Terminator Genisys (2015): Terminator Referynce With a Great Missed Story

Terminator-Genisys-poster-final

    “Terminator Genisys” had the potential to be the best of the story, wholly original and able to stand on it’s own, without referencing any of the past “Terminator” films. Sadly I’d be expecting too much from the studios and writers for that to become a reality and because the film tries to be all the Good Terminator films it fails to stand wholly on it’s own. It isn’t the worst of the “Terminator Franchise” by any means and it is enjoyable in it’s own right, but it falls short because it lacked the confidence to continue on threads that weren’t dependent on past films.

    The film was directed by Alan Taylor, written by Laeta Kalogridis and Patrick Lussier and produced by David Ellison and Dana Goldberg.

    The story involves John Connor (Jason Clarke) leading the final assault on Skynet headquarters in the Post-Apocalyptic future of 2029. He suceeds but not before Skynet sends back the T-800 (Arnold Schwarzenegger) to terminate Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke). He decides to send back Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) in order to protect her. When he returns to 1984 he finds a Terminator has already been sent back to protect Sarah and the timeline has changed. It is up to them to stop Skynet before it comes online as the Timeline is in flux and the future has changed.

The Pros:  The Action – The action is really good in this. From the battle to reach Skynet’s Time Machine and shut down the core, to Pops against The Terminator and Pops, Reese and Sarah against the T-1000 and later on the fights against John Connor as the T-3000. Each fight was really well done and a pleasure to watch.

The Special Effects – The Special Effects are the best they’ve been. When the original Terminator travels back in time he looks nearly like how Arnold looked as he did in 1984. The Terminators also look great too having a dangerous and sleek look to them.

The Final Assault on Skynet – This is the story that I wish the movie had been. I wish we could have witnessed the consequences of the war like we did in “Salvation” and how it had shaped John Connor into someone who was willing to take any risks to defeat the machines and to live. In the end the decision to send Kyle Reese back is made as Skynet’s Avatar attacks and turns John Connor into a Terminator. It’s really cool and if that had been the film with the resistance dealing with the consequences of that it would have been perfect and possibly the best in the series.

J.K. Simmons – Plays a cop who is saved by Reese and pays them back later when the T-3000 is trying to kill them all. His character is wonderful as the one who has seen the robots but no one believes him. I liked the character and it was a nice touch that was different from the other films. Detective O’Brien is a great character.

Arnold Scharzenegger – Arnold is the best part of this film. We see him save Sarah Connor at the beginning and that he has developed an affection for her. It is the most range I have seen Arnold do and he truly is great at this role (Minus “Terminator 3”).

Pops – Pops is the protector and Guardian of Sarah Connor and saved her as a child. We see that his goal is to protect her and stop Skynet (like the one sent back in “T2”) and to this end he trains and prepares her for the arrival of Kyle Reese and “The Terminator.” When the Terminator arrives together they kill it and later he gets upgraded when he falls into the liquid good of the T-1000s in the final battle against the T-3000. He develops an affection for Kyle Reese and a sense of humor too.

The Terminator/T-800/Pops – This role is small but Arnold is great at looking and acting threatening, beating down Pops and nearly killing him if not for Sarah Connor’s sniper shot. It was a great though his defeat kind of defeated the purpose of Skynet’s last ditch effort to save itself…though the writers kind of ignore that when they throw in the T-1000 in the same timeline and later the T-3000. He is called Pops by Sarah.

Jason Clarke – Jason Clarke is carrying this movie with Arnold and lends a lot of humanity to the role of John Connor as someone trying to make a difference and survive in a cruel world where humans are going extinct. This leads to some tough decisions that come back to bite him later. Clarke is great as the threatening T-3000 too.

John Connor – John Connor is a man on the brink who has lost so much and forced his soldiers to make tough choices. This has cost him a lot and at the end when he is victorious his one moment of joy costs him his conscience as he is turned into a Terminator and no doubt turned on his own men he was protecting.

T-3000 – The T-3000 is a Nano Terminator and is one of the best of them as he can mimic almost perfectly and has all the knowledge of Skynet and John Connor. It takes everything to defeat him including Skynet’s last resort Time Traveling Machine to finally end the threat.

