Saturday, 19 December 2015

Star Wars Episode 7: The Force Awakens

Spoilers ahead!

It's hard to believe it's been 32 years since Return of the Jedi. I was 3 years old and probably didn't see it until a Christmas or two later on the television (they knew how to keep you waiting back then)!

In the time since we've had Episodes 1 - 3. Three much-maligned episodes which were deemed inferior to George Lucas' original trilogy. For what it's worth, I like them. Even Attack of the Clones (my least favourite) has a few good things going for it.
The way the Emperor manipulated and ultimately overthrew the galaxy was a master-stroke. So too was the immaculate design and fabrication of everything in that time. One need only look at our own history to see what George was going for there (think the 1940's and 50's - then look at the years since, which has seen mass-production and mediocrity rule).
There's two very good films in those first three episodes. Much could've been jettisoned, leaving room for a further feature, set between Episodes 3 and 4 (who didn't want to see the young Darth Vader in action)!
Oh yeah, and regarding current theory - that which Jar Jar Binks is in fact a Sith Lord - it's doubtful, but I would've welcomed it. The theories are fun and utterly convincing!

The greatest element missing from those first three episodes is a lightness of touch. Some joy to go hand in hand with it's sense of adventure. Despite it's more serious notes, A New HopeEmpire and Jedi were a lot of fun - why risk so much if there's no joy or fun to be had in your world?
I would say this is the defining attribute of The Force Awakens. There is spectacle a plenty, but the film also delivers quite a few laughs!

One particular scene in The Force Awakens returns us to these previous sensibilities and confirms J.J. Abrams as the right choice as director.
Finn and Rey (our two, young new heroes) share a terrific moment together in the Millennium Falcon, after they've outrun their pursuers. They're elated, almost hugging one another - thrilled to be alive and complementing one another on their actions. The audience has been with them up until this point of course - and the jubilation is infectious!
Many other exchanges are made throughout The Force Awakens, making the film lively and energetic.
Abrams has given his actors plenty of physical creations to act against too. Understandably, if there's nothing for an actor to act against they should, by all accounts be able to "act". Yet The Force Awakens proves there's no substitute for physical sets and characters alike.

The story of The Force Awakens sees General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) leading the Resistance against new threat, the First Order. Desperate for her brothers help, she seeks possession of a map to Lukes whereabouts - with the help of famed Resistance pilot, Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac). Helping Poe is former Stormtrooper, Finn (John Boyega) and scavenger-come-pilot, Rey (Daisy Ridley).
The First Order are lead by Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis), General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson) and the mysterious Kylo Ren (Adam Driver). With a planet-sized Death Star at their disposal, the First Order mean to finish what the Emperor started - by any means!
Han Solo and Chewbacca come to the aid of the Resistance of course - as the force awakens throughout the galaxy and within our group of heroes!

The Force Awakens is a terrific cinematic experience. Abrams and his cast and crew have successfully tapped into what made Lucas' original trilogy so enthralling.
The Force Awakens is nostalgic, but it doesn't rest on this attribute alone. It's a wholly captivating affair, exuding emotion at every turn. There are purposeful beats to mirror adventures past, but they are subtly done - with the emphasis on the future rather than the past.
Not a bum-note in site, the only real repetition occurs when the Starkiller Base is revealed (the Mega-Death Star). But really, if you're plan is to destroy moons and planets, you're probably gonna need something of that magnitude! Some may also argue that too many coincidences occur. But then these films are about a spiritual force which binds the galaxy together. The Star Wars mythos revolves around fate and destiny, prompting that which will occur has already been written!

We are promised at least five more films, to be released in consecutive years; Episodes 8 and 9 and three spin-off tales - beginning with Rogue One next year. A host of fabulous talent are driving these adventures, promising spectacle, integrity and a great deal more fun!
May the force by with you!


Poster image courtesy:

Wanted to add this poster also - one of the best alternative posters out there, by famed comic-book artist Phil Noto

Wednesday, 2 December 2015


Directed by Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station), Creed is the first official Rocky spin-off.
It tells the story of Adonis Johnson, Apollo Creeds illegitimate son - his life and rise to notoriety as a boxer.

