Tag Archives: Arnold Schwarzenegger

Welcome to the Worst Time Travel in Movie History — “Terminator Spellcheck”

Terminator Spellcheck Sarah Connor
“Spellcheck this.”

When machines eventually network and become intelligent, they’ll face a resistance leader they just can’t beat – John Connor. In the first three Terminator movies, the machines tried to solve this by sending robot assassins back in time to kill John and his mother Sarah. Terminator Genisys (or as I’ll call it for the rest of this review, Terminator Spellcheck) is a narrative mash-up of the first two films.

When the basis of your plot is time travel, you can almost get away with anything you want. There’s only one rule: you have to be consistent about it. Kyle Reese is a future soldier sent back in time to help Sarah Connor. If you set up a guideline early on – that Sarah and Kyle have to stay alive in order to conceive John Connor in 1984 – you can’t just step all over it later. Midway through the film (in 2017, no less), both sides want to keep future John Connor alive, but a villain tells Sarah and Kyle that they can die. John Connor can still exist in the future without ever being conceived or born because – oh, look, a shiny new action scene!

Terminator Spellcheck moves the goalposts, throws its own internal rules out the window, offers zero explanation, and hopes nobody notices. This is the way it treats every instance of time travel – as a scene change rather than a plot element. I mention the most egregious oversight, but to name them all would take longer than the movie.

Terminator Spellcheck advanced terminator
For the last time, Arnold, “The Chopper” is not spelled “Da Choppah.”

The movie also feels like it was edited by committee. One or two action scenes seem like they were added late in the game. Because of this, the editing sometimes skips those camera shots that connect action moments. For instance: the new Terminator that’s introduced has many abilities, but I’m pretty sure one of them isn’t spontaneously growing a helicopter from thin air. The helicopter chase that follows also looks incredibly cartoonish, in sharp contrast to the movie’s more grounded chase scenes. There’s a gumminess to many of the visual effects, but good acting and good pacing early on help us overlook this. When the film’s CGI eventually overwhelms the focus on its actors in the last half hour, the quality of Terminator Spellcheck dives off a cliff.

Those actors all help to keep the film afloat. Emilia Clarke does a great riff on Linda Hamilton’s portrayal of Sarah Connor, finding that sweet spot in between the wide-eyed victim of Terminator and the gruff soldier of Terminator 2. Arnold Schwarzenegger has learned a thing or two about acting over the years. He communicates character in silent moments in a way he never used to. He’s not going to win an Oscar anytime soon, but films like Sabotage and Terminator Spellcheck do show us that he’s putting the effort into growing as an actor.

J.K. Simmons is the film’s comedic relief as the L.A. police department’s resident conspiracy theorist. He tracks Sarah and Kyle from one appearance in time to the next. His scenes are abrupt and serve as deus ex machinas, but Simmons is so good at being a hilariously scattered schmuck that he makes them work.

Terminator Spellcheck Jai Courtney
Jai Courtney fights to put the ‘u’ back in ‘colour.’

Jai Courtney plays Kyle Reese and Jason Clarke (no relation to Emilia) plays John Connor. Courtney is solid if unspectacular, and Jason Clarke is smarmier than I would’ve preferred. The movie relies on Emilia Clarke and Schwarzenegger to drag the film forward on their own strengths.

Is it good? Is it bad? It’s below average, but not terrible. It’s very watchable and it’s not without its charms or creative moments. It lacks any consistency whatsoever and the last half hour feels torn from a Resident Evil movie rather than part of a Terminator film.

It’s not a must-watch movie and it won’t lose much from waiting till it’s on DVD/streaming. I can’t recommend it over enjoying Inside Out again or seeing Jurassic World for the 50th time. Those are movies made to astonish and delight on the big screen. Terminator Spellcheck is made to get by. You don’t even have to look past this year to find movies where many of its ideas are done better, bigger, and cleaner. I enjoyed it, but I enjoyed it on that level of a B-grade film playing late at night when nothing else is on. Sadly, this still makes it the third best Terminator film out of five.

Does it Pass the Bechdel Test?

This section uses the Bechdel Test as a foundation to discuss the representation of women in film. Ready why I’m including this section here.

1. Does Terminator Spellcheck have more than one woman in it?

Yes, barely. Emilia Clarke plays Sarah Connor. Sandrine Holt plays Detective Cheung.

