was the worst performance I’ve seen from Christian Bale. I love the guy, think he’s a brilliant actor, but when you’re outshone by Sam Worthington…….. well. Say no more. There’s some interesting concepts around the artificial intelligence angle, plus the climactic battle with Skynet and CGI Arnie is handled moderately well and ties into the franchise nicely, but for large parts it was incredibly tedious. Maybe next time, eh? Roll on Terminator: Genisys.


Week 3: Monday 16 – Sunday 22 February 2015

Monday – Focus (2015); Tuesday – [absolutely nothing]; Wednesday – THE FIGHTING FISTS OF SHANGHAI JOE (1973); Thursday – [absolutely nothing]; Friday – Man of Tai Chi (2014); Saturday – The House at the End of Time (2013); Sunday – [absolutely nothing]

shanghai joeA woeful week for film watching. I didn’t even finish The House at the End of Time, Focus I’ve already reviewed on here, and Callum summed up Man of Tai Chi best when he said it was nothing groundbreaking but a very strong directorial debut. Which leaves me with only this slightly racist spaghetti western from the 70’s to talk about. A film I only happened upon because I noticed the title on movies4men, thinking it sounded like a kung-fu film where a westerner called Joe appears in Shanghai and beats up some people or something generic like that. Alas! It was the complete opposite as a Chinese man turns up in the wild west and beats up some people or something generic like that. The only reason I hit that ‘record’ button and gave it a chance is because I noticed Klaus Kinski’s name in the description. It actually turned out to be quite enjoyable! Utter nonsense with a plot that was barely coherent, as our titular hero is chased from pillar to post by a variety of hired assassins. Regardless, it was a lot more fun than I had expected it to be. Released in the same year as Bruce Lee starred in Enter The Dragon, a film that catapulted kung-fu into the American mainstream, it’s not difficult to understand why the already out-dated Confucius quoting Chen Lee faded into obscurity. Even so, the goofy stunts and not-exactly culturally sensitive gags made it an amusing experience all the same.


Week 4: Monday 23 – Saturday 28 February 2015

Monday – Moonrise Kingdom (2012), Project Almanac (2015); Tuesday – The Darjeeling Limited (2007); Wednesday – Horror Hotel (aka The City of the Dead) (1960); Thursday – The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2011); Friday – TWO DAYS, ONE NIGHT (2014); Saturday – The Babadook (2014), Superman (1978)

two days one nightIn a slightly more successful final week, it became the only one in February where I managed to see a film every day. When I could stand to look at the screen without feeling sick, I watched Project Almanac at the cinema. I took advantage of an offer Pringles were running and nabbed Wes Anderson’s The Darjeeling Limited for free. I even watched The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel on the off chance that it’d convince me to go and see the sequel that came out on Friday (it didn’t). Actually, I think the best film I watched during this week was The Babadook, another film I managed to acquire for free after my mother in law and her lodger / my mate palmed the blu-ray off on me after being disappointed with it. Instead though, I’m going to take a second to express my own personal disappointment with a film I’d been looking forward to. Two Days, One Night is a French film set in Belgium starring Marion Cotillard as a young depressed mum on the brink of losing her job if her colleagues decide to vote for keeping their bonuses instead of keeping her on. Over the course of a couple of days, she attempts to convince her co-workers to vote in favour of allowing her to retain her job. I’d seen the film described as a masterpiece and knew how highly regarded Cotillard’s performance was. Why is it thought of as a masterpiece? I couldn’t tell you. The film was a repetitive, monotone chore with nothing interesting to say about relationships; be they intimate man-and-woman loving relationships, or about the reflections of the employer/employee relationships. It was just one “sometimes-life-throws-up-difficult-decisions” drum banged over and over again. It’s one thing to make a film seem naturalistic, it’s another to stretch scenes so thin that you are literally watching 30 seconds of someone say they don’t know so-and-so’s address, but here’s [that guy]’s address, then write it down on a bit of paper, then hand it over, then have a slight pause before “merci, au revoir” and slowly walk out of frame. Bah. I know that in reviewing a shitty spaghetti western and the Terminator franchise that maybe I’ve painted myself as a certain kind of movie-watcher. But in all honesty, I do watch any and every sort of film. I stated above that I was looking forward to this film, but even Cotillard was disappointing. She wasn’t bad; in parts I’d go so far as to say that she was quite good. Between the saturation of constant tears and slow awkward conversations, she (and it) just left me tired and bored.


And that’s a wrap. I’ll be back next month to look back at the films I’ve seen in March, as well as hopefully more films to choose from! I’m happy to talk about any of the others listed above too should you want to know more. Just leave a comment below or send me a Tweet at @ohughes86.