Okay: The Ending – Pops gets upgraded and everyone is in 2017. It was way too happy for me as we see Sarah and John begin to hook up, Pops respect Reese and Reese talk to his younger self and give him hope for the future. If they have sequels planned I have no idea how they will pull it off. There are no evidence of Terminators and everything feels done now without opening more cans of worms in the Timeline(s). Also, somehow the Skynet system core survived? I guess it fits the theme of survival of the story but we shouldn’t need an after credits scene to know that it does. That’s a bit too important to leave until after the credits.

The Cons: Kyle Reese – Jai Courtney can’t act. He is super generic and dull as a character and either has a blank expression or annoyed expression (sadly like Emilia Clarke in this film too) and the focus on him just brings down the plot. I didn’t care about his character because he didn’t feel real. He felt like a plot device and not like an actual human being.

Sarah Connor – Emilia Clarke like Jai Courtney is terrible in this. She is flustered most of the time and she feels shoe horned in. We don’t see her arc to become a badass she just is that way because of Pops. She also doesn’t have much of an arc. She learns to love and not fear I guess but always loved Pops anyway so the arc is irrelevant and a poor attempt to hook her up with Reese for plot reasons.

Sarah Connor and Kyle Reese Romance – These two have no chemistry. Any times where there was supposed to be sexual tension felt contrived and tacked on and it felt like Emilia and Jai were just going through the motions.

Plot Holes – Who sent Pops back? How was the T-1000 around in 1984? How was  T-1000 sent back to kill Sarah Connor as a child? Are Time Machines around everywhere in the future? Are the Terminators from other Timelines? The plot is a mess if you think too hard on it, so major con.

Too Many Time Machines – See the plot holes above. Even Pops is able to build a Time Machine….which runs counter to the fact that in “Terminator 2” they were designed to only kill and couldn’t think on a deeper level. Now everyone has a Time Machine so story has no consequence. Everybody lives!

   This was a film that would have worked if we stayed in the future, or ended with Kyle Reese being sent back. From there the story would have been complete without having to explain the Old Terminator and hiding the fact that the writers don’t know who sent him back. We could have still had a good Terminator, the good Terminator could have protected John Connor after being reprogrammed and it having to kill John Connor after Skynet possess him, instead we get the entire timeline rebooted with Skynet pretty much destroyed and Reese and Pops alive. We get a story with no consequences with gaping plot holes, though I won’t deny the ride is enjoyable and Jason Clarke and Arnold are top of their game in their roles.

Final Score: 6 / 10. Would have been the best if we had just stuck to the future and consequences of the war on Skynet and filling in the blanks for “Terminator” and “T2,” without creating more plot holes in the Timeline (and creating more Timelines).

Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (1981): Discovering the Reason to Fight for Humanity

mad-max-2-poster-art-by-chris-weston

      I hated the first “Mad Max” film but I got to say, after watching “The Road Warrior” I am giving this series another chance. What initially sparked it was a friend requesting I see the rest of the series months ago and after “Fury Road” being released. I plan to see the film soon so I plan on doing the reviews of the other two films of “Mad Max” that I haven’t reviewed. Those being this film here “The Road Warrior” and “Beyond Thunderdome,” both of which I’ve heard great things about and in regards to “The Road Warrior,” it deserves all the praise it has received. So much about this movie works, from the action, characters and the plot which I will get into greater detail later on.

     Here is my review of the first “Mad Max” film.: https://cameronmoviesandtv.wordpress.com/2014/11/11/mad-max-1979-stupid-action-with-no-interesting-characters/

     “The Road Warrior,” was directed by George Miller who was also one of the writers. The other writers were Terry Hayes and Brian Hannant. The film was produced by Byron Kennedy.

     The story picks up where the last film left off with the narrator recounting how the Cold War lead to the destruction of fuel leading humanity to become like animals fighting for what little remained. From here we pick up with Max (Mel Gibson) who after capturing the Gyro Captain (Bruce Spence) who was trying to kill him, learns about a town full of oil. He travels there and after saving a man from The Humungus’s (Kjell Nilsson) gang tries to make a deal for fuel but soon finds himself becoming their protector and having to choose between continuing to be alone or fighting for something beyond contracts.