2. Do they talk to each other?

Yes, barely. Cheung questions Sarah Connor briefly.

3. About something other than a man?

Yes, barely. Cheung questions her about a time portal that the LAPD thinks was a bomb explosion. Connor briefly helps a family escape a shootout in another sequence – she shouts a command at the family in general, including the mother and father.

Technically, this passes the Bechdel Test, but in spirit, it fails hard. It’s almost unthinkable – especially in a summer with so many women heroes as this one – that a film centered around a woman can’t manage to drum up one other woman for her to interact with in an extended manner. Every other main and side character is a man.

Terminator Spellcheck lists its credits more or less by screen-time: only two of the top 20 credits belong to women. I understand that the core cast has to include Arnold Schwarzenegger and Kyle Reese, but the world itself – every other professional job save Cheung’s – is populated by men.

This doesn’t take away from the job Emilia Clarke does. She really is good, and she delivers a tough performance. She’s not a damsel in distress. She occasionally needs saving, but she occasionally saves her compatriots, too. She shoots and blows more things up than anyone else in the film, although it’s annoyingly left to the men to do any hand-to-hand combat. Watch Terminator 2 again – Linda Hamilton’s Sarah Connor beats a lot of people up and Arnold doesn’t really seem to mind the help.

What’s wrong with Terminator Spellcheck in terms of gender representation is more subtle than in most films. It does some things right, but not letting Sarah Connor throw a punch when everyone else is throwing down, and having a world populated inordinately by men undermines a great deal of the strength and command that Emilia Clarke delivers in her performance.

Where did we get our awesome images? The feature image of a very eager robot spellchecking your work is from Collider’s great review. In order, the article images are from Screen Rant’s Emilia Clarke interview, Collider’s review again, and Screen Rant’s Jai Courtney interview. 

Over on AC: Trailers of the Week

Michael Fassbender Slow West

Like I said, some things are going to shift around as I write for Article Cats, so Trailers of the Week might switch days. Here’s this week’s, including Jake Gyllenhaal’s Oscar shot, some exciting new comedies, new Donnie Yen, and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s…Oscar shot? Really?

Oh, and the new Bond trailer, but after the misogyny of Skyfall I’m not exactly holding out high hopes. Check out Trailers of the Week’s new home here:

The Best New Trailers of the Week

And happy Friday!

– Gabe

Fight Scene Friday — “Blade 2”

by Gabriel Valdez

Keep your sparkling vampires. I’ll take my Eastern European goth ninjas any day of the week. It’s hard to rank this fight – it looks great and many of the short combination sequences are beautifully laid out, but it’s bookended by lovably atrocious 2002 CGI and interspersed with some of the most useless choreography put to film.

As in many of director Guillermo Del Toro’s action movies, there’s about four parts meaningless flourish, one part effective move, but you know what? These movies usually concern immortal supernatural beings hacking away at each other. Who am I to question their flourishy martial arts? Most of written mythology is more concerned with boasting, too.

It’s fun to watch, and that’s what matters. Just don’t try to count the number of openings missed, and never try catching a sword blade between your shins like Blade does.

Del Toro initially wanted nothing to do with the sequel to Stephen Norrington’s first Blade, but – as Del Toro details in his collection of behind-the-scenes material Cabinet of Curiosities:

“I mean, literally, my agent at the time called me and said, ‘Do you want to make Blade II?’ And I said, ‘No, I don’t want to do Blade II.’ And he said, ‘Do you ever want to do Hellboy?’ And I said, ‘Yes.’ ‘Well, if you want to do Hellboy, you gotta do Blade II, because no one’s going to hire you to do Hellboy based on Mimic or Cronos.’ And he was absolutely right.”

This was also fresh off a spectacularly failed pitch for I Am Legend. The long-in-gestation remake had Arnold Schwarzenegger attached at the time. Del Toro was a long-shot to direct and he was fairly certain he lost any consideration when he told producers that Schwarzenegger was completely wrong for the project. That movie wouldn’t end up getting off the ground until 2007, and was eventually directed by current Hunger Games helmer Francis Lawrence and starred Will Smith.

