It’s a Classic: ‘The Terminator’

Looking at some of the best pop culture offerings in film, TV and comics…

“Come with me if you want to live!”

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Arnold Schwarzenegger is the iconic killer cyborg in ‘The Terminator’ (image credit: MGM).

Year:  1984

Starring:  Arnold Schwarzenegger, Michael Biehn, Linda Hamilton, Paul Winfield, Lance Henrikson, Earl Boen

Director:  James Cameron / written by:  James Cameron & Gale Anne Hurd

What’s it about?

An unstoppable cyborg is sent back through time from the year 2029 to murder Sarah Connor, a waitress who will be mother to the leader of the human resistance waging a future war against the machines…

In review: why it’s a classic

Prior to 1984 it would be hard to believe that James Cameron would become one of modern cinema’s greatest auteurs.  Having previously worked as an art director on Roger Corman’s Battle Beyond the Stars (and later increase his profile by co-writing the screenplay for Rambo: First Blood Part II with Sylvester Stallone), Cameron had made his directorial debut with the dreadful horror sequel Piranha II: The Spawning.  Yet his fever-induced vision of a robot killing machine would spawn not only a successful filmmaking career but also a pop culture phenomenon.

Setting out to create the definitive technological science fiction terror tale, Cameron would drive The Terminator above its perceived B-movie trappings and create an all-time classic.  Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger in the title role, The Terminator sees a formidable and seemingly unstoppable cyborg sent back in time to the then present day of 1984 from the year 2029, where mankind faces extinction in a war against Skynet – an advanced form of A.I. – and its army of war machines, to murder Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton), the mother of the human resistance’s leader, John Connor, before he is born and can lead the human race to victory.  There’s hope for Sarah in the form of Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn – later to star in Cameron’s Aliens), a resistance soldier also sent back to 1984 with a mission to find and protect her from Skynet’s ‘Terminator’ at all cost.

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Linda Hamilton and Michael Biehn in ‘The Terminator’ (image credit: MGM).

Say what you will about Arnold Schwarzenegger’s acting abilities, but his balance of subtlety and intensity created a truly terrifying adversary, a shark-like robotic predator driven relentlessly to fulfil its programming in a career-defining role that would propel him to superstardom and a performance that is a crucial component in the success of The Terminator.  The film is a tense, exciting and often terrifying sci-fi action chase-thriller that posits a frightening scenario in which the advancement of technology and humanity’s hubris results in its obliteration.  Its dystopic elements are levied by the romance that builds between Sarah and Reese and together with the hope of humanity’s survival, creates a sense of hope amidst the bleakness.  Michael Biehn is great as Kyle Reese in a performance that conveys more depth than the average action hero.  Biehn is certainly adept at handling all of the required physicality but there’s a vulnerable quality to Reese that brings a lot of humanity to the character and a believability to a man out of time who has only ever known a life of hardship and struggle.  Linda Hamilton is perfectly cast as Sarah Connor with a fine portrayal of the everyday girl-next-door who has the fate of humankind literally placed in her hands.  Despite the fantastical aspects of the story, Sarah’s arc and her growth unfold naturally as she begins to unlock her inner strength and ultimately accept her destiny.  She is the heart of The Terminator and Linda Hamilton helps to create one of the most iconic screen heroines, inspired by Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley in Ridley Scott’s Alien.

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No escape? The Terminator continues its relentless pursuit (image credit: MGM).

The film’s special effects have aged extremely well and bely the $6 million production budget.  Younger viewers may scoff at the more practical nature of The Terminator but the ambitious blend of miniatures, puppetry, stop-motion animation and rear screen projection are a testament to Cameron as a pioneer in filmmaking.  Of course not all of the credit should go to Cameron, sure, through his tenacity the film’s grand vision was realised but it mustn’t be forgotten that the film’s groundbreaking effects and design would never have been achieved without the works of effects company Fantasy II and Hollywood legend Stan Winston (who would collaborate with Cameron again on Aliens and Terminator 2: Judgment Day as well as creating the deadly alien hunter in Predator).  The Terminator is the successful sum of numerous parts and would not have been complete without Brad Fiedel’s score, undoubtedly one of the greatest revelations in motion picture music.  As strong as the film’s concepts and visuals, the metallic clunks and thrumming beats infused within Fiedel’s electronic score bring the killer cyborg and ravaged future Los Angeles to life.