The Pros: The Stakes – The stakes are high, oil is limited and everyone uses vehicles. The Facility that has the oil plans to escape to bring it North where there is talk of making a new civilized world but they are trapped because The Humungus has such a huge gang. These stakes force the selfish Max and Gyro Captain to think beyond themselves and to see a bigger picture again.

The Action – The action is awesome! Unlike “Mad Max” where they went on forever, the action here only goes on as long as it needs too, if someone is going to get caught or killed they won’t linger on it like in “Mad Max” which leads me to believe that Miller had grown a lot as a director by the time he made this film. The final chase where Max and a few warrior are driving the fuel truck is fantastic though as we see one truck used to devastating affect against a much larger force.

The Story – The story is told by a mysterious narrator recounting the past and in the end we learn the narrator was one of the folks Max saved which changed the character to later become the leader of his people as he was shaped by the events and how the people changed in coming together against The Humungus.

The Characters – The characters in this are all memorable, partially because they are all mad and have been changed radically by the losses they’ve experienced in their lives but also because the actors do a great job with the characters they were given.

Wez – Wez is The Humungus’s Dragon and is a gay villain who is actually threatening! So often in fiction if a villain is implied to be gay or is actually gay they are made to be weak and shamed by those around them. Not Wez, Wez rocks as a warrior and fights to the end. He wins almost every fight he gets into and survives up until he’s fighting a truck on his own. He also has a partner the Feral Kid kills which sets off his vendetta against the Facility and Max to an even greater degree. Vernon Welles does a great job.

Gyro Captain – When we first meet the Gyro Captain he is holding an arrow to Max’s head but is only stopped by Max’s dog. From there he is Max’s prisoner and servant until he proves his own in combat and makes the choice to stay with the Facility Survivors which leads to them eventually making him their leader. His arc is coming to care about more than just those who can get him something like gasoline or sex and in the end he risks it all for strangers which is a big reason he becomes their leader. Bruce Spence gives a lot of depth to this mad character.

The Warrior Woman – The Warrior Women is the main military leader in the Facility and she doesn’t trust Max until Max proves his value. After she doesn’t end up with him, which made me happy. Her arc is learning to trust but that isn’t emotionally manipulated into romance. She dies in the final battle but not before taking out a bunch of The Humungus’s men. Virginia Hey is wonderful in the role and I wish her character had got more screentime.

Pappagallo – Pappagallo is the idealistic though in some ways corrupt leader of the Facility. He wants to lead them North to a better land where they can make a world without dealing with raiders and rapists who own the wasteland. In the end he risks everything for this dream including his life when the Humungus kills him. His con is he doesn’t take no for an answer when Max turns down his dream quite a few times. He shows that he is a zealot and is at least somewhat delusional. Michael Preson brings great subtly to the role.

Max – Mel Gibson’s character actually has an arc in this film! In the beginning he is just after fuel and survival and can’t see anything beyond that. After staying in the Facility though he is willing to risk his life so that they can transport the fuel to rescue. He loses his dog in this and nearly his life to Wez but he never takes things personally. Part of me wonders how much he is able to feel at this point, since the empathy we see him present seems learned. He’s forgotten who he was and only exists as a survivor until the purpose he receives in fighting for others  though he does not stay with them, showing he is still searching for a reason to live for.

The Humungus – Kjell Nilsson is fantastic as this narcissistic madman! He’s the king of rock and roll and the Ayatollah of the Wasteland. He is articulate too (like Bane) for speaking behind a metal hockey mask. He is also dangerous too and he and his forces kill most of the Facility’s defenders in the final battle with the Truck. He himself kills Pappagallo. What an awesome villain. He preys on their fears and is evil and knows it. Also he has a great name. The Humungus is such a great villain name.

The Feral Kid – The Feral Kid is the future narrator who later leads the group. Throughout the film he doesn’t talk and only howls, growls and grunts. Eventually he learns speech in the North though recounts the story. Max was a such a major part of his life and inspired him to fight and lead and through it find his humanity again. Emil Minty does a good job in the role.

The Messages – The main messages were those who control fuel control the world, and that that drive for it makes men savages, which we see to this day. Resources drive humanity into savagery which “The Road Warrior” expresses beautifully through Humungus and his gang and Max and the Gyro Captain. The other message is that other people can give us a reason to look beyond ourselves and that no matter how horrible humanity can be, there are those worth fighting for.