Having spent several years in foster homes and juvenile facilities, Johnson is visited by Apollos widowed wife, Mary Anne. Mary Anne claims custody of Johnson and raises him as her own, in the privileged lifestyle left to them by his father.
Fast forward 17 years and Johnson is working for a reputable security firm. Outside of work hours however, Johnson is moonlighting as a boxer - playing numerous fights south of the L.A. border in Mexico. Having secured 16 knock-outs, Johnson sets about making a career of the sport - and his passion. Much to the disappointment of Mary Anne, who lost her husband in the ring, Johnson sets off to Philadelphia - home of some of the best boxers in the world, including Rocky Balboa!
Keen to make it under his own steam, Johnson refuses to go by his fathers name to win respect. His legacy is soon discovered however, meaning Johnson must come to terms with his fathers absence, his legacy and name. Thankfully he has Rocky in his corner!

Creed is a great, great film! Like the best Rocky films, it's gritty and supplies its leads with rich character arcs. It also has positivity oozing from every sweaty pore! 
Stallone has handed the creative reigns over to Coogler, who must be a fan of the original series (who isn't)?! 
Coogler gets Rocky; from the stunning choreography of the boxing matches and the under-dog sensibilities, to the rich characterisation and exquisite use of music - which in all honesty, should make you stand-up and punch the air!
Just as Stallone did it before him, Coogler utilises the nuances of his characters surroundings also - particularly the town of Philadelphia. Coogler understands that Philly is and always has been one of Rockys greatest co-stars!

Creed is without question an under-dog story, staying close to the formula of each and every Rocky film before it. Audiences may scoff at this, thinking they've seen it all before. However in this day and age one can't put a price on positivity - and Creed is genuinely positive and uplifting. 
Despite a few minor contrivances (the mid-section of the series), each Rocky film has explored different aspects and eras of Rocky and his cast of supporting characters. In Rocky Balboa, Stallone explored the retired sports star, learning to except the loss of those closest to him. In Creed Johnson is unable to escape his fate, despite his wealth and privilege. Johnson has to except the loss of someone early-on in his life and further explore the benefits of his birth-right, beyond wealth and what society seems fit to determine. Fundamentally Rocky is the average Joe who made good - happy to live out his golden years in humble surrounds. Rocky is a human story, meaning everyone can relate to him, little or much - and this extends to Creed.

Michael B. Jordan is terrific as Johnson/Creed. Coogler obviously recognises a talent when he sees one, having cast Jordon in his feature-film debut. Jordon comes close to matching Stallones physicality in this film - and shows great emotional depth to boot!
Taking a back-seat creatively, Stallone adds a lifetimes worth of expertise and experience as the infamous Rocky Balboa. Like 2006's Rocky Balboa, Stallone unearths even more depths to his creation. Come awards season it'll be friggin' awesome to see him pick-up a statue or several!

Creed is one of the few spin-off movies which actually works. Proving there's no substitute for a good script and great characterisation, Creed does the unimaginable and makes you care deeply for its mythos - and the make-believe characters who pass through it.
The Rocky saga is in safe hands with this particular team - and further adventures would be most welcome. Film of the year so far!


Poster image courtesy:

Monday, 16 November 2015

Sicario, The Martian and Crimson Peak

Sicario is the new film from Denis Villeneuve, director of Prisoners and Enemy. Villeneuve has risen quickly to the ranks of directors to watch. Establishing himself as a supreme visualist, Villeneuve has proven he can orchestrate both independent and commercial projects with aplomb.
Like Prisoners, Sicario sides on the commercial - with a host of A-list stars to it's name and a topical subject matter.

Sicario is a film about the illegal drugs industry in the Americas and the borders by which they cross. The film further explores the drug-lords who keep everyone in check using fear and violence.
The film plays out through the eyes of Kate Macer (Emily Blunt). Macer is a hostage crisis negotiator. Early on in proceedings macer and her team discover a bloody scene in Arizona - perpetrated by the criminal element of the drugs industry, but commanded by the drug-lords housed far from the front lines.
Enter Matt Graver (Josh Brolin) and his team. Graver works in the cloak and dagger world of higher government - working alongside those who know their part in the plan, but not necessarily the plan itself.
Macer and her partner Wayne (Daniel Kaluuya) are given an opportunity to join Gravers team with a promise of instigating change, rather than being the ones left to clear-up.
Macer is kept very much in the dark throughout proceedings - told only what she needs to know at any given time. This is a bold move on the part of the film-makers, as the audience are left scratching their heads a long way into the film. We only know what Macer discovers. Slowly but surely the grand operation is revealed - a solid and breakthrough answer to the drug problem, yet morally reprehensible.

