Movie Review: TERMINATOR 3: Rise Of The Machines

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t3Warner Bros. Pictures

“I feel the weight of the world bearing down on me. A future I don’t want. So I keep running as fast as I can…anywhere. Nowhere.”

And now, here we are, over a decade since the last Terminator movie, and we’re treated to the second sequel in the Terminator franchise. Was Rise Of The Machines really necessary? I really don’t think so…but again, I’m getting ahead of myself, here.

So, then, the big machine apocalypse that was scheduled originally for 1997 wa a no-show thanks to the events of T2: Judgment Day. John Connor has become a vagrant, staying under the grid and generally running from an unseen future he doesn’t want to be a part of. Also, sometime between 1997 and now, he got some plastic surgery done, as he looks nothing like he did in T2. Anyway, due to a plot device deployed into the space/time continuum (the “Timey-Whimey” Effect), it seems that Skynet and Judgment Day weren’t wiped out of existence at all, but merely postponed to 2004. How is that scientifically possible, you ask? Silly human, trying to employ logic to the plot. You’ll just sprain something doing that, it’s best not to think too hard about it. So this time around, Skynet sends back a shiny new T-X model Terminator, one that takes the liquid morphine awesomeness of the T-1000, and joins it up with working mechanics so that it can form working weapons beyond just stabby-stabby things. Also, it can inject nanobots and reprogram other machines, like the Borg…only not the Borg. So, the T-X is sent back and, unable to locate the whereabouts of John Connor, begins to kill the future members of the Human Resistance. Meanwhile, John Connor is caught stealing drugs from a veterinary clinic by someone from his past, and then both are visited by a very familiar looking cyborg sent from the future to protect both Connor and the vet who, it turns out, is the future Mrs. Connor…and it was she who sent back the T-850 model with Ah-nuld’s face. Also, in a mind-blowing coincidence, it happens to be the father of the future Mrs. Connor that has built the current iteration of Skynet and is planning on activating the system. So then it’s a race to get to the facility to stop Skynet from going online and kicking off Judgment Day 2.0. Do they make it in time to stop the machine apocalypse from happening? Does the movie’s subtitle tell you anything?

Despite my initial thoughts on why this movie really was unnecessary, I still saw it the weekend it came out. Certainly, it wasn’t of the same caliber of the first two movies, but it had its moments, really. You could tell that James Cameron was not involved with this one, with the way it was executed. The levity that made T2 a great ride was attempted, but somehow came short; although I get the feeling there was some tongue-in-cheek referencing of the scenes from T2, like say how the T-850 got his clothes after showing up from the future. I have to say that I did laugh at the star-shaped sunglasses. The best moments, as always, were the knock-down, drag-out brawls between the two Terminators. That’s par for the course, now. Overall, thought, the story is underwhelming, a bit of a retread from the past story, and is really more of an amusing distraction rather than a mind-blowing sci-fi action flick.

Overall, Terminator 3 isn’t bad, it’s just kind of lackluster. Worth a rental, really.

Movie Review: TERMINATOR 2

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“I need your clothes, your boots, and your motorcycle.”

You may recall from my recent review of The Terminator that I didn’t get around to watching that movie until after having watched the sequel, Terminator 2: Judgment Day. No reason, other than when the original Terminator came out I was 11 and couldn’t see it due to age and proximity to the closest movie theater (among other reasons), whereas when T2 came out, I was on the cusp of my senior year in high school, had my own means of transportation and disposable income. And due to the T2 teaser at the beginning of another movie I watched previous that summer, I was intrigued to watch a sequel to a movie I’ve never heard of up to that time. I really have no problem watching franchises out of sequence like this. My mind can usually fill in the blanks fairly well. I really had no idea what I was in for, but I was going to enjoy this, I somehow knew.

And, I wasn’t wrong.

It’s 1995, and John Connor — the future leader of the human resistance against the robot apocalypse — is living with a foster family in Los Angeles. His mother, Sarah Connor, is currently a guest at a mental institution after a failed attempt at bombing a computer factor to prevent the rise of Skynet and the extinction of humankind that’s scheduled for 1997. 1995 John Connor is kind of a punk, which is to be expected when your formative years was spent learning survival skills and military training. One afternoon, while spending som ill-gotten gains at the local video arcade, he finds himself pursued by a cop…who turns out to be a shiny new model of Terminator from the FUTURE! (TM), the T-1000. Before he could be terminated, though, John is saved by familiar-looking T-800 model that was reprogrammed by future John and sent back to protect him in the past. Wacky. So, after evading the annoyingly persistent T-1000, they break Sarah Connor out of the mental institution, and head out to evade the new terminator and try to infiltrate Cyberdyne and nip Skynet in the bud to prevent Judgment Day from happening. Big freakin’ explosions, time travel paradox headaches and robot-boy emotional bonding ensue.