Whilst the franchise may have faltered in recent years, James Cameron’s The Terminator remains forever a classic piece of science fiction cinema and with its laudable technical achievements, thrilling action and a captivating story it’s a film that will continue to endure.

Standout moment

Homing in on its target, the Terminator tracks Sarah Connor to the Tech Noir nightclub – making its way through the crowds on the dancefloor, drawing a handgun as it approaches Sarah and prepares to make the kill.  But Kyle Reese is already there, waiting to spring into action…

Geek fact!

Initially under consideration for the role of the Terminator were Lance Henrikson (who would go on to appear as LAPD cop Vukovich, alongside Paul Winfield’s Lt. Traxler) and O.J. Simpson.  Arnold Schwarzenegger was also originally put forward by his agent for the part of Kyle Reese.

If you like this then check out:

RoboCop (1987): the ‘other’ iconic 80s techno sci-fi action classic, director Paul Verhoeven executes a violent and satirical film with a superb central performance from Peter Weller as the titular part-man, part-machine future cop.

Images used herein are utilised for illustrative purposes only and remain the property of the copyright owner(s).

Film Review: ‘Terminator: Dark Fate’

The ‘Terminator’ franchise is given a new lease of life as Sarah Connor returns…

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Linda Hamilton and Arnold Schwarzenegger reunite for the James Cameron-produced ‘Terminator: Dark Fate’ (image credit: 20th Century Fox/Paramount Pictures).

Spoiler-free review

Starring:  Linda Hamilton, Mackenzie Davis, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Gabriel Luna, Natalia Reyes

Directed by:  Tim Miller / written by:  David S. Goyer, Justin Rhodes & Bill Ray (story by James Cameron, Charles H. Eglee, Josh Friedman, David S. Goyer & Justin Rhodes) / 128 minutes

What’s it about?

A cybernetically enhanced soldier from the future teams up with Sarah Connor to protect a young girl from a new and even more lethal Terminator…

In review

Director James Cameron returns to the franchise he created, as producer (as well as story co-writer) for Terminator: Dark Fate – the sixth Terminator film – which functions as a direct sequel to Cameron’s Terminator 2: Judgment Day (thus ignoring previous entries Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, Terminator: Salvation and 2015’s failed reboot, Terminator: Genisys), facilitating the return of Linda Hamilton as the tough as nails Sarah Connor.

A solid and action-packed continuation of Cameron’s humans versus machines time travel story, Dark Fate may not be in the same league as T2 but it’s comfortably the best Terminator since 1991.  That’s in no small part thanks to Linda Hamilton, reprising her most iconic role with ease, intensified by the further grizzle and weariness that age – and circumstances – have brought upon her.  Connor may have prevented Judgment Day but as we learn in Dark Fate, a cataclysmic conflict between humanity and advanced, self-aware artificial intelligence was merely postponed.

In Terminator: Dark Fate, Grace, a cybernetically augmented human resistance fighter (Blade Runner 2049’s Mackenzie Davis) is sent back in time from the year 2042 to the present in order to protect Dani (Natalia Reyes), a young auto factory worker from being murdered by a relentless ‘Rev-9’ type Terminator (Gabriel Luna, previously Ghost Rider on Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.).  Over two decades after destroying the work of the Cyberdyne labs, Sarah Conner, then the literal mother of the human resistance, finds fate aligning her path with Grace’s mission to ensure Dani’s survival – the importance of which soon becomes clear.

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Mackenzie Davis as the human resistance’s augmented super soldier Grace (image credit: 20th Century Fox/Paramount Pictures).

Restoring the anxious tension and sharp brutality of the original Terminator films, Dark Fate is enhanced by its casting, it goes without saying that Linda Hamilton is a standout but she is greatly matched by Mackenzie Davis who, like Hamilton some 25+ years prior, brings a believable sense of fierce physicality to her role and the concept of a human/cybernetic hybrid is both intriguing and frighteningly prescient.  Natalia Reyes also holds her own as Dani, who is given a strong arc that helps drive the heart of the story, completing the film’s trio of engaging heroines.

Of course, this wouldn’t be Terminator without Arnold Schwarzenegger who once again returns as the original form of Terminator – the Cyberdyne Systems T-800, model 101.  Notwithstanding the pure nostalgic delight of seeing Schwarzenegger and Hamilton reunited on screen, Arnie brings that extra bit of presence to proceedings and is given new layers to explore as Dark Fate provides an interesting and neat twist to his character.