Sicario is a serious film about a serious subject matter. It doesn't profess to have all the answers, but the answers it does give are responsibly adult and fundamentally real-world.
Sicario looks amazing! Villeneuve and cinematographer Roger Deakins have used multiple cameras to capture every angle of the action. This technique ratchets-up the tension, as you're never sure where the next beat of violence is going to come from. There are numerous shots which will stay long in the memory also. Scenes with minimal dialogue, which say so much on account of the shifts in light and shade - tonal shifts which paint thousand-word pictures.

The three principle actors triumph in their distinctive roles. After action roles in Looper and Edge of Tomorrow, Blunt utterly convinces as an elite, squad leader She further displays an element of vulnerability behind the shroud of confident leader. Blunt goes on the bigger journey here - learning more and more about the games governments play at an untouchable level. Brolin has the laid-back but ready for action type down to a T. Given carte blanche to do whatever is necessary, Graver seemingly takes it all in his stride. Benicio Del Toro is equally good as Gravers right-hand and suitably shady Alejandro. Del Toro goes on quite a journey also. Like Graver, Alejandro is a well-worn soldier with numerous skeletons in his closet. Keen to exorcise his demons, Alejandro is relentless in acquiring knowledge and seeking retribution.

Sicario is a tense, fictionalised tale, set in the all-too-real world of the illegal drugs industry. Using independent sensibilities, Villeneuve and company have gifted us with a film which requires us to pay attention - filling in the necessary blanks just as Macer does. Thankfully Sicario doesn't spoon-feed us with answers from the get-go. An unexpected treat!


Poster image courtesy:

The Martian came very close to being a  five-star film for me. I was about ready to stand-up and cheer as the closing credits rolled (lets take a leaf out of the Americans and do this more often people)!
Based on the incredibly popular book of the same name, The Martian tells the story of Mark Watney (Matt Damon). An astronaut, presumed dead, left to survive by his own hand and intellect on Mars!

The Martian is science fiction by way of survival documentary. Not quite Bear Grylls. More intellectual - the science of botany et al. If this sounds boring then get ready to be surprised!
Directed with incredible visual and technical flare by the never comparable Ridley Scott, The Martian looks fabulous and feels very real. With Dariusz Wolski at the lens, The Martian effortlessly transports us to formerly unexplored terrain.

After the crew of the Hermes evade a potential life-threatening storm on Mars, astronaut Mark Watney awakes the next day to find himself stranded and skewed by a communications antenna. Patching himself up and realising the enormity of what faces him, Watney decides to act - making a vow to himself that his current predicament will not cost him his life.
Being a botanist first and foremost, Watney sets about growing some food to aid in his rationing. With knowledge of the next manned mission to hand, he plans an exploration to the arrival site. A treacherous trip requiring Watney to frequently recharge the battery in his vehicle using solar power. Numerous other events unfold - all meticulously planned by Watney.

The science behind The Martian gives the film considerable weight. It may not be understood by all - and hell, it may not even be entirely accurate. But it all seems feasible - given more credence by the always affable and cock-sure Matt Damon!
The Martian isn't just a one-man show however. NASA is notified of the demise of Watney, yet begins to notice discrepancies in the satellite images from Mars being beamed back to Earth. Once Watney is discovered to be alive, a highly skilled and passionate team of operatives is formed in an effort to aid Watney in his plight.
A terrific ensemble has been gathered for the other half of The Martian. Jeff Daniels plays head of NASA, Teddy Sanders. Leading the Mars missions is Chiwetel Ejiofor, as Vincent Kapoor and beneath him is a host of fantastic character actors including; Sean Bean, Donald Glover and Benedict Wong. 
The Earthbound crew add much to proceedings also. Jessica Chastain and Michael Pena lead the Hermes crew as Melissa Lewis and Rick Martinez respectively. Their own journey begins with immeasurable guilt - followed by immeasurable guilt, as they discover their dead comrade is actually alive!

