Movie Review: Terminator Genisys


The future have repeatedly sent a strangely heavy accented cyborg back in time for numerous violent purposes, and safe to say we’ve seen ’em all. This time however, seems it was not Skynet nor The Resistance that sent one to alter history. It’s the writers and the producers. They sent Arnold Schwarzenegger back in time with a new mission, to rewrite the franchise. Is it a reboot? Is it a sequel? Surprise, it is both. And so as the old testament begins with the book of Genesis, the new Terminator starts with Genisys.

Those familiar with the Terminator mythology can skip pass this section and join in after the break. But if you’ve been living under a rock for decades, the origin is as follows. Once upon a time, arrogant human beings, or as some call it, Americans, created Skynet, a highly intelligent AI that controls defense systems. Alas, it has a will of its own and decided to eradicate human with nuclear weapons. Judgment Day happened. Machines won and ruled with its own army of robots, while a handful human survivors band together to fight, lead by one John Connor. Having repeatedly failed to kill Connor, Skynet built a time machine to send one killer cyborg to 1984 to kill John’s would-be mother, Sarah Connor, before John is conceived. No mother, no child, machine wins, right? Not so fast, the resistance also sent one of their best soldiers through the time machine to protect Sarah. His name is Kyle Reese. They met, fought, survived and eventually conceived John Connor. That was the basic plot of the original, where Arnold Schwarzenegger was the indestructible evil T-800 ‘Terminator’ cyborg. Two sequels and one iffy Christian Bale attempt later, we arrive here in Genisys.


Terminator Genisys opens in said future where John Connor lead his troops to the final push, to stop Skynet from sending a Terminator with its time machine. Alas, as fate dictated, he was too late to change history, and can only fulfil his prophecy: send Kyle Reese time travelling to 1984 to save his mother. Here’s where it begins to twist, both the Terminator and Kyle Reese arrived in a totally different 1984 than expected. Instead of being an average Jane waitress as previous history wrote, Sarah Connor is a gun-toting ambulance-crashing girl who has been expecting Kyle and the Terminator’s arrival for 10 years. Even better, she somehow has her own old T-800 bodyguard whom she has trained herself.

As Sarah told confused Kyle that the 1984 he expected has gone and changed, we the audience are also being told to forget what we’ve known about the franchise, and be ready for something different. The time-travel and history altering nature of the Terminator mythology enables creators to do just this, re-imagine things, do a reboot, while also being a sequel. So yes, this is a Terminator movie you’ve known. Yes, this is a sequel. But yes, this is also a reboot. And so as our cute new Sarah empties her .50 Cal Desert Eagle clip, we all went with her because we want to live.


From that point on, Terminator Genisys unapologetically tries hard to change the mythology merely to keep the franchise and its aging star alive, while risking and causing audience confusion of having multiple time travel paradoxes. The biggest twist to the franchise this time around, is that somehow the future’s John Connor end up a cyborg/human hybrid, and ultimately the enemy. Donning facial injury to emphasize a battle hardened fighter, John Clarke works hard portraying that new John Connor, but probably succeeded better that time when he dealt with intelligent apes. Jai Courtney plays confused time-travelling insurgent Kyle Reese, in a performance that while adequately fill its shoes, does not really show that he’s such a, um, ‘divergent’, actor.

Probably generating whines from people unable to move on from the Linda Hamilton image of Sarah Connor, is the casting of relatively puny Emilia Clarke. Looking small with round-ish childlike face as opposed to muscle-y and hard jawed Hamilton, or even Lena Headey, Clarke’s new Sarah simply looks different. Get over it and you may see that this new approach is probably useful for making the ‘little girl and her old protective cyborg bodyguard’ plot work. Why not. If Daenerys can have Drogon, Sarah can surely have Pops. So finally, we come to Arnold, who took both center stage and side seat, putting his cyborg face on while repeatedly tries to convince us that despite having aged well, he’s still around for the part and we should be okay with it. Still menacing as a badass robot despite his age, Schwarzenegger made damn sure we know that this is his ultimate vehicle and not some moonlighting action gig like The Expendables.


While we assume the word Genisys in the title have substantial meaning, in the actual plot it almost feels like an afterthought. It’s like the writers was just wanted a word that echoes Terminator’s biblical subtitle undertone, Judgment Day, Salvation, and now the book of Genesis. It just gave Kyle and Sarah something else to say besides ‘Skynet’. Not a big deal, we’re here for the action, right? Good news, all the cyborg morphing, gun firing, grenade lobbing, school bus flipping and helicopter chase are there. Not so good news, they’re really nothing that new nor exciting.

With each instalment, the franchise tries to bring increasingly advanced enemy, but here they seemed to struggle in designing one. I mean, we’ve seen them morph, shape-shift, take bullets and self-heal before, what can this new tin-man do to wow the audience more? However, Genisys did give its old Terminator new tricks we haven’t seen before, among them are ageing, one-liners, and awkwardness. In the end I much prefer this because really, they’ve done all cyborg fantasy-tech south of making one that transforms into a huge red and blue trailer truck. Good move, I love it. I mean come on, look at old Pops there.