Gabriel Luna provides a palpable and deadly threat as the new breed of Terminator – a sort of ‘dual’ combination of the T-800 exoskeleton and the morphing liquid metal T-1000 – giving audiences another new spin on the old as Luna slices, stabs and crashes his way through anyone and anything that stands in the way of the Rev-9’s mission.

Whilst he’s no James Cameron, Tim Miller is an efficient action director, utilising his experience from Deadpool and marshalling his skills effectively in balancing the visual effects (the odd weak CGI moment forgiven) and exciting set-pieces – including an edge-of-the-seat tussle aboard a C5 cargo plane and a satisfying and scintillating finale – with character and story.  The narrative may evoke a sense of familiarity, it’s overall structure undeniably reminiscent of T2 which perhaps make Dark Fate a little predictable in moments, but there are enough small tweaks that add elements of the new and keep the commentary (and cautionary statement) on technological progression meaningful and relevant.  The real challenge will be where to take the franchise next but for now, Terminator: Dark Fate is something of a shot in the arm for the series.

The bottom line:  Resetting the future of a troubled franchise, Terminator: Dark Fate is an enjoyable and effective sci-fi action blockbuster that combines the comfort of the familiar with some pleasing touches of the new.

Terminator: Dark Fate is in cinemas across the U.K. now and opens in the U.S. and other worldwide territories on 1st November.

Images used herein are utilised for illustrative purposes only and remain the property of the copyright owner(s).

Flashback: ‘Predator 2’

The ultimate hunter returned to cinema screens in 1990’s first ‘Predator’ sequel…

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On the hunt: a new Predator stalks L.A. in ‘Predator 2’ (credit: 20th Century Fox).

Year:  1990

Starring:  Danny Glover, Gary Busey, Ruben Blades, Maria Conchita Alonso, Bill Paxton

Directed by:  Stephen Hopkins / written by:  Jim Thomas & John Thomas

What’s it about?

As gang warfare rages in the heat-soaked city of Los Angeles, LAPD cop Mike Hannigan, investigating a series of bizarre murders, discovers a new threat in the form of a lethal alien, hunting humans for sport…

Retrospective/review

With the popularity of John McTiernan’s Predator it was only a matter of time before a sequel would surface, and so it did, in 1990 with Predator 2 – directed by Stephen Hopkins.  An enjoyable, albeit inferior, follow-up to Predator, Hopkins and returning writers Jim & John Thomas help to deliver an entertaining science fiction action blockbuster.

Moving the action from the isolated jungles of Central America to the chaotic urban jungle of Los Angeles in the, then, not too distant future of 1997, Predator 2 creates the perfect environment for the creature to hunt, where the L.A. police are locked in an unrelenting conflict as they engage in street wars with Colombian gangs and Jamaican crime lords during an oppressive heatwave that not only adds to tensions but further drives the Predator’s thirst for the hunt.  It’s a decent idea that works rather well, altering the setting to keep things interesting yet retaining those key atmospheric elements at the core of Predator, the sense of comforting familiarity enhanced by the return of Alan Silvestri as composer of the film’s music score.

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Danny Glover as Lt. Mike Hannigan (credit: 20th Century Fox).

Leading the cast is Lethal Weapon star Danny Glover in an enjoyably energetic performance as no-nonsense police lieutenant Mike Hannigan who, whilst not as muscular as Arnold Schwarzenegger (looming production on Terminator 2 preventing the Austrian Oak’s participation) certainly holds his own in the action scenes of Predator 2.  Supporting Glover is Ruben Blades, Maria Conchita Alonso (The Running Man) and a wonderfully enthusiastic Bill Paxton (Aliens’ Private Hudson) as fellow L.A. cops Archuleta, Cantrell and Lambert, respectively as well as Kent McCord as their captain.  Gary Busey brings antagonism into the fray as the shady Peter Keyes, as Hannigan learns that the true perpetrator of a wave of gang murders is not from this world.