Like Apollo 13 before it, The Martian begins as science exploration and quickly becomes human survival pic. In an effort to assist Watney, tech exploration and various exercises are conducted on the ground in Houston, before Watney puts them to action on Mars. Again like Apollo 13, these plans are somewhat beholden to what Watney has at his disposal. Given it's the not-too-distant future The Martian offers more tech at Watneys disposal, but the principles remains the same. The DIY approach is still palpable of course - and offers the audience a thrilling and uplifting journey.

A purposely awkward action sequence at the end could've benefited from some nicely judged sound design, or absence there of. A disorientating feel to Watneys grasping at fate would've been perfect, had we remained with his POV. Sure the movie ultimately projects a group effort, but it's Watneys last ditch attempt in the end.
Despite Watneys efforts, The Martian does hammer home a considerable message. As is clear in The Martians not-too-distant future, we should be looking to the stars with more clarity and intent - in awe and proud of the positive advances we've made as a race!


Poster image courtesy:

In my search for posters I came across this illustration by Matt Taylor. I do believe this accompanied an article on the book however - a little before the movie was released. This illustrator is amazing though. Do check out his work!

Crimson Peak is the new film from Guillermo del Toro - director of Pans Labyrinth and Hellboy. A native of Mexico, del Toro has split his film-making career between films in his native tongue and more commercial Hollywood fare. Having had considerable success, both commercially and critically, del Toro appears to have embraced his new standing and produced a film which straddles the line between independent and commercial film-making. Crimson Peak may not be born of Spanish tongue, but tonally it ventures closer to the likes of The Devils Backbone and Pans Labyrinth then it does Pacific Rim.

The actors he's chosen here may be popular also, but all have shown great depth and versatility in the roles they've previously embodied. 
Aesthetically del Toro goes from strength to strength. He has a unique visual voice - a signature style. Watching Crimson Peak, it's undeniable who's behind the camera. Interestingly long-time collaborator Guillermo Navarro has been replaced by Dan Laustsen behind the lens. This goes some way to exploring the collaborative nature of film. Del Toro knows what he wants - employing those who can achieve his particular vision.
The set-design here is breathtaking! Del Toro appears old-school in his practises, employing the use of physical craftsmanship over green screen and digital technology. To be on one of del Toros sets must be truly wondrous I imagine!

The plot of Crimson Peak is old-school too, both in it's themes and narrative. Mia Wasikowska plays Edith Cushing, daughter of local businessman Carter Cushing. Having been traumatised at a young age by the passing of her mother, Edith has spent much of her time basking in literature - honing her skills as a writer of fiction. Transfixed by a ghostly sighting shortly after her mothers passing, Edith has since leant towards stories of a similar concern. Besotted with her father, Edith intends to get published in the male-dominated world of 1901.
Enter Thomas and Lucille Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston and Jessica Chastain), a brother and sister team looking for financial assistance from Mr Cushing, in an effort to mine the clay from which they reside. Thomas is charming but out of his depth, despite his entrepreneurial spirit.
Catching the eye of Edith, Thomas makes a play for her hand. This move is encouraged by Lucille, as a means to get Mr Cushing onside, yet the fearless Thomas appears genuine in his affections.
Cushing sends the pair packing of course - outraged by their manipulative behaviour.
The heart gets what the heart wants however and soon Edith and Thomas are wed. Edith is whisked away to the ominous sounding Crimson Peak where Thomas and his sister reside.
It's at this point we're introduced to the star of the show, Allerdale Hall - the manor which sits a top of Crimson Peak, in all it's decaying glory.

Crimson Peak is a mystery above all else. And watching the mystery unravel is at times both bewildering and intoxicating. This is a classically told fable where nothing is what it seems.
Don't expect a game changer with Crimson Peak. Instead consider this a tall tale, told by a master story-teller!


Poster image courtesy:

Illustration by Daniel Danger. Another great illustrator. This guy uses a lot of architecture in his work - and it's something else!

