Terminator: Genisys

A Polygon for Radio


It’s better than T4. This is a meaningless expression.
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Reported on 29th of July, 2015

‘Though questions remain’ is not a line you want to end a movie, but it is a line you want to end a script that gets bought. One considers two questions vis-à-vis: Terminator: Synergy: What does it take to make a good sequel? and What does it take for a script to be greenlit? As it turns out, the first has exactly as much to do with the second as talent has to do with success.

Terminator: Genisys

2 July 2015 @ The Gaumont Rennes


$0.02 or, if one must be jejune, and one must... 
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

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First-wise, this film has the unfortunate pedigree of being part of a series made by a fellow – Mr. James Cameron – who made Aliens and Terminator 2. Successful sequels are as rare as people who realize that Godfather 2 is not one, and Mr. Cameron has made two films arguably better than their originals.

Whoops, should have said: this film is not a successful sequel.

What Mr. Cameron had in both cases, besides an abundance of ideas, was an awareness of our expectations going in. The famed ‘I’ll be back’ line works in T2, as does ‘Come with me if you want to live’. This is because they are inverted, with new meanings assigned to the new situation (Mr. Arnold Schwarzenegger, now the underdog). As they are xeroxed into T’s 3, 4 and 5, there’s a strong sense of emotional diminishing returns, like when your jock cousin you see every five years says them before pinching one off.

Fine. ‘Come with if you want to live’ works in that context. You’re just proving my point.

I cannot emphasize how good the chocolate is here. I'm really starting not to care about the fact that 2015 is shaping to be the most inoffensive year in cinema history. Good for gourmands, I suppose.

I cannot emphasize how good the chocolate is here. I’m really starting not to care about the fact that 2015 is shaping to be the most inoffensive year in cinema history. Good for gourmands, I suppose.

This echolalia is repeated throughout the film (and please consider this an accomplishment of sorts: repeating echolalia) as a weird clip show of ideas from other ideas from much better movies. Scenes are not so much riffed as simply re-created. The term ‘skin job’ from Blade Runner is included with less a wink than a kind of plausible deniability: it’s 2015, and people only say they’ve seen Blade Runner. If we get caught, we’ll call it an homage! If we don’t get caught, it’s not stealing! If we didn’t know we were stealing it and are just incredibly self-deluded, we’re not even thinking this thought!

Such garbage is especially disappointing from Mr. Patrick Lussier, formerly from the My Bloody Valentine 3D and Drive Angry. It sucks that Mr. Todd Farmer, the other writer of those two awesome films was homeless for quite a bit. It sucks even more that he was clearly the talented one, answering the question posed earlier re: the relationship between talent and success. In the case of Terminator: G3ny5!5, Mr. Lussiter et. al. come off as a low-rent Damon Lindelofs, a phrase I will struggle to my grave to determine which half is worse.

Nevermind. It’s the second half. I guess I’m dead.

The multiple quotation marks become especially bizarre in a certain Golden Gate Bridge… (sigh, and an a full paragraph aside. Yes, we’re tired of the fact that monsters/aliens/earthquakes and roburts have the same singular taste in orange cably landmarks as European tourists and Silicon Valley hangers-ons. But as Unreal 4 was made public domain, it occurs to me that this may simply be a build question. They’ve already constructed the bridge assets for other films/video games. So as a producer you could either pay a bunch of guys to lovingly recreate the St. Louis Arch or the Corn Palace or the Internationale, or you could just dole out $100K to EA for the GG Bridge framework they have just sitting around. At the very least could someone splurge on some Yosemite Valley renders before it’s all gone and overtaken by…well, probably movie theaters. Or render farms)

…sequence, during which the entire San Francisco police force responds to a single stolen school bus. This is an obvious reference to JFK, in that it’s ‘the greatest example of police intuition since the Reichstag fire’. Yes, I’m aware this is just a case of lazy writing – they wanted the characters in the police station for The Scene That Happens In The Police Station. But my mind needs something to keep it entertained. The image of the T-1000 as Officer James Tippet sustained me for at least one minute of whatever was happening while I was watching the much better movie in my head.

But this reader gladly congratulates his‑ or herself for her or his taste upon learning that the guy that turned out to be evil was in fact evil. If I was surprised, this person reasons, so shall the audience! All very reasonable, as long as it’s radio.