Although it doesn’t feel as new and exciting as Predator and is in some ways less suspenseful with its slightly less mysterious and faster paced approach (and the portrayal of the Jamaican criminals at times a little silly), there’s still a lot to enjoy about Predator 2, not in the least in its action – including a deadly subway train encounter with the Predator, the inventive slaughterhouse battle with the creature as Keys and his team attempt to capture it and the apartment building/rooftop chase which leads to a climactic finale aboard the Predator’s ship.  It’s all staged capably by director Hopkins who keeps things intense and engaging.

With some tweaks and refinements to the creature’s appearance, this Predator (once again played by Kevin Peter Hall) is subtly unique from the previous one and its expanded array of gear, including a staff and spinning disc make it more even more formidable.  Predator 2 also contains a neat little Easter egg for fans of both of 20th Century Fox’s SF creature franchises with the skull of a xenomorph displayed amongst the Predator’s trophies – leading to numerous Alien vs Predator comic books, novels, video games and a pair of not-so-great films.  Although it may not be as worthy a successor as Aliens was to Alien, Predator 2 does enough creatively to set it apart from the original film and with some solid and well-executed action sequences it provides a good measure of entertainment.

Geek fact!  Gary Busey’s son, Jake, known mainly for his role in Starship Troopers, appears in 2018 sequel The Predator as the son of Busey’s character in Predator 2.

Image(s) used herein are utilised for illustrative purposes only and remain the property of the copyright owner(s).

It’s a Classic: ‘Predator’

Looking at some of the best pop culture offerings in film, TV and comics…

“If it bleeds, we can kill it”

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A deadly foe – the technologically advanced and lethal hunter of ‘Predator’ (image credit: 20th Century Fox).

Year:  1987 

Starring:  Arnold Schwarzenegger, Carl Weathers, Elpidia Carrillo, Bill Duke, Jesse Ventura, Sonny Landham, Richard Chaves, R.G. Armstrong, Shane Black, Kevin Peter Hall

Directed by:  John McTiernan / written by:  Jim Thomas & John Thomas

What’s it about?

An elite special forces unit find themselves being hunted by a deadly creature in the jungles of Central America…

In review:  why it’s a classic

An adrenaline induced and suspenseful science fiction actioner, Predator is the first – and indisputably best – entry in what would become 20th Century Fox’s other iconic SF creature franchise.  With a cast lead by action megastar Arnold Schwarzenegger and directed by John McTiernan (who would helm another classic the following year – Die Hard), Predator is highly entertaining.

The set-up is simple: a crack military team are sent into the guerrilla-infested jungles of Central America on a mission to rescue the crew of a downed helicopter.  Discovering the skinned bodies of their comrades, the team soon find themselves in a fight for survival as an alien creature, which collects the skulls of its victims as trophies, begins hunting them down.  The execution is superb, writers Jim & John Thomas, together with the cast, provide a troupe of tough but likeable characters:  team leader ‘Dutch’ is played assuredly by Schwarzenegger (quickly reaching the height of his superstardom at this point), ably supported by Carl Weathers as Dillon, a former colleague turned-CIA man with the roster filled out by Bill Duke as ‘Mac’, Jesse Ventura as Blaine, the late Sonny Landham as Billy, Richard Chaves as Poncho and Shane Black – future writer and director of 2018’s The Predator (and who also provided uncredited contributions to the script for Predator) stars as Hawkins.  Caught up in the terror is Elpidia Carrillo as Anna, a captured guerrilla who joins Dutch and his unit as they attempt to reach extraction.

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Action megastar Arnold Schwarzenegger leads the cast of ‘Predator’ as ‘Dutch’ (image credit: 20th Century Fox).

John McTiernan directs with confidence and skill, delivering scintillating and satisfying action.  Yet it’s the slowly unwinding element of suspense that makes Predator so engrossing, like Ridley Scott’s Alien, time is taken for events to unfold creating an increasing sense of unease.  The unrelenting heat of the jungle coupled with the conflict fermented by the interference of Weathers’ Dillon adds further to the tension.

Of course, Predator is nothing without its central threat and the Predator itself – created by the legendary Stan Winston and his studio (saving the production after a failed, laughably bad and unconvincing prototype was abandoned) – is as unique and memorable as the Xenomorphs of Alien and Aliens, remaining incredibly formidable and one of the greatest and most iconic creature designs in the history of film.  Just as Predator unfolds at a steady pace, the appearance of the lethal 7 foot-plus and muscular extra-terrestrial (played by Kevin Peter Hall), masked and equipped with an invisibility cloak, shoulder laser, razor sharp gauntlet blades and heat vision sensor is slowly revealed – the final unmasking saved until its climactic one on one showdown with Dutch in an exciting and rewarding finale.