I remember sitting there, inside the Cinema 3 theater, unable to look away from the sci-fi action flick that was unfolding in front of me. Terminator 2 was such a fantastic movie going experience like I hadn’t experienced before, I went on to drag my sister to a showing later that week. Just the liquid metal Terminator effects were worth the price, but then this movie had everything my then-17 year old self didn’t know it craved: killbots, big ‘splosions, a lean and mean Linda Hamilton kicking butt, Guns N’ Roses in the soundtrack…yeah, I’m kind of bummed to not be able to just pop this in right now and watch it. Bit busy at the moment, here.

Anyway, Terminator 2: Judgment Day is a sci-fi action classic. Right up there with the first couple Alien movies, as well as the original Predator movie. Very much recommended watching, this.

Movie Review: The TERMINATOR

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“The machines rose from the ashes of the nuclear fire. Their war to exterminate mankind had raged for decades, but the final battle would not be fought in the future. It would be fought here, in our present. Tonight…”

And thus begins the first in what would become an icon in science fiction movie franchises. What started off as a literal fever dream and made by a studio that thought it would flop right out of the box office turned out to be another bone-fide blockbuster in a year that also featured the release of Ghostbusters, the first Nightmare On Elm Street, and Gremlins. Among others.

And I never watched The Terminator until after watching the sequel. Even then it was on a VHS mix tape featuring three movies my Aunt taped off for me and my sister from HBO.

So, in The Terminator, a killbot from the FUTURE! (TM) is sent back in time to 1984 Los Angeles with one mission programmed into his literal chrome dome: Find and kill Sarah Connor. And, because apparently all directory information databases were lost after the robot apocalypse (and also .JPEG files), the Terminator goes about his mission by looking up all the Sarah Connors in the LA phone book. Meanwhile, the future mother of the leader of the human resistance is blissfully unaware of any danger, and goes about her life and stuff. To help protect Miss Connor from death at the hands of the T-800 is one Kyle Reese, also from the FUTURE! (TM). After a near-miss at a night club, they’re on the run while the Terminator is in close pursuit. Will Sarah Connor survive? Will the Terminator succeed in its mission? Does the fact that there are four sequels and a short-lived television series tell you anything?

So, yeah. The Terminator is a classic sci-fi action flick for good reason. The story is pretty straight-forward (save for the standard logic paradoxes the time travel aspect brings up), the action is great, and the effects still hold up pretty good after all these years. Yeah, there’s a scene in the motel room where it’s quite obvious that it’s a model of Arnold Schwartzenegger’s head, but let’s remember he’s playing a cyborg. That doesn’t take me out of the movie very much, that. Also, the actors were rather good in their roles, the big breakout of course, being Ah-nuld as the T-800 sent back to terminate Sarah Connor. Having watched T2 before watching this one, I have to admit that I was a bit unprepared for the polar opposite that Sarah Connor was in this movie, compared to the badass she would develop into in the sequel. But, narratively, that made sense.

So, do I recommend watching the original Terminator? Yep yep yep. As a matter of fact, this one and the first sequel are all you really need. But, getting ahead of myself again. Check this one out immediately if you haven’t already.

Movie Review: TERMINATOR Genisys

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terminator genisysParamount Pictures

“Just make sure you show up. I don’t want to have to steal someone’s pants again.”

In the war of man against machine, Sgt. Kyle Reese is sent back to 1984 by resistance leader John Connor to protect his young mother, Sarah Connor. However, this time unexpected events have altered the past and threaten the future for all mankind. Now Reese must join forces with Sarah and her Guardian to save the world and stop the next evolution of Terminators.

So, here we are, with a fifth installment in the franchise that will not die, this one titled Terminator Genisys. And why is Genesis spelled with a “Y”, you may ask? I have no earthly idea. Because poor literacy is kewl, I guess. All apologies to Linkara, there. This time around, there’s more time travel shenanigans, more Ah-nold, more Terminators, and more headaches.

