Monday Morning Critic – Terminator: Genisys And The Profoundly Flawed Reboot of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Career

MMC

This weekend marks the seventh film in the second wave of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s career, the post-political part after he took a decade off to become the governor of California. He walked away from movies after Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, which had a respectable $150 million domestic gross (good enough to be in the Top 10 for that year, before the advent of 3D), and has now comeback after being one of the gorillas of the box office to be essentially an afterthought to domestic audiences. His biggest grossing hit was as an afterthought in an Expendables sequel and so far his comeback has been all bark and bite with audiences.

And this weekend marks the first project Schwarzenegger should’ve had out in theaters as part of his comeback before anything else. The four films where he’s headlined (Sabotage, Maggie, Escape Plan and The Last Stand) haven’t been able to cross $50 million combined, unfortunately, and right now comes the one film that has a chance at changing the direction of Schwarzenegger’s star power.

And it’s the one he should’ve led off with to begin his comeback instead of what it symbolizes right now: perhaps his last, best shot at re-establishing himself as an A-list star. Because right now he’s a fading former A-lister struggling to get audiences back into theatres on his name brand alone.

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When Arnold announced his comeback, and his retirement from politics, he found himself attached to a handful of projects early because he left the industry when he was still a star. With the downfall of the box office drawing movie star, and the replacement being the franchise vehicle instead, Hollywood still has tried to keep the mythos of the movie star alive with the handful of genuine movie stars still around. If you’d have said in 2005 that Tom Cruise and Will Smith would have significant flops at the box office a decade later I’d have asked for whatever drugs you’re on because 10 years isn’t long enough for someone that massively drawing to fade out.

If you’d have said that Vin Diesel would headline one of the biggest films of all-time … I’d have asked you for a double dose of those drugs. Furious 7 is now the fourth biggest film of all time and not far from passing The Avengers for the third spot behind Avatar and Titanic. Jurassic World, headlined by Chris Pratt, will likely be in the Top 10 by the end of the year as well. Hollywood is investing in franchises and characters, not actors, and Schwarzenegger is yet another example of this.

It’s no surprise that he came back for the Terminator franchise, as the genuinely interesting vision of the future playing out for McG wasn’t commercially viable had to give way for a new vision of the franchise that echoed the high point of it (a sci-fi chase film). If you’re going to relive the heyday of The Terminator then having the guy who became a star in the franchise doesn’t hurt, I suppose, but it’s the film he should’ve led off with. Not the one that’s looking like a return for an actor desperate to stay on the A-list.

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And that’s what the film feels like, especially given the fact that Schwarzenegger’s last starring effort (Maggie) couldn’t find its way into theaters en masse despite a fairly small budget. It’s also the film Schwarzenegger should’ve waited to make as his return to films, as well. In an era where franchises and superheroes are the biggest draws, a triumphant Schwarzenegger returning to conquer the box office once again in his biggest role would’ve been a substantially bigger story (and film) than an aging movie star returning to a role that made him a star because nothing he’s done besides it has been the sort of mega hit it should’ve.

Arnold has rode the nostalgia kick in the Expendables to a certain amount of box office success as part of a group but everything he’s done on his own since he came back has done slightly more domestically than Rise of the Machines did in its opening weekend. Less if you factor in inflation, too, and so far Arnold has sort of limped back into film as opposed to returned triumphant. Terminator: Genisys isn’t the choice of an actor looking to return triumphantly. It’s the choice of an actor clinging to relevance.

A Movie A Week – The Challenge

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This week’s DVD – Con Air

“They somehow managed to get every creep and freak in the universe onto this one plane. And then somehow managed to let them take it over. And then somehow managed to stick us right smack in the middle.”

Con Air is the sort of terrible action movie that’s insanely watchable, stars nearly every character actor that people love and has Nicolas Cage in the beginning of his “highly implausible” hair pieces era that has continued for almost 20 years. If there’s a film that deserves a five disc, highly awesome special edition on some anniversary it’s one of the three films that transformed Nicolas Cage from dramatic, Oscar winning leading man of the future to an action movie star …. and I’m not sure that’s a good thing.

Simple premise. Nicolas Cage is Cameron Poe, who served a stint in jail for killing a guy in a bar fight. On his way home the plane he’s on is hijacked by the criminals onboard, the worst of the worst being sent to populate a SuperMax prison. Shenanigans ensue.

It’s a terrible film on the face, of course, but it somehow manages to take all this inherent terribleness and have so much ridiculous fun with it that the film becomes one of the easiest watching, r-rated action films ever.

Highest recommendation.

What Looks Good This Weekend, and I Don’t Mean the $2 tall boys of Red Fox and community college co-eds with low standards at the Fox and Hound

Magic Mike XXL – It’s a strip off to save the school … or something

Skip it – I don’t get how there’s a sequel to the first film … but ok.

Terminator Genisys – Man and robots time travel to change the future. Or keep it.

Skip it – The early reviews are terrible and the film itself looks awful.

Scott “Kubryk” Sawitz brings his trademarked irreverence and offensive hilarity to Twitter in 140 characters or less. Follow him @ScottSawitz .

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