Alan Silvestri’s thrumming, atmospheric and intense music score proves the perfect accompaniment to a true genre classic that would spawn numerous sequels, comic books, novels, video games and slews of merchandise that add up to a pop culture phenomenon.

Standout moment

After storming the guerrilla camp, Dutch and his team prepare to depart and head for extraction.  As Hawkins shares a joke with Billy, unbeknown to them someone, or something is observing…

Geek fact!

Martial arts star Jean-Claude Van Damme was originally brought in to play the Predator and participated in test-shoots before the initial creature design was abandoned.

If you like this then check out…

Alien : 20th Century Fox’s original lethal extra-terrestrial makes its debut in Ridley Scott’s equally suspenseful masterpiece.

The Terminator : Arnold Schwarzenegger plays another kind of hunter as the deadly time travelling cyborg in James Cameron’s landmark science fiction thriller.

Images used herein are utilised for illustrative purposes only and remain the property of the copyright owner(s).

Film Review: ‘Terminator Genisys’ (spoiler free)

He always said he’d be back…

Starring:  Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jason Clarke, Emilia Clarke, Jai Courtney

Directed by:  Alan Taylor / Written by:  Laeta Kalogridis & Patrick Lussier / 126 minutes

What’s it about?

In a war torn future where machines are intent on humanity’s extinction, resistance leader John Connor sends Kyle Reese back in time to 1984 to protect his mother, Sarah.  On his arrival, Reese discovers that the past is not exactly as he was told it would be…

In review

Like Arnie himself, the Terminator franchise refuses to stay inactive.  Whilst James Cameron’s The Terminator and Terminator 2: Judgment Day are considered to be solid cinematic masterpieces, subsequent Cameron-less installments Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines and Terminator Salvation were found to be, well, lacking.  Now arrives Terminator Genisys and with it the hopes of reinvigorating a beloved and valuable Hollywood property.

Despite the torrent of negative opinion that has preceded the film’s release, Terminator Genisys is actually a fun, exciting and visually impressive science fiction blockbuster that is appreciably superior to Rise of the Machines and Salvation.  Employing the Terminator franchise’s time travel concepts to good effect, Genisys serves as part sequel/part reboot as it takes its lead from Cameron’s films and creates a divergent timeline (a la J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek) where new stories can be told – “the future’s not set” as we were told in T2.  It’s a device that also allows for some nifty twists and turns, some of which have sadly been spoiled in the film’s marketing (and diminishing the impact of one particular plot element).

Whilst Terminator Genisys doesn’t hit the heights of T1 or T2 (nor would it ever have hoped or expected to be), for those prepared to go in with an open mind and realistic expectations, there’s still much to enjoy.  Arnold Schwarzenegger reprises his most iconic role as the T-800 model Terminator, much as you remember him from those previous outings – stoic, resourceful and armed to the tooth.  Affectionately nicknamed “Pops”, there’s subtle hints of warmth seeping from inside that cold metal exoskeleton as Arnie’s reprogrammed T-800 plays surrogate father and protector to Emilia Clarke’s Sarah Connor.  It’s not quite as resonant as the relationship we saw played out in T2 but helps establish the emotional core of Genisys.

Given the overly dour tone of Terminator Salvation, Genisys opts to incorporate a fair amount of humour that for the most part succeeds – not as well balanced as Judgment Day but, bar the odd moment, is less jarring than some of the silliness of Rise of the Machines.

Game of Thrones’ Emilia Clarke presents a version of Linda Hamilton’s Sarah Connor that is somewhere between that of T1 and T2, melding elements of youthful naivety with that of battle hardened resistance fighter – allowing for some good interplay with Arnie’s “old, not obsolete” cyborg.  Jai Courtney (unfortunate to have made his Hollywood break in the abysmal A Good Day to Die Hard) is surprisingly decent in the role of Kyle Reese, although lacking the grit and intensity of Michael Biehn’s turn in The Terminator (and the “special edition” cut of T2) it’s a take that feels appropriate in Genisys.