I wouldn’t have to do this if not for the simple paradox that I can only watch movies that someone else paid for. Our second topic – what gets a script bought – seemingly has to do with that Tomorrowland problem of getting to the story. Terminator: Leviticus is no Tomorrowland, it took a mere 1h05 to limp there (the same plot, as it happens: blow that place up). That’s a while, but I’ve (very recently) seen worse. Let’s call it Nowland.

As to what might appeal to someone with $150 mil sitting around, it’s important to understand, gentle reader, that no one reads the action in scripts. Really. This is a thing. Ask a screenwriter. I was one for 8.7 seconds, and it was suggested to me more than once to add something that was already in the script. Of course, I argued against it. And won!

Because they’re like, twenty words long, action scenes are glossed over. Just picture that replete scene in sitcoms where the guy is distracted by football or a pretty girl, or in modern commentary, his cell phone. The girl says something about aliens landing on earth, and the guy says, huh, what? Of course I was listening to you: it’s in the dialog part.

The obvious aspect of this phenomenon is that the bland dialog meant to stand as a placeholder stays in. We are forced to watch as the characters describe what is actually happening. They don’t have to say it; in real life, we tweet that kind of stuff. Yes, that would be an awesome movie. You’re welcome again.

Unfortunately, the first half-an-hour of this film is a loving recreation of scenes that were done offscreen in ten seconds in the original. We have to explain what’s happened, the writers seem to argue. No one’s seen Blade Runner, why would anyone see The Terminator?

But if people only read the dialog, what’s going to work in that experience is a surprise of the ‘I am your father’ variety, which are in abundance in Terminator: Genisys (I said it right this time to test you. That being said, I had to look up the spelling, and I was wrong more than once. What the hell). The screenwriters, sagely, as it happens, posit a reader who has skipped over the fact that the ‘secret base’ is at a tourist spot, that characters from the future know everything except what happened in the past and so on. But this reader gladly congratulates his- or herself for her or his taste upon learning that the guy that turned out to be evil was in fact evil. If I was surprised, this person reasons, so shall the audience! All very reasonable, as long as it’s radio.

I’ve spent more time writing about a film than it took to watch (though not to endure). But why not attempt to solve The Cameron Problem of how to generate a successful sequel? For example, the way in which our Ms. Emilia Clarke calls the T-900 ‘Pops’ had a lot of potential in it: what kind of cool fun and damaged character could emerge from a young girl raised by a row-bert from the future? The answer this film gives – Why a generic one, of course! – is not especially satisfying.

The suggestion, then, is to use the problems that we want to gloss over. As is my wont, I complete lines of dialog, and the following applies to any film about Evil Technology:

‘Man, they destroyed Skynet!

‘You got a backup right?’

‘This is a multi-billion dollar company, not a grandma asking about your embarrassing health problems on Facebook. Of course I have a backup. Plug it in’.

Yes there’s a reality problem here, but wouldn’t it be fun if they bad guys were smart enough to make a plan, and they were smart enough to make a counter-plan? Instead having a character say ‘I knew your plan all along!’ and writers just the right side of mediocre to know that no one’s going to check if there was a plan in the first place. Someone’s got to remember fun. For the render farms.

Profits!
I’m glad Mr. JK Simmons is getting work. ‘Work’ might be a bit strong. But I am glad Mr. JK Simmons got paid the amount he got paid for this.
$2.00
It’s better than T4. The following amount describes how meaningful this expression is.
$0.02
Total Profits
$2.02
Losses!
For flavor of the experience, my per usual completed lines of dialog. I leave it to the reader to sort out which is which.
‘I’ve been waiting for you. But I forgot to make a plan, you know, the only thing that offers an advantage in time travel’.
$0.50
‘Wait, why are we stopping?’ ‘It’s a abandoned warehouse.’ ‘Sorry, couldn’t see from the passenger side. Lead on.’
$0.50
 ‘Magnetic Shotgun shells. I read about these in Guns and Ammo. I didn’t buy any even though I know what’s going to happen. I just figured I’d happen upon them like this. Wait, that actually makes a bit of sense. Why didn’t I say something like that? Am I saying now?’
$1.00
Total Losses
$2.00

$0.02

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