When this particular Terminator sequel came out, the outcry against this was rather loud, with proclamations of this being the very worst in the series, and that this is the movie that will finally kill the franchise dead. Which is funny, because I remember the same outcry done with both Terminator III: Rise Of The Machines, and then for Terminator: Salvation. But, I digress. What I found interesting was how they managed to write in the former Governator explaining how his aged visage got that way. Hint: Bio-SCIENCE! Anyway, the movie…

We begin things off in THE FUTURE, where we get a flashback of one Kyle Reese’s childhood in the machine war-ravaged land, being rescued by a very not Christian Bale-looking John Connor. Flash forward a bit, and we see a much more grown-up Reese accompanying Connor in his final push against the Machines and take down the A.I. Big Brain itself, resulting in the freedom of mankind once more. They succeed, but not before Skynet sends back a T-800 series you may be familiar with to terminate one Sarah Connor in 1984. So, of course, John Connor sends Kyle Reese back to that year, but before Reese blips off to THE PAST, he witnesses a much more advanced T-5000 series Terminator kill Connor. Reese then finds himself in the first Terminator movie…kinda…only he’s now being chased by a T-1000, until he’s picked up by a much more badass-than-expected Sarah Connor in a van and makes a getaway. Seems that the first T-800 was already taken out by Miss Connor and “Pops”, a similar T-800 sent back when she was 9 years old to protect her growing up.

Yeah, you might want to grab some headache medicine about now. Things are gonna get even more brain-hurty.

After your usual comedy of misunderstandings between Reese and Pops, they manage to off the T-1000 with an acid bath, and then show off their own home-made time machine they probably cobbled together from an article from Popular Mechanics or something. Sarah wants to fast forward to 1997, the original year when Skynet gains sentience and kicks off the Armageddon that nearly wipes out mankind, and take care of the problem at the root. Kyle at least is geeky enough to realize that the time stream has been altered, and the future might not be the future they would originally expect. Oh, and Kyle’s getting messages from his younger self that technically never existed. Yet. You thought I was kidding bout the headache medicine, didn’t you?

So, Kyle and Sarah decide to jump further ahead to 2017, completely surpassing whatever year Terminator III took place in, because why would you want to reference that movie? They show up neekid in the middle of a busy highway in San Francisco, missing a pickup by Pops by that much, and are taken into custody, because you just can’t wander around the streets of San Francisco all nakie nowadays. This isn’t the 60s, you know. There, they learn of the new way Skynet is going to come alive and take control of the world’s interwebs: Genisys, which is a hot new up-coming app that was created by the kid of that guy who was killed helping destroy the Cyberdyne offices back in Terminator 2. It’s supposed to link everything, and make everything something-something, Millennials like it. Of course, they manage to break out of their handcuffs, where they are then rescued by John Connor.

I’m going to pause once again to let you take another pull from whatever it is you’re using to maintain your mental stability, here. Go on, I’ll wait. Good? Let’s proceed, then…

It turns out, though, that this is the John Connor that was supposedly killed in THE FUTURE! that Kyle witnessed before going off to THE PAST!, only instead Connor has been taken over by Skynet directly by way of millions upon millions of nanobots. So then, Pops finally shows up, they manage to get away due to magnets (how do they work? Sorry…couldn’t resist), and Pops takes them to another super-secret base he set up while waiting for Kyle and Sarah to show up in THE FUT…er, THE PRESENT! Doesn’t have quite the same ring, here. Anyway, they make a bunch of bombs and load up a bunch of weapons and ammo, take off in a stolen school bus, battles the T-3000 (Connor, in case you were wondering), makes it to the Cyberdyne headquarters, fights the T-3000 a bunch more, they set up bombs, the AI messes with their heads, Pops looks like he was taken out, it looks like they may have lost but BOOM! they actually win at the last minute. Pops comes back with some upgrades that will make you groan, Future Kyle meets Present Kyle, all without ripping the fabric of space and time somehow, and everyone goes off to live happily ever after. Then a mid-credit sequel bait scene, and The End. For now.

The thing about being a fan of time travel movies and stories, is there’s a tendency to try and make sense of the “science” part of the “fiction”. I’m not even going to try to organize my thoughts enough to even begin to explain, but needless to say Terminator: Genisys has quite a few holes in it. They’re relatively entertaining holes, but holes none-the-less.

As to the charge that this movie ruined the franchise? I would have to say “no”. It did, however, try really, really hard to reboot the franchise, and came up really, really short by doing so. So now we have a Sarah Connor who was raised by the T-800 Ah-nuld model since a girl, which was never really explained who sent that one back to do so. Maybe that was a point that was going to be explored in a possible sequel, but that’s not going to happen now. So, I’m going to call it now: It was an old and curmudgeon-y Edward Furlong who sent it back. No reason. You can’t prove it wasn’t.

The parts that were recreated from the first movie I thought were done really well, and as an action movie in and of itself, Terminator: Genisys succeeds greatly. It’s just that the plot was expecting too much in the Suspension Of Disbelief area, that I had to pause more than once to make sense of things. And I’m rather good at picking up on wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimy things like that. Co’mon, you didn’t think I would go without at least one Doctor Who reference, did you?

Overall, I think Terminator: Genisys is worth checking out as a budget rental, or free streaming on Amazon or whatever service you have. It’s not terrible, but the first two Terminator movies are in no danger of being usurped as the best of the franchise any time soon.