Jason Clarke is afforded the opportunity to add new layers to resistance leader John Connor, whilst also conveying the familiar weariness and determination we’ve seen previously.  There’s also another enjoyably creepy and haunting interpretation of the liquid metal T-1000, brought to life this time by South Korean actor Byung-hun Lee.  Sadly, J.K. Simmons is given little to chew on in a semi-comedic role as a washed out L.A. cop and Dayo Okeniyi’s Danny Dyson isn’t given much presence either.  The same could have also been said for Doctor Who’s Matt Smith (credited as Matthew Smith), yet his role carries more significance.

Aided by a lavish production budget, director Alan Taylor (Thor: The Dark World) delivers some excellent CGI-infused blockbuster set-pieces in Terminator Genisys, from the opening future war battles of Los Angeles 2029 to the climactic showdown in San Francisco – it’s all as explosive and frenetic as today’s audiences would expect but never verges on nauseating.  It’s also laudable that Taylor stages recreations of key moments of Cameron’s The Terminator with skill and reverence and coupled with references to Terminator lore peppered throughout there’s plenty for fans to be geeky about.

The bottom line:  Terminator Genisys is a decent stab at reinvigorating a beloved, albeit creatively mixed, franchise.  It’s as fun and exciting as a modern Terminator film could hope to be and is well worth a look.

Terminator Genisys is in cinemas now.

Back for more: Arnold Schwarzenegger returns in the enjoyable 'Terminator Genisys'.

Back for more: Arnold Schwarzenegger returns in the enjoyable ‘Terminator Genisys’.

Film Review: ‘The Expendables 3’

Out with the old and in with the new?

Year:  2014

Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Harrison Ford, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mel Gibson, Wesley Snipes, Dolph Lundgren, Randy Couture, Terry Crews, Jet Li, Antonio Banderas, Kelsey Grammar, Ronda Rousey, Glen Powell, Victor Ortiz, Kellan Lutz

Directed by: Patrick Hughes / Written by: Sylvester Stallone and Creighton Rothenberger & Katrin Benedikt / 126 minutes

What’s it about?

After disbanding his original crew, Barney Ross recruits new blood for a new Expendables team with a mission to take down notorious arms trader and former Expendable, Conrad Stonebanks…

In review

Following comeback hits Rocky Balboa (2006) and Rambo (2008), legendary action star Sylvester Stallone returned yet again in 2010 with The Expendables, the first instalment in an ambitious, ludicrous, yet highly entertaining and successful action film franchise.  With the series, Stallone has sought to unite the biggest cast of iconic action stars of yesteryear (with newer faces such as Jason Statham, Randy Couture and Terry Crews) in a no-nonsense mashup of the plethora of mindless popcorn action flicks of the 1980s and 1990s.

Stallone succeeded and healthy box office returns secured the production of 2012’s even bigger, more ridiculous The Expendables 2 another enjoyable and financially successful hit that guaranteed audiences a second sequel.  Unfortunately the release of last summer’s The Expendables 3 proved less successful reflected by more modest box office takings and lukewarm opinion.  Yet, the film still offers plenty of entertainment value if you’re willing to forego its underlying flaws (more on that shortly).

The Expendables 3 opens with the ‘rescue’ of Wesley Snipes’ ‘Doc’ from a heavily guarded train in an exciting and adrenalin fuelled opening sequence.  From there, Doc joins Ross, Lee Christmas (Statham) and the rest of the Expendables on a mission to prevent the completion of an arms deal in Somalia.  Events go awry as Ross is shocked to find that the arms dealer is the corrupt former Expendable Conrad Stonebanks (Gibson) and an ensuing battle results in the severe injury of Caesar (Crews).  This leads to Ross disbanding his regular crew in favour of recruiting new, younger, teammates with a mission to stop Stonebanks at all costs.

With the casting of The Expendables 3, Stallone has outdone himself once again with Harrison Ford (as CIA man Max Drummer, replacing Bruce Willis’s ‘Mr. Church’), Wesley Snipes, Antonio Banderas and Kelsey Grammar joining the established troupe.  The true coup though is Mel Gibson as Stonebanks, who succeeds previous Expendables villains portrayed by Eric Roberts and Jean-Claude Van Damme.  Gibson manages to deftly straddle the fine line between ridiculous and captivating in a manic performance that is one of the film’s biggest draws.