Thursday, 6 August 2015

Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation

So after two third sequels were released in short succession this year (Mad Max and Jurassic World), we now have two forth sequels released (Terminator and Mission Impossible), just a few weeks apart. A meaningless pattern, given meaning by us film-fanatics alone (or is that just me again)?!

Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation is brought to us by Tom Cruise, J.J. Abrams (producing partner since MI:3) and new writer/director, Christopher McQuarrie. McQuarrie is known widely for writing The Usual Suspects. McQuarrie took a brief hiatus after directing his first feature, The Way of the Gun, but now appears to be gaining momentum again with the likes of Jack Reacher and now Mission Impossible.
McQuarries skills are evident early-on. After an early jaw-dropping action scene, we are transported into a high-class espionage thriller. A movie which allows for spectacle, but not at the expense of story and plot. The action is beautifully choreographed, allowing for character forming/defining moments of respite and the opportunity to engage with other players in different parts of the world. In many ways McQuarrie and Cruise have returned to the noirish routes of the first film - directed with aplomb by the very noirish De Palma. Recalling the likes of early Bond and other spy classics, Rogue Nation is skilfully paced, despite the ADD approach many a contemporary action film takes.

Cruise is awesome! Insisting on physical stunt-work over CG, he puts the audience in the thick of the action. Intent on doing much of the stunt-work himself, he awards the audience with an unforgettable hero who frequently puts himself in harms way. The sustained realism throughout the Mission Impossible series continues to impress - leaving us to gasp, wince and hold our collective breaths time and again (you'll be doing this a lot in this instalment)!

The story this time recalls the events of Ghost Protocol (MI:4) - and the destruction caused by the IMF team in Moscow particularly. Head CIA honcho Alan Hunley (Alex Baldwin) wants the IMF dissolved as a result, bringing his case to the likes of the US Senate.
Meanwhile Hunt is busying himself with the Syndicate - a secret (some believe phantom) organisation intent on global terrorism. Without any concrete evidence suggesting the legitimism of the Syndicate, Hunt is alone in his quest - save for new recruit William Brandt (Jeremy Renner). Brandt is the IMF liaison in the US, under scrutiny form Hunley and the CIA. As the abolishment of the IMF by the CIA ticks swiftly by, Brandt keeps Hunt abreast of proceedings.
As a wanted agent living in obscurity, Hunt seeks out additional help in the form of Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames) and Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg). Also on hand is possible ally, Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson). Ferguson is quite a find! As Ilsa she is both the physical and intellectual match to Cruise's Hunt. An English agent in deep-cover, Ilsa is a femme fatale of sorts, unsure of where her allegiances should lay.

The Mission Impossible films continue to impress. Like the Bond films, they employ a new creative team with each instalment (certainly a new director each time).
Despite being one of the most successful, MI:2 is generally regarded as the runt of the litter. It's a lesser Mission Impossible film for sure - relying too heavily on exposition and rubber masks! It still has moments of flare however. The last 20 minutes of breathless, non-stop action repairs much of the damage.
As a huge De Palma fan MI:1 is still my favourite - the rest of the series a close second. And yes, despite coming to it's defence, MI:2 would probably rank third!

Cruise and his team are onto a good thing here, with no signs of slowing down. Apparently MI:6 has already been green-lit (I imagine they'll be further exploring the British contingent in this one surely?)!
A few last points. Lets continue to bring new players into the fold - expanding the team, utilising the talents of key members when the opportunity strikes. I'd also like to see them continue to reference the other films in the series. MI:4 and MI:5 have done this really well - a few subtle nods giving the overall series a sense of grandeur. More please!


Poster image courtesy:

Wednesday, 5 August 2015


Ant-Man arrives after a lengthy gestation (around 8 years), ending in the departure of it's leading creative force, Edgar Wright. Along with writing partner Joe Cornish (Attack the Block), Wright developed the film for many years - long before Marvel retained the rights to bring it to theatres.
With Wright attached Ant-Man was a must-see! Even the strangely bleak At Worlds End would not have stopped film-fans arriving in their droves come opening weekend. With Ant-Man Wright was set to weave his magic with the likes of the Marvel-verse - a creative power-house which continues to grow and evolve.

