Dig Baton Rouge

Film in Review

By Bill Arceneaux

 

The James Cameron “seal of approval.” This gesture, this thing, carries with it more weight than normal. Coming from a filmmaker of high esteem and success (his past two films became the highest grossing of all time), a statement of support goes a long way. Now, this weight can be either positive or negative, depending on the consensus of quality to what it’s been given. Positive or negative to James Cameron, I mean.

In the case of this review, he gave his “seal of approval” to the latest franchise revival, Terminator Genisys—a most unfortunate move for someone planning risky special effects laden sequels (to Avatar). Mr. Cameron is, of course, entitled to his opinion (which some suspect has been compromised), but so am I. And I think and feel that Terminator Genisys is a turd. Call it my “stamp of dissent.” A “tramp stamp,” maybe?

Almost everything, from the acting performances to the writing is a mistake. It’s a movie lacking any and all suspense, tension, and drama. Lacking in the proper execution of these elements, anyways. Genisys comes off like a premise that was greenlit based on its twists and turns, and the potential for scene-stealing moments, namely for a certain former Governor of California. It’s hard, after watching the movie, to decipher how and why, with production meetings and the like, the final version made it to theaters. The only conclusion I can come to is that a certain former body builder REALLY wanted to make this.

With follow up after follow up, the Terminator series diluted the importance of the ending of Judgement Day and the emotional oomph of the robotic thumbs up. Quickly, the time jumping timeline became a parody of itself, becoming a joke across all of pop culture. With Genisys, the joke is no longer as funny. Where it should’ve been dramatic and tense, it’s bland and repetitive. Actors Jai Courtney and Emilia Clarke don’t do us any favors with a chemistry only slightly better than Anakin Skywalker and Padme Amidala. In the original film, Michael Biehn’s version of time traveling soldier Kyle Reese had a sense of urgency to him, which made the character one to root and feel danger for. Courtney’s version expresses nothing. When he’s supposed to read a comedic one-liner, his stumbles through it, missing the moment by a mile. When he’s supposed to gain sympathy from the audience, it comes off as confusing and poorly written. Nobody is doing anybody any good in this movie.

Except maybe for Arnold. The original action star makes sure he looks and sounds as good as possible. Did he bring in his own writer to punch up his lines? Did he threaten the main writer? Did he threaten everyone? There’s no anger to his performance, just an all-business attitude. But it’s done as well as it could be while everyone else is as terrible as possible. Looking better by comparison?

A recent interview on Vice summed it up for me. A scientist was asked about the mechanics and logic of time travel in the franchise and if he was consulted on Genisys. He was. What did he discuss with the director? Why the time travelers had to be naked. This is grossly disappointing. In a movie dealing with time shifting, I don’t necessarily look for scientific truth, but rather narrative and emotional coherence and connectivity. Without that, you could be as factual as can be, and it won’t matter to a bored audience. Genisys is worse, as it ignores everything. It reminds me of that Nicolas Cage movie Adaptation, where a screenwriter is trying to write a movie where little happens and nobody changes. Of course, he gets reamed out for this.

Genisys might just be the genesis of reboot/sequel mania. No longer are stories needed. No longer are details important. Just have noise happen. Then again, even noise can be full of depth. Why not just show a blank screen for 90 minutes? That’ll get a “tramp stamp” from me.

1 / 5 *s

For more from the author, follow him on Twitter @BillReviews and visit his blog CriticalNO.com.

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