I had almost no expectation with Terminator Genisys, just a hope that it doesn’t end up bland. We’ve had versions of Sarah and John Connor, we’ve had Terminators that walks through walls, shape shifts, man, woman, half human. What new thing can they possibly offer this time around, especially having to feature and provide new vehicle for its now-aged main star? The writers and producers managed to pull something new from something old, even if it’s too risky and complicated.

Surprisingly despite flaws, confusing story line, and so-so action scenes that are hardly new let alone memorable, Terminator Genisys managed to keep me interested from beginning to end. The crazy changes they made got me curious, wanting to see how this one will wrap. While many critics and fans slammed it as the worst of the franchise, and despite unanswered questions that probably will only be addressed in its next sequel, I left Terminator Genisys feeling more entertained and adequately satisfied than I was with T3 and Salvation. I had fun. The one thing I love about Genisys is that it’s got humor. Can’t recall the last time I had laughs and giggles watching a Terminator flick. Check it out and see whether you love or hate it, or perhaps think that it should be called Terminator Daenerys.



Movie Review: Jurassic World


Good ol’ dinosaur park has lost its novelty? Create something new that’s bigger and scarier, people will come and pay to get frightened. The basic plot of Jurassic World is pretty much the movie franchise’s situation. 20 odd years after the original Jurassic Park, prehistoric faunas walking the present day won’t wow anyone, so the studios resort to creating something more furious, from the basic ingredients. Does the recipe work? Fasten your seatbelts, keep your hands and bodyparts inside the vehicle at all times, we’re going for another ride around Isla Nublar.

Present day, Jurassic World is now a full fledged luxurious theme park resort that’s been around for a while, actually long enough that dinosaurs as an attraction is no longer that fantastic, and business is slowing down. A new attraction always draws more visitors, but since they’ve pretty much made all the dinosaurs there is, including a gigantic waterbourne thing called mosasaurus that snacks on sharks, Jurassic World execs and scientists decided to then engineer a whole new hybrid species on their own. New monster on the block brings ‘more teeth’ and playfully named ‘Indominus Rex’. Of course nothing can go wrong, right? Well surely enough things went south, the Indominus Rex got loose, chaos ensues, people gets eaten, more dinos run amok, and fun begins.

Despite the whole DNA engineering and hybrid dinosaurs science talk, the nature and science undertone evident in the original now takes a backseat. It’s great to see the direct approach of Jurassic World as an action blockbuster this time around. This sequel is a straightforward ride of thrills and scares, and as such, it is quite effective. There have never been more all out action, carnage, guns, bullets, destruction and ‘controlled gore’ in a Jurassic Park movie before. While the first act really takes its time, Jurassic World goes full throttle in second and third. Visually, ‘World’ seems to have more color than ‘Parks’, possibly due to the more announced use of CGI in environments, while creature-wise, the animals mostly look less real than previous movies. The action scenes in Jurassic World doesn’t shy away from getting big, a refreshing change from the previous lonely jungle island settings, as now the Disneyworld-like resort has got 20,000 tourists in danger. jurassic-world-pratt-howard-fb1 On the star-power side, Chris Pratt took to his role rather well as Owen Grady, an ex-Navy military man turned raptor-wrangler-hero. That’s right, he trains velociraptors, popular baddies from the previous instalments. Looking handsome and costumed almost like a character designed for an adventure video game, Pratt convinces you that he’s the guy you’ll count on to survive a dino-park chaos. Seriously, riding a classic motorcycle while flanked by badass raptors? Awesome scene unimaginable by old school Jurassic Park fan. If you’re worried that Chris will act Star-Lord style, be at ease, he did not. Meanwhile, Bryce Dallas Howard plays Claire, the ‘suit’ that’s so busy running the resort island, she didn’t have time to attend to her visiting nephews Gray and Zach, played adequately by Ty Simpkins and Nick Robinson. The kids got lost amidst the chaos and Beth took the aid of Owen to find them, while transforming from a stiff exec into suddenly-adventure-hardened woman in the process. NEojaVoDdptSrw_1_a Being a straightforward action adventure this time around, Jurassic World needs no deep plot, back story or elaborate subplots. All the action makes up for those absence. However, it is the lack of depth in its characters that holds this solid actioner from being a full blown entertainment powerhouse. Pratt’s Owen, while believable as a capable hero the audience will root for, lack any story despite the effort on building his character in the first act. Showing more emotion than everyone else in the movie, Bryce Dallas Howard’s Claire is also someone you will probably accept or like, but nothing more. And the two kids, despite having had their emotional moments and a back story, felt somehow underdeveloped. I feel like the makers wondered, how should they write the siblings. Nasty? Good? Troubled? Not too troubled? Doesn’t get along good, or do they? They even have this subplot that seems to somehow disappear. Anyway, you will most likely like all these main characters, and you will want to love them more, but you can’t, as you find that there’s really nothing much under the surface. No you won’t complain. I won’t complain too. Yet I can’t help but imagine how much better Jurassic World would be if the characters weren’t so paper thin. 25112014_jurassic_world_1 In the end, I left the theater feeling quite happy as a Jurassic Park fan. Jurassic World is a legit thrill ride, and you gotta give the makers credit, because really, after two less-glorious sequels, it’s hard to pull this one off. It would be so easy to screw this one up and make a bomb, but director Colin Trevorrow didn’t, and achieved the opposite. Just like how the scientists engineered a brand new dinosaur, the franchise cooked up a different approach that seems to serve itself well. Jurassic World brings Jurassic Park to the new generation, and if this is how they roll, I won’t mind another sequel.