The thinking is that perhaps Wrights vision was a little too left-of-centre for the likes of Marvel. Just as it is with the comics, Marvel have their way of doing things - which I guess distinguishes them from the pack.
Unlike many of the directors Marvel have employed to date, Wright is a visualist of considerable flare. Using the comics analogy once more, perhaps Wrights vision was more akin to an Image book, or even an Oni Press one (see: Scott Pilgrim vs. The World)!

Wright's a great writer too however - and this is something Marvel were undoubtedly impressed by. Marvel are the house of ideas after-all (or is that Disney - well, they're all under the same roof now anyway)! And history has proven that good ideas and a knack for humour is a prerequisite for their movie out-put thus far!

Anyway, Wright departed and in stepped Paul Rudd and his writing partner Adam McKay (Anchorman). Collectively they've turned Wrights 1960's picture into a contemporary one - moving the focus from original Ant-Man, Hank Pym to the later incarnation of Scott Lang.
Peyton Reed (Down with Love) stepped into the directors chair with the undesirable task of bringing all the aforementioned elements to the screen.
I'm happy to report that along with Marvel, Reed has respectfully shone the proverbial light on each collaborative partner. Reed has done so seamlessly of course, but it's fun to ponder which creative mind brought what to proceedings?!

So, who are Hank Pym and Scott Lang? Well, Hank Pym is a highly revered character within the Marvel universe. Along with Howard Stark and Nick Fury, Hank Pym laid the foundations for SHIELD and the Avengers back in the 1960's. Pym was the original Ant-Man of course, although in this iteration he is keen to pass the heavy mantle onto another.
Enter Scott Lang, an unlucky do-gooder who landed himself in jail as a result of a Robin Hood-style, anarchic crime. Divorced, but with a daughter to provide for, Lang agrees to help Pym in the hope he can make amends for his past indiscretions.

Having long since retired and in the process of relinquishing control of his company, Hank Pym is out, but still conscientious of people following his work.
One such ignoramus is Darren Cross - Pyms original protege, standing on the precipice of discovery. Cross is giddy with possibility, unaware that he's endangering the world with his own shrinking device.
Collectively Pym and Lang (along with Pyms daughter Hope) decide to act. In an elaborate plan they hope to stop Cross in his tracks - retrieving his designs, whilst making sure no one will follow his work.

Paul Rudd plays Scott Lang - the most unlikely choice for a super-hero since Seth Rogen donned the Green Hornet mask. Lang is an unlikely hero from the get-go however - and Rudd effortlessly convinces! Joining Rudd is Evangeline Lilly as Hope. And Michael Pina provides excellent support (gaining most of the laughs to boot) as Langs best friend, Luis.
In the role of Hank Pym is the great Michael Douglas - adding much needed gravitas to Pyms father/mentor figure.
Keep an eye out for a younger Douglas during a sequence set in the late 1980's. Along with Arnies younger self in this years Terminator, the young Hank Pym is an effectively rendered marvel to behold! A process of de-ageing this time (as opposed to Arnies full make-over). This sequence is no-less a triumph. Many have theorised of a 60's/70's-set Marvel adventure featuring the likes of Sam Jackson (Fury), Robert Redford (Pierce) and Michael Douglas (Pym). On this evidence at least, it's a project worth salivating over!

Peyton Reed, his cast and crew have successfully brought a heavily scrutinized vision to the screen. Ant-Man is far better than anticipated! A stand-alone origin tale that ties nicely into the Marvel cinematic universe. It's funny, action-packed and visually very exciting (the macro-photography is worth the price of admission alone)!
It would appear the scepticism was unfounded - as Marvel continue to impress. Was there ever any doubt?!


Poster image courtesy:

Terminator: Genisys

Terminator: Genisys is the fifth film in the Terminator series. Largely ignoring events from films 3 and 4, Genisys begins the Terminator story a-new - recounting events from the first film, then plunging us into a series of alternative time lines.

Beginning with the adult John Connor sending Kyle Reese back in time (as per the original Terminator), the film begins with a brief glimpse of the future, before transporting us back to 1984. What follows are some lovingly recreated scenes from the original Cameron film, before a time-travelling curve-ball is thrown, sending the likes of Kyle Reese and Sarah Connor on a new path.

