Review: Terminator Genisys

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DIR: Alan Taylor • WRI:  Brian Lynch • PRO: Janet Healy, Christopher Meledandri  • ED: Claire Dodgson • MUS: Heitor Pereira • CAST: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Emilia Clarke, Jai Courtney, Jason Clarke

 

So. Here we are again with the fifth Terminator film – and that’s not including the television series Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. Arnie is back from his sojourn in California politics, and the lead is the waifish Daenerys from Game of Thrones, (with dark hair) but what on earth can they do to reboot/remake this story so that it’s different from what’s gone before?

Quite a lot, as it turns out – though it’s damned confusing.

We start in the future, where soldier Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) is the right hand man of John Connor (Jason Clarke). Reese is the erstwhile hero of the tale; after going back in time from 2029 and battling the original Terminator, he saved Sarah so that she could later give birth to John, the man who would lead the humans against the killing machines of Skynet, a computer entity that became part of our everyday lives – and then took over.

That takeover theme is continued here – SPOILER ALERT – through an all-pervasive phone/tablet computer system everyone runs their lives off. The latest super version, Genisys, is about to be launched and make our entire lives connected in every possible way. Sounds somewhat fruit-related, right?

It’s one of several sharp moments in this film – there are homages and lines that pay tribute to what’s gone before of course – but I’ll keep the JK Simmons twist to myself; it’s a bit of a cracker.

Back to this film though, where initially we see all as it should be: kind of. Moments before Reese is sent back in time to protect Sarah, he sees John being grabbed by someone with bad intentions – but who and what? Arriving back in 1984, Reese is soon being chased by the silver mercury-style shape shifting cop T-1000 (Byung Hun-Lee) – only now it’s Sarah (Emilia Clarke) telling him “come with me if you want to live.”

She doesn’t need protection anymore; the original (naked) Terminator who just arrived was killed by Guardian (Schwarzenegger), who came back in time even before 1984, and has become Sarah’s surrogate father (she rather awkwardly calls him “pops”).

Nothing is what it seems now, and soon Reese and Sarah are flying back to future San Francisco to try and stop the whole Skynet horror happening at all; they’ll meet Guardian there in a few decades. He’s delayed by traffic though and they’re arrested, but then, miraculously, Connor appears – he’s made it through time too…. or has he?

You really need a pen and paper to keep up with the convoluted twists and turns of what’s happened in the past, present and future here: all you need to know is that Reese and Sarah are the parents of Connor, the man who is set to save the world – expect that now he’s about to destroy it.

Forget all that though; you’re here for action, and there’s plenty of it. Arnie – as usual with few lines and the only laughs – gets battered all over the place, there’s a good scene on the Golden Gate Bridge, and the metal Connor is a great twist on the evolved machines.

The liquid T-1000 is great too, and though Clarke herself is such a tiny waif that she seems more like a young teen than a hardcore battler – and the forced “family” humour moments seem exactly that – while it’s a touch on the long side, there’s enough entertainment here for a Terminator fan to be happy with before the inevitable next installment.

James Bartlett

 

12A(See IFCO for details)
125 minutes

Terminator Genisys is released 3rd July 2015

Terminator Genisys– Official Website

 

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Cinema Review: White House Down

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DIR: Roland Emmerich WRI: James Vanderbilt PRO: Roland Emmerich, Brad Fischer, Larry J. Franco, Laeta Kalogridis, Harald Kloser, James Vanderbilt. DOP: Anna Foerster ED: Adam Wolfe DES: Kirk M. Petruccelli CAST: Channing Tatum, Jamie Foxx, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jason Clarke

It is one of the terrible beauties of Hollywood genre filmmaking that it remains committed to the cause of ideological equivocation, even while seeming to attempt to confront the Realities of Globalization, Extremism, and Socio-Political Anxiety in the Post-9/11 World: it is consistency amidst chaos, perpetuating chaos.

White House Down, the latest from disaster film director par excellence Roland Emmerich, performs such a dance of prevarication with all the outwardly liberal leanings of the 18-34 millennial demographic. The baddies (and this could not possibly spoil anything) are inside-job conservatives in the pocket of military armament providers; the president (Jamie Foxx) is Backbone Obama with a penchant for Air Jordans and a natural affinity for the rocket launcher; the hero (Channing Tatum) is tough on terrorists and gentle on squirrels.

…He is, of course, also white because of course he is. Tatum, who has been lauded for the past year and a bit as Hollywood’s next superstar leading man (always the “next”, never the “now”) takes top billing despite Foxx’s having won both an Oscar and a Golden Globe, and despite the film’s multiple protagonist scope that could just as easily have seen President Sawyer’s role listed first on cast and credits. It’s not Channing Tatum’s fault he’s white, male, and conventionally attractive; it is Hollywood’s fault that so is every other marketable male action star today (with the recent, ageing exception of Will Smith).

That said, Tatum is just Sylvester Stallone-vapid enough to function as the all-American hero who just wants to impress his daughter by landing a job with the Secret Service and gets caught up instead in a terrorist attack at the White House. Handy that he learned to fight and defend – for politically sanctioned reasons – while serving in Afghanistan. And handy that as a foil for the ex-servicemen-gone-rogue responsible for blowing up Capitol Hill, he offsets anxieties about the essential moral corruptibility of the individual soldier trained to kill for money. The noble one – in Emmerich, in Hollywood – excuses (or eliminates where he cannot redeem) the several corrupt. That’s how capitalism saves the day every evening from the problems it posed in the morning.

Ideological dissonances notwithstanding, Channing Tatum’s Bankability Down boasts an excellently devised car chase across the White House lawn and the requisite number of explosions. Its narrative economy is remarkable – Die Hard-esque even – despite running over two hours long: there is nothing superfluous, nothing wanting in its plot. And yet, as the film’s recent tanking at the American box office would suggest, there is something fundamentally lacking in its design.

Perhaps it’s because Antoine Fuqua already made the same movie earlier in the year with Olympus Has Fallen. Perhaps it’s because Roland Emmerich actually blew up the White House way back in 1996, when the scariest enemies were from outer space, and techie nerds like Jeff Goldblum were more sexy-exotic, less Julian Assange-anarchist. Maybe the myth of the Hollywood disaster-action flick has been exploded one too many times in real life on tv, YouTube and the video phone to function as cathartic of our repressed fears and internalized anxieties. Whatever the case may be, what worked twenty years ago doesn’t work today, even with massively improved CGI and cynically-politically correct casting.

Ciara Máirín Barrett

Rated 12A (see IFCO website for details) 

131 mins

White House Down is released on 13th September 2013

White House Down  – Official Website

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