Terminator Genisys

July 3, 2015 by  
Filed under Jerrod, Reviews

Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Emilia Clarke, Jai Courtney
Directed by: Alan Taylor (“Thor: The Dark World”)
Written by: Laeta Kalogridis (“Shutter Island”) and Patrick Lussier (“Drive Angry”)

Nearly a quarter century after James Cameron gave us “Terminator 2: Judgement Day,” Hollywood is still throwing Terminator franchise-extending ideas at the wall hoping that they stick. Sequels, TV series, and whatever the hell “Terminator Salvation” was supposed to be have come and gone, seemingly wringing the movie going public’s goodwill dry in the process. After all, how can we be expected to stay invested in this series when it features an ever-rotating cast and keeps using time travel to re-write its own continuity with every new project? Regardless, along comes “Terminator Genisys” with one ace up its sleeve the franchise hasn’t had for 12 years: the return of Arnold Schwarzenegger. It’s good to see Arnold in his iconic role once again, especially since he’s the only positive thing “Genisys” has going for it.

For what seems like the millionth time, this “Terminator” movie opens in the post-apocalyptic future, after world-destroying computer program Skynet has decided to wipe humans off the face of the earth. The human resistance, led by thinly-veiled messianic character John Connor (Jason Clarke), has identified the last stronghold of Skynet and its army of Terminators—one that houses an ultimate weapon. Along with his right hand man Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney), Connor and the resistance infiltrate the base to find a freshly-used time machine. Figuring out Skynet send a Terminator back to 1984 to kill Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke), Reese volunteers to go back to the past and save her. As he’s being transported away, he catches a glimpse of a Terminator attacking John Connor…or something. Unable to help, Reese arrives in 1984 to relive the events of “The Terminator” (complete with CGI young Schwarzenegger!) only to be interrupted by an aged T-800 Arnold (nicknamed Pops) and a Sarah Connor already well-versed in kicking Terminator ass. Someone changed the timeline even further back, and now it’s time for Sarah, Reese, and Pops to sort all the bullshit out.

While the first two films in the series focused on fate—or the lack thereof—the time travel elements always made little sense within the logic of the movies’ universe. That plot device ridiculousness is ramped up to ridiculous heights in “Genisys,” where time travel is regarded as an ultimate weapon (okay), a 20-something woman and her aged robot from the future can build a time machine in the LA sewers (what?) and one of the main characters from a future that no longer exists can travel to a tangential past and then back to a different future to stop something from existing that didn’t create the future that he’s from, but creates yet a different apocalyptic future than the seemingly endless versions this series has spat at us over the years (ugh, fuck it). The movie also seems to have some half-assed nonsense to say about stuff like smartphones and tablets and whatnot ruling our lives, but it’s all so poorly plotted out that literally none of the plot is engaging. The same can’t be said of Arnold, though, who becomes the only thing onscreen to elicit even the slightest bit of interest. With some liberal CGI, Arnold appears as three different versions of the iconic T-800, and its admittedly pretty fun when the old man version dukes it out with the 1984 version.  But the computer-enhanced exploits of a 67-year-old former governor aren’t enough to balance out the sheer “who the fuck cares?” of everything else haphazardly thrown on the screen.

Thor: The Dark World

November 7, 2013 by  
Filed under Jerrod, Reviews

Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston
Directed by: Alan Taylor (“The Emperor’s New Clothes,” “Palookaville”)
Written by: Christopher Yost (debut), Christopher Markus (“Captain America: The First Avenger”) and Stephen McFeely (“Captain America: The First Avenger”)

Before heading into the screening of “Thor: The Dark World,” my mind rang with an echo of a thought I had back in May, before “Iron Man 3” hit theaters. Here’s what I wrote then:

After the roaring success of last summer’s “The Avengers,” the biggest question facing the Marvel cinematic universe is “What’s next?” Since 2008, with the release of the original “Iron Man” film, everything that came afterward—vehicles for Thor, Captain America, and The Hulk—was build-up (for better or worse) to the epic team-up adventure of “The Avengers.” And boy, did it deliver, wowing critics and audiences on its way to becoming the third-highest grossing movie of all time. But after all of that (which Marvel is now calling Phase 1), what do you do?

The answer with Tony Stark’s third outing, and also with Thor’s sequel, was to stick the character back into a solo adventure that, instead of being a chapter in a larger story, marks time with epic battles for Macguffins until we see the Avengers assemble again in 2015.

“Thor: The Dark World” opens in a flashback, telling the tale of Thor’s grandfather Bor vanquishing the Malekith (Christopher Eccleston) and his Dark Elves. Malekith’s goal was to use a powerful force known as the Aether to return the Nine Realms to a state of darkness, but Bor was able to contain the Aether in a hidden stone column. In the present, Thor and his warrior compatriots have brought peace to the Nine Realms, while Loki (Tom Hiddleston) is imprisoned for his crimes by his adopted father Odin (Anthony Hopkins). Back on Earth, Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), still missing Thor, discovers a portal wherein she becomes possessed by the Aether. When Jane disappears from Earth, Heimdall (Idris Elba) informs Thor, who ventures to Earth to save Jane. The Aether’s release awakens Malekith and his forces, who will stop at nothing to capture Foster and release the Aether, plunging the Nine Realms back into darkness.

To say the mythology is dense is an understatement. There’s an awful lot going on here that ultimately doesn’t amount to much in the grand scheme of the Marvel universe, settling for a return to the status quo by the time the end credits roll–thanks mostly to a twist that seems to forego logic and is content to let future films figure out how to explain. For those concerned that Thor’s first cinematic outing spent too much time on Earth, “The Dark World” solves that problem by spending the vast majority of its runtime in and around the sci-fi/fantasy hybrid worlds of Asgard and beyond. While that answers the question all post-”Avengers” movies will struggle with—namely “why don’t the Avengers help out?”–it may leave casual fans of the Marvel movieverse feeling indifferent.

Director Alan Taylor, a veteran of HBO’s spiritually-similar “Game of Thrones,” has done a fine job expanding Thor’s home world, but in the process it seems he’s made the character more obtuse. I have a theory that at some point the general public will throw its hands up at one of these Marvel movies and say, “No more…that’s TOO comic-book-nerdy!” While “Thor: The Dark World” probably won’t be that tipping point, the upcoming “Guardians of the Galaxy,” previewed in one of the movies’ two post-credits sequences and featuring a blond, be-caped Benicio Del Toro, is the odd-on favorite to send this whole thing back into the sweaty hands of the fanboys.