Del Toro would eventually direct Blade II – the high point for the franchise – with a unique attitude. Anything having to do with the character Blade, he left to Snipes. Del Toro wouldn’t mess with anything Snipes wanted to try; he would just stay out of the actor’s way. Everything else was Del Toro’s domain, which explains the lightproof, leather-and-lycra steampunk costumes with adjustable goggles and an inventive, demonesque take on a new supervampire. Now, go enjoy yourself some 2002 CGI.

Propping Up a Corpse — “The Expendables 3”

Bad Grammer

There stood their names, 20 feet tall: Stallone. Li. Statham. Grammer. Snipes. Schwarzenegger…wait. Back up a few. Grammer? Kelsey Grammer?

That’s when my hopes for a franchise in its death throes were renewed. Maybe we would finally get the chance to see Frasier lay the smackdown on Rocky and the Terminator, as the gods of 80s and 90s action never intended. Alas, it isn’t meant to be.

Grammer works as the on-screen casting director of The Expendables 3, an intelligence operative who finds a bevy of younger, one-lining toughs to replace Sylvester Stallone’s rag-tag mercenary outfit of older heroes as they set out to assassinate an arms dealer. Needless to say, nothing goes as planned, and old and young eventually have to work together.

While I never truly anticipated seeing Grammer throw down, it’s a disappointment that so many of the names advertised are barely in the movie. I expected not to see much of Schwarzenegger or Harrison Ford. Arnold chews through all of his best catchphrases from other movies – and I do mean ALL of them – in about 10 minutes, while Ford alternates between downright feisty and like you just caught him sleepwalking.

Expendables 3 Banderas

What isn’t expected is that franchise regulars pumped up in the advertising, like Jet Li and Terry Crews, only appear in glorified cameos. Jason Statham gets a lot of screen time – he has the best chemistry with Stallone – but he’s pushed to the side most of the film, as are Dolph Lundgren and Randy Couture. Replacing them are Antonio Banderas and Wesley Snipes. While they’re both riots in their scenes, it’s disconcerting that the comic relief is chiefly left to the Hispanic and African-American characters. In particular, Snipes’s routine most closely echoes Robert Downey Jr.’s satirical blackface performance in Tropic Thunder. It feels like too much of a “down-home” put-on for an actor who’s proved he’s capable of so much more.

As fellow critic Justine Baron points out, it’s also odd that Snipes joins the team just as Crews is laid up. Is there only room for one black action hero at a time? We barely get to see them share the screen together.

That youthful team that Grammer helps Stallone recruit? It’s not strong on the acting chops, though Kellan Lutz is very likeable. One person makes up for it, however, and that’s mixed martial arts star Ronda Rousey.

For an 80s-style actioner, the film gets bogged down most when it’s just lines of people shooting at each other. Throw in a car chase or some hand-to-hand combat, however, and the movie energizes. Snipes and Jason Statham, the only other two actors with truly extensive martial arts training, each have their moments (MMA star Victor Ortiz co-stars, but is largely left off the screen). Yet it’s Rousey whose fistfights own the screen. Her punches are the only thing more painful than her dialogue, but in a movie like this, the punches matter more. It’s to the film’s credit that it allows Rousey to be the toughest actor up there, where other movies might shy away from having her outshine the men.

Expendables Ronda Rousey

As for the villain, how do you solve a problem like Mel Gibson? The guy’s a legend on-screen, but a disaster off of it. He acts circles around everyone else involved in this, but when the inevitable throwdown with Stallone happens, it’s difficult not to recall that these are the two actors in this whole thing who’ve had major domestic abuse issues. I’m trying hard not to judge – they both had rough upbringings which themselves may have included abuse, but our awareness of these facts marks how differently we watch movies today than we did back when Stallone and Gibson together would’ve guaranteed the biggest movie of the summer. Truth be told, I’m out of words after addressing what happened to my friend last week.

That’s a lot of issues in one movie and I haven’t even mentioned the plastic-looking visual effects, but I’d still give it a light recommendation. Gibson and Banderas carry the dialogue, Rousey and Stallone carry the action. Everyone else is just passing through.

It’s not for everybody, but if you’re at all a fan of the action franchises like Rambo, Blade, and The Transporter that helped get these actors here, you should enjoy it. Guardians of the Galaxy remains by far the best blow-em-up for your buck in theaters, but this Expendables hits the spot if you’re looking for something a little more traditional.

The Expendables 3 is rated PG-13 for violence and language, though it’s on the harder side of that rating.