Okay: Backstory – The world is so lived in this wasn’t as big of an issue for me as the characters in their mad forms were compelling already but I still wish we could have got what drove the Humungus and Pappagallo to be who they were.

The Cons: The Soundtrack – The music isn’t memorable at all, I’d call it forgettable standard fair but it left no affect on me.

  This is a really good film and solves a lot of the problems I had with the first film. Max is a compelling character this time, The Humungus is a fantastic villain, the minor characters have quirks but don’t feel like caricatures as they change and grow throughout the plot and there are actual stakes! I cared about what happened to the members of the Facility and what happened Max. This I believe is due to the acting and writing that were so great in this film. Suffice to say I can’t wait to see “Beyond Thunderdome” and “Fury Road” after this.

Final Score: 9 / 10.

Before the Dawn – 3 Short Films Leading up “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” Reviews

Before the Dawn

“Before the Dawn,” are the three short films created in the lead up to “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,” in each the goal is to show how the world has changed from the Outbreak of the Simian Flu. The films are “Quarantine,” “All Fall Down,” and “Story of a Gun.” I’ll be reviewing each individually since they are all pretty short. They take place over the 10 years between “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” and “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.”

 Quarantine

“Quarantine”

“Quarantine” begins with the words – “In 2011 the ‘Simian Flu’ Virus spread across Major U.S. Cities. With no known cure, global efforts focused on containment.”

“Quarantine” is powerful, showing a couple in love at the beginning just trying to live, it takes place in year 1 of the outbreak…during this year there is the birth of their daughter and the mother being put in containment. From here we see the Father’s downfall as he breaks into a man’s home to still his food for his dying wife. The visuals are great, and my biggest problem is the electronic music in the background…it distracts from the scenes that are taking place, and we never see the daughter’s reaction to her father beating a man to death. Though we do get a flashback of the mother when she was dragged to containment. Still a good short film though.

8 / 10

All Fall Down

“All Fall Down”

“All Fall Down,” achieves what it needs to do to show that this is no longer the world of the humans. This takes place in Year 5 of the outbreak. We see a single mother raising her son…recounting to us how nearly all of humanity is dead and that there is danger lurking in the darkness. We see what the world has become “With people trading things they need for what they want…memories of a world they will never have again.” It is powerful and ends with an ape raiding the mother’s food (which we never see the ape proper…just it’s eyes from the darkness). It ends with the feel of humanity under siege. It does just what it needs to do to capture the desolation of humanity and the foreboding danger of the rise of the apes.

10 / 10

Story of the Gun

“Story of the Gun”

“Story of the Gun,” tells the story of the fall of man over the course of 10 years using a gun as way to do so. We first begin 10 years later with a man running from apes shooting wildly, before we flash to the past. The first owner is a boy who is learning how to hunt with his dad, after he trades the gun away for supplies and medicine it goes to a mother infected with flu trying to protect her kids after her a U.S. Marshall gets the gun and goes from law abiding to attacking a Latino family for supplies…he is later killed by one of the roving gangs. After the owner is a slightly mad conspiracy nut who ends up killing himself after his gang gets killed and he realizes he is alone in the home they’ve commandeered…last is the man we saw the beginning who is trying to protect his adopted daughter. They are in the forest when we hear the apes attack, he drops the gun and we see an ape’s shadow standing over it.

This film is the most ambitious, and it mostly succeeds. It’s biggest problem is it should have been longer. The second woman who owns the gun gets no exploration at all and we don’t see what the conspiracy guy was like before the fall in his memories…same goes for the last guy who mostly functions to show the threat of the apes and functions less as a character.

For this reason…final score is 8.5 / 10.

If you like short films you will probably get a kick out of this. It was masterfully done and shows the fall of humanity and the rise of the apes via what is hinted out throughout all the films. This was a nice break, as the next time I return to the “Planet of the Apes Franchise Retrospect,” it will be to review “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.” These films set the stage so well for the upcoming film, leaving “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,” a lot of deliver.

These are all solid productions and I’d rate the whole overall as a 9 / 10.