Special thanks to Mercedes-Benz Indonesia for the media screening of Jurassic World.


Movie Review: Furious 7

Go ahead, see the trailer first. Or not. Whatever. Like many, I’ve seen the trailers and a couple of behind-the-scenes featurettes of Furious 7 before I went to see it at the theatres. I’ve heard raves, comments and positive reviews, from that surprise SXSW screening to major blogs and those from average joes like me. Having seen the trailers and read reviews, I was ready for what most of them suggests: a relentless adrenaline charged vehicular action flick that will entertain the shit out of you with only one caveat, leave logics outside the door and just go in for a good time, thrills, laughs and even perhaps a bit of a teary eye. Hell, game on.


One last ride.

Once the movie kicks it in high gear, it almost never stops. Sometimes it gets so kinetic up to the point that it seems James Wan directed the whole thing drinking Red Bull mixed with NOS. This is not to say that Furious 7 doesn’t have heart, in fact, it’s the other way around, the franchise have never been this touchy-feely emotional. Part of it perhaps has got something to do with the passing of Paul ‘Brian’ Walker and I am pleased to say it’s all good. Director Wan managed to compose everything in such a rhythm that will have you moving from spectacular action fest to a soapy drama, with sitcom moments in between, rinse, repeat, seamlessly. Safe to say, the chorus of complimenting reviews about Fast & Furious 7 is quite spot on. And the tribute to Paul Walker, is probably the sweetest and most touching I’ve ever saw. Yes, I shed a tear.

Can't help but be reminded of Sex & The City 2 trailer.

Can’t help but be reminded of Sex & The City 2 trailer.

There really is no need for another review on James Wan’s take on Dom’s family adventures number seven, not one that echoes the others. I watched the movie with a satisfactory grin, fist pumping in the air, and got a little misty in the eye at least a couple of times. What else can you ask for a popcorn entertainment, right? Yet, I walked out of the theatre feeling something was not quite right. It’s not about the increasingly crazy over-the-top stunts, it’s not about having to do away with logic, those are fine. It’s about identity. Even with numerous nostalgic moments and returning characters, it feels as if it Furious 7 has lost its identity.

Remember what was the franchise about when it started?

Remember what was the franchise about when it started?

As big a Fast & Furious plots gets before this, it’s still grounded. In Furious 7, it took no time to start making me think of Transformers or Diesel’s XXX, and by the third act it got so unrecognizable that I find myself wondering whether I’m watching a Fast and Furious movie, a Mission Impossible sequel or something with the word ‘Marvel’s’ on the title. Sure there’s ol’ Dom, Brian, Letty, Tej and Roman, muscle cars and rice rockets, they don’t change, but what world is this? To go from a very grounded premise of illegal street racing to something that looks like James Wan is auditioning for an Avengers or Transformers sequel, is quite a jump. It also feels like it decided to evolve merely to justify following the basic rule of action franchises: make everything bigger and crazier.

They actually did this for real,

From the modest streets of LA, to global espionage plot.

Of course, there is no rule that says that is wrong. The audience is happy! Who says stories of Los Angeles illegal street racers can’t evolve into bigger premises? If the 6th and 7th showed us something, is that Dom and the gang -I mean, family, will only face increasingly epic scenarios lightyears from their roots of living lives “a quarter of a mile at a time”. If the franchise goes on to 10, I won’t be surprised we’ll see Toretto squares off with a boss alien xenomorph. But me, as a fan, hopes it doesn’t go that way. I love the stunts, the gravity defying scenes, I don’t nitpick about logics or plot loopholes, but I do care about the original concept that is The Fast and The Furious. Please keep it close to its roots. To director James Wan, congratulations on pulling off a tough job and giving Brian a more than proper farewell. It’s a hell of an entertaining spectacle. Surely hope the next one will still be (back to being) a Fast & Furious, and not an Avengers or Mission Impossible wannabe.