The flaws of The Expendables 3 arise from a misjudged attempt to draw in a wider audience with the reduced certification allowing younger viewers to participate.  The injection of ‘new blood’ (including MMA star Ronda Rousey) is not necessarily an unwelcome addition, however it’s when the focus of The Expendables 3 shifts to those new characters that you may find yourself yearning for the return of Statham, Couture et al (luckily it’s not long before they do).  At the end of the day The Expendables should not pander to commercial sensibility and recognise that it’s those who grew up on a healthy diet of the films of the likes of Messrs. Stallone and Schwarzenegger that will get the most enjoyment out of it.

With the reduced certificate in mind, the violence of The Expendables 3 is a little softer and slightly reduces the film’s edge, yet despite this the body count remains high and the action sequences are as explosive and exciting as the previous entries.  Director Patrick Hughes skilfully stages the numerous, huge, action sequences from the afore-mentioned opening scene and the subsequent mission in Somalia through to the bullet-ridden, knife-thrusting and tank-laden final battle.  It’s a shame however that the inevitable face-off between Ross and Stonebanks feels a little tame, lacking the punch of Stallone’s bout with Jean-Calude Van Damme in The Expendables 2 – maybe a victim of the reduced certificate?

The film’s script is perfectly adequate and has the expected mix of drama, cheesy dialogue and laughs that made the first two Expendables the enjoyable guilty pleasures that they are and quite rightly, The Expendables 3 finds the time to poke fun at itself and its cast with zany turns from Banderas and Gibson woven between reference to Snipes’ Tax evasion troubles and another of Schwarzenegger’s iconic quotes.

The bottom line:  The Expendables 3 is simple, effective entertainment that despite its weaker elements still manages to be as fun and as action packed as previous outings.

The Expendables 3 is available on Blu-ray, DVD and digital download now.

Sylvester Stallone assembles another impressive cast of action stars in 'The Expendables 3'.

Sylvester Stallone assembles another impressive cast of action stars in ‘The Expendables 3’.

Terminator 5…really?

He always said he’d be back…

The long mooted Terminator 5 is moving ahead with Arnold Schwarzenegger poised to return as our favourite killer cyborg.  But, I have to ask, should there be a fifth Terminator film?

Firstly, I am a huge fan of the Terminator franchise in general (and enjoy a good Arnie film as much as anyone), James Cameron’s The Terminator and Terminator 2: Judgment Day rate highly amongst some of my all-time favourite films and I really enjoyed the overlooked short-lived small screen spin-off Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles.

Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines had its moments and is generally entertaining but just wasn’t the same (imagine if Cameron had done a third film) but director McG’s Terminator Salvation totally missed the mark, promising a lot but delivering very little resulting in an uncertain and convoluted mess.  That was it for me, I was content to let the franchise retire, be nostalgic and relive happy memories by periodically revisiting T1 and T2.

Cue Arnie’s return to Hollywood following the conclusion of his political career and I doubt few were surprised that Terminator 5 was one of the first (if not THE first) projects being discussed.  The production rights to the franchise were secured by Annapurna Pictures with Fast & Furious director Justin Lin attached, only for him to subsequently drop out due to his commitments to Fast & Furious 6.

It seemed that T5 would languish in development hell but now news has emerged that Paramount Pictures are in talks to acquire distribution rights and it looks like the project is (more or less) set to go again with sights set on a January start date for production.

I’m glad that Arnie is back in town, his role in The Expendables 2 was fun (if a little cringe inducing at times) and The Last Stand showed potential.  Having grown up spending many late Saturday nights watching and loving his films (and I still do), it’s like welcoming back an old friend.  I’m certainly looking forward to seeing him team up with pal (and once box office rival) Sylvester Stallone in The Expendables 3 and the forthcoming Escape Plan and not even his age is really an issue so far as T5 is concerned (the wonders of modern digital effects – just look at what was accomplished in Tron Legacy with the post de-ageing of Jeff Bridges), it’s the fact that if T3 triggered a decline in the quality of the Terminator films then Terminator Salvation damn well secured it.  What if T5 is another ill-conceived embarrassment?  Is it really worth the risk of building up the hopes of audiences?  I appreciate it’s too early to tell but I’m not confident that it is, I’d love to be proven wrong and nothing would please me more than to report that Terminator is back on form but I’d sooner see Arnie move on to other (hopefully great) things and let be what once was (unless James Cameron fancies another crack).

What are your thoughts on Terminator 5?  Leave a comment below!

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