It would appear the machines are wise to the events of the first two Terminator movies - sending a T1000 back to kill Sarah Connor as a child. The resistance have gone one better in this instalment, sending a guardian Terminator back to rescue the very young Sarah, keeping her safe over the intervening years.
Consequently Kyle Reese is thrust into a 1984 where Sarah is fully adept at holding her own. With a father-like Terminator in toe, she is fully capable of protecting both herself and Reese - even with another T1000 in hot pursuit!
Sounds convoluted I know - and it is, but to their credit the film-makers have made events relatively easy to follow.
The director this time is Alan Taylor, veteran of numerous television shows, from Bored to Death and Mad Men to Game of Thrones. Of the few features he's directed Thor: The Dark World is his most recent. A lesser Marvel movie perhaps but no less a notable entrance to the grand stage!

Replacing Linda Hamilton in the role of Sarah Connor is Emilia Clarke. Clarke is suitably fresh-faced as the 1984 Sarah Connor. She's spunky and fully adept in her slightly skewed new role. Time will tell how militant and muscular she becomes in future instalments?!
Replacing Michael Biehn in the role of Kyle Reese is Jai Courtney. Courtney impresses with an american accent(!) but he lacks all the important criteria which the character of Reese previously embodied. Courtney is a buff, super-hero type - not a sinewy, under-nourished survivor of the apocalypse?!
Jason Clarke (no relation to Emilia) plays the coveted role of John Connor. He has proven himself as a gruff, confident leader in the likes of Zero Dark Thirty and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. Here he gets to hone these characteristics and more!
Of course the one constant which continues to hold all these films together is Schwarzenegger! He's as watchable as ever (particularly as we venture further from Camerons originals).

The major downfall with a lot of these films is the tendency to skew younger with each subsequent entry. Genisys is no different. The gore and violence is at a minimum and Arnies new (old) Terminator falls on his comedic attributes once too often - that damn grin for example! What was once hilarious in T2 becomes cringe-worthy by the end of Genisys, simply as a result of over-use.

Genisys has a few key ingredients going for it however. The altered time-lines and frequent use of time-travel is a bold move which generally pays off. Even one or two underdeveloped sequences give credence to the promise of a sequel, allowing for further explanation and revelation.
Genisys (the word from which the title comes) is a digital application which will ultimately spark Skynet. This is a contemporary notion which looks increasingly likely in our time - an application which links all of our digital devices together!
Like the first Terminator, Genisys is predicting our own future with some certainty. Surely it's evident to everyone that artificial intelligence will almost certainly turn against us?!!
Arnies ageing Terminator is a master-stroke also. I believe in T2 he informs the young John Connor of his 100- year lifespan. It surely stands to reason that his organic shell would age like everyone else.
This is a great example of Hollywood thinking outside the box also. Arnie, along with many other older actors are still evidently bankable. Lets give these actors age-appropriate roles, rather than humiliate them with make-up and the like. Stop torturing them with the only other logical (in Hollywood terms) alternative - botox and plastic surgery (YUK)!

Speaking of de-ageing, Genisys is the first movie I've seen to successfully replicate an actor digitally - specifically a younger incarnation of themselves. Now, obviously we don't want computers replacing actors, but this kind of technology (used wisely) opens the doors thematically for prequels, flashbacks and heavily manipulated characters.
The aforementioned scene is short, but it's hugely impressive. A combination of techniques I'm sure (body doubles and manipulation of old footage no doubt), but no less a jaw-dropping moment in movie history!
Genisys has one other weapon in it's arsenal, which the marketers of this movie felt inclined to divulge early on. It's an integral part of the movie which I won't go into here. Interestingly this marketing faux pas echoes the logic of the movie. Genisys has a lot going for it, but it spoils itself with mediocrity (a helicopter chase recalls the CG mastery of Schumachers Batman films).

Certainly it's attributes make Genisys worth a look. The first in a planned trilogy, it'll be interesting to see how this first instalment plays with others. Evidently the Terminator will be back!


Poster image courtesy: