Sunday, July 26, 2015

Terminator Genisys

Alternate Title:  A Song of Gripes and Ire

One sentence synopsis:     Kyle Reese is sent back in time to save Sarah Connor from a Terminator, only to find that the timelines have changed...

Things Havoc liked:  I feel perhaps that an explanation is in order...

I do not, ever, go see movies that I know are going to suck. What do I mean by that? You know. The Lone Rangers, the After Earths, the Battleships, the films that look like abject shit from the first time you lay eyes on their teasers. The films nobody needs to warn you about because the ounce of common sense that God gave all of us (except for movie execs) has given you warning that an atrocity is about to take place. Most people of reason would (and have) stated that this movie was, without question one of their number, as the trailers made it look like a seventeen-car pileup that was then hit by a train. In my own defense, I must answer that there is a difference between a guaranteed disaster and a risk, and that if I did not engage on occasion in the latter, going to see a movie that may look dodgy because I detect some possibility in it, I would have missed such films as Kingsman, Real Steel, Fury, and Cloud Atlas itself. Sometimes you need to go with your gut. Sometimes you need to try something new.

And sometimes it can work! For instance, I had all but written off Arnold Schwarzenegger as too old to make movies anymore, but the reality is that he's actually pretty decent in this movie. Not the equal to his great early performances of the 1980s certainly, but a credible presence, helped by a script which works his age into the story, and age-reducing technology that while still not perfect, has come a long way since Tron Legacy, and masks what twinges of Uncanny Valley remain behind the fact that we're supposed to be looking at inhuman robots. And J.K. Simmons, one of my favorite actors, is in this movie! Yes, he's playing a character whose identity I mistook twice for other characters in the movie (it's a time travel film, this happens), but he's in it, playing a frazzled, awkward, conspiracy-theorist/cop trying to make sense of a lunatic plot. I had no idea he was going to be in this movie, and discovering him there was a nice treat. And it's nice treats like that that keep me doing this, honestly. The notion that sometimes these Hail Mary passes can work.

Things Havoc disliked:  But most of the time...

Terminator Genisys, in addition to having the stupidest name in the history of movies (anyone who cites counterexamples will be eviscerated with an ice cream scoop), is a festering pile of dung, a categorical failure in everything it attempts to do and a complete waste of my valuable time, both to have seen and to be sitting here writing about. It manages, somehow, to do the literal impossible and actually become the worst film in he entire Terminator series, a statement I make in full recollection of the existence of 2009's Terminator Salvation. It is a plate of ass.. And it is by a wide, wide margin, the worst major Hollywood release I have seen in two years and more than a hundred films. Read the rest of my angry rant if my pain amuses you, but if you read only this far, know that you have now been warned.

Whose fault is it that this movie sucks? Well one is tempted to give the actors, at least, a pass, for who could possibly produce anything decent from s movie this misguided? But I'm afraid that no excuse imaginable would indemnify Emilia Clarke, Daenarys Targarian herself, from a performance THIS FUCKING BAD. I see what she was going for, trying to channel all of her Game of Thrones menace into playing Sarah Connor, the badass version. Unfortunately for her though, this is a character that was played to sublime perfection by Linda Hamilton in Terminator 2, Hamilton's best performance and in my mind, the greatest action heroine performance in the history of film. Hamilton was on fire in that movie, transcending a mere badass and entering the hallowed realm of a "Bad Motherfucker" (which as defined as an incomparable badass who remains an incomparable badass even when they are doing such perfectly quotidian things as sitting at a picnic table and staring into space). The notion of Emilia Clarke, with her four foot even, ninety-pound frame, trying to successfully ape one of the great action performances of all time is simply farcical. She is not up to this task, especially not when saddled with a plot that gives her awful dialogue and a sweet pile of Daddy issues to have fun with. I get that this is some kind of alternate timeline wherein she was rescued by a terminator at the age of nine, but having her name the robot 'Pops' (I'm not making this up) was a bad idea on the scale of cutting the last Hunger Games in half. To put things in the most reasonable way possible, Linda Hamilton would probably never have allowed her character to utter such a phrase, for fear of sounding exactly as stupid as Clarke does.

But it's not like Clarke is the only one at fault. We also have the other Clarke, Jason Clarke, who needs to fire his goddamn agent or whoever it is that keeps dropping him into movies like this one or White House Down. Clarke plays John Connor himself (sort of), a character who does nothing but monologue endlessly about the most boring, non-pertinent shit imaginable. Half his fucking dialogue is nothing more than re-hashed, contextless quotes from the first movie that not only make no sense for the scene he is in, but actively undermine what he is attempting to say. How in God's name does it help your cause when trying to convince someone of your peaceful intentions and general trustworthyness to suddenly start quoting Reese's famous speech from the first movie about how Terminators "cannot be reasoned with" and don't feel pity or fear or remorse, applying those monikers to yourself! This is on top of the usual stupid idiot-ball antics of not killing the people his plans desperately require him to kill because... it's more sporting this way? But even Clarke has nothing on Jai Fucking Courtney, the action equivalent to Vincent D'Oonofrio, a man who has starred in nothing but shitty, shitty action movies like Die Hard 5, and who outdoes himself here by turning Kyle Reese into a useless, stupid, annoying, actively aggravating imbecile, mostly so that Sarah Connor can be shown to be a (sing it with me) Strong Independent Woman Who Don't Need No Man (unless of course that man is her surrogate robo-daddy).

Would that I could stop there, dear readers, but the woes of this film go well beyond its acting, and to apportion the blame properly, it is necessary to turn to director Alan Taylor, a television veteran whose most recent film was the perfectly serviceable Thor: The Dark World, and who here has presided over a colossal mess that makes even the worst Marvel film look like Citizen Kane. The writing in this film is utterly atrocious, clunky in the extreme, with dialogue so on-the-nose as to give the cast skull fractures, particularly a series of wretchedly-forced efforts to replicate Terminator 2's philosophical voiceover codas, so stupefyingly badly written that I was literally begging friends of mine to find some way, any way to stop the movie as they were going on, up to and including phoning in bomb threats to the theater. The "writers" of this abortion of a film, Canadian duo Laeta Kalogridis and Patrick Lussier, whose previous credits include such unjustly forgotten gems as Dracula 2003, Drive Angry 3D, and Oliver Stone's Alexander, have outdone themselves this time, producing a script and plot so convoluted and nonsensical that it may come to set a new bar for nonsensical time travel plots. Films as varied as Looper and Back to the Future have shown time and again all the myriad ways that one can do a time travel plot and have it make sense, but this is not among them. It's not that the plot requires anything fancy, it's that the storytelling is so bad that we never get fed such basic information as whether or not paradoxes are a thing in is universe, meaning that we don't know if the main villain of the piece is even allowed to kill the main heroes at any given time. Without knowing what the rules of the universe are, we have no idea why characters are doing anything, robbing us of all sense of consequence or importance, something that is helped in no way by the approximately eighteen different scenes in which the movie stops dead so that the characters can explain a fresh set of rules to the audience, ones seemingly drawn out of nowhere and which hold no actual implications for the story.

Final thoughts:   I know that lots of people, mindful of my claim to only go see movies that I think have a chance at being good (or at least interesting), will wonder why I went to see this film at all. I would be lying if I said that the same question didn't come to mind as I sat there watching this atrocity, but all I can say is that while I knew Terminator Genysis to be a risk, I had no idea that anything like this was waiting for me. Passing well beyond guilty pleasure territory and into the realm of war crime, if this movie does not kill the Terminator franchise at long last, then we live in a cruel and unjust world at the whim of an uncaring God. I am an avowed, dyed-in-the-wool fan of get original two Teminators, particularly the second, but this film would have been awful even if I had never heard of Terminator. That would, after all, judging by the evidence, have put me in a similar state as the director, writers, and most of the cast.

How bad was this movie? Let me put it this way. Of all the elements that went into creating this complete waste of my, your, and everyone's time, the single best one was the title.

Just think about that.

Final Score:  2.5/10

Next Time:  Catching up on a bit of backlog, hopefully with the help of a guest reviewer or two!

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