Revisiting the Terminator Franchise – Part Three

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Terminator RM posterIt was another long wait between Terminator films after Terminator 2: Judgment Day was a box office success in 1991. The fan base remained hopeful and vigilant even as Arnold Schwarzenegger’s star in Hollywood began to slowly diminish. In the summer of 2003, we all were sent back into the world of Skynet with Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines.

Once again, rights issues were the primary cause for the long gap between films. Carolco Pictures went bankrupt in 1997, resulting in their 50% ownership of the franchise to go up for sale in a liquidation auction. Carolco founders Mario Kassar and Andrew G. Vajna would purchase the rights and then acquired the remaining 50% from original producer Gale Ann Hurd. However, by this time, James Cameron had little interest in returning as he had moved on to other projects. This would cause Arnold Schwarzenegger to initially turn down the offer to return in the third film. But once James Cameron convinced him to return for a significant salary, Arnold agreed.

Once Arnold was secured, the main issue became the script. A series of rewrites and other pre-production woes kept the film from becoming a reality until 2002. By this time, Arnold was beginning to have political aspirations as governor of California. He would set those aside until post-production. He would ultimately run and be elected in October 2003, making Terminator 3 his last starring role until 2013 saw him headline The Last Stand.Terminator RM 1

With this being his leading man swan song for a decade, Arnold was back as a Terminator, this time a model T-850. He is once again reprogrammed and sent back in time to save not only John Connor (Nick Stahl, Sin City) but his future wife Kate Brewster (Claire Danes, Homeland). A new and more deadly female Terminator, the T-X, has arrived in Los Angeles and kills all of John’s future lieutenants before targeting John and Kate. John has been living off the grid following the death of his mother Sarah from leukemia in 1997. He inadvertently runs into Kate just as the T-X arrives to kill her. Luckily, the T-850 has arrived also.

Terminator RM 2John is initially confused as the T-850 looks like the T-800 from the previous film but has no memories and does not possess the humor he once had. Its then than John realizes that not only is this a new Terminator but that they never really stopped the creation of Skynet. The timeline has been changed but Skynet’s rise to power is inevitable. Skynet has become the governments answer to a virus affecting all of the computers all over the world. Unfortunately, what they don’t realize is that Skynet is the virus and the rise of the machines is becoming a reality.

Unlike its predecessors, Terminator 3 doesn’t seem to stand the test of time. The film suffers from seeming repetitive when viewed back-to-back with Terminator 2. The T-X is a little different but not much more than what we already saw the T-1000 do. Schwarzenegger isn’t as fun as he was in the previous film, even feeling like he was going through the motions at times. Nick Stahl assumed the role of John after producers had concerns over Edward Furlong’s sobriety. This would result in some confusion over John’s age that viewers need to simply overlook as a plot inconsistency. Linda Hamilton would not return as John’s mother Sarah due to what was a reduced and essentially unnecessary role in the original script. Kristanna Loken (Bloodrayne) is fun as the new T-X but never seems as deadly as the T-1000. Earl Boen is back one more time in a cameo role as Dr. Silberman, once again finding himself in the wrong place at the wrong time.Terminator RM 3

Terminator 3 was a huge success at the box office and seemingly guaranteed a fourth film. Most critics were not kind to the film and it didn’t quite have the lasting appeal as the first two films. Personally, I found the movie heavy on action and light on character and story, ultimately making the film a little less appealing and turning it into a throwaway popcorn matinee at best.

Next time, we return to the Terminator universe not for a fourth film but for a television series that takes the already confused timeline and just throws it out the window.

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Revisiting the Terminator Franchise – Part Two

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As The Terminator (1984) became a huge cult success, Arnold Schwarzenegger was making a name for himself in such Hollywood hits as Commando (1985), Predator (1987) and Total Recall (1990). By 1991, technology had caught up to the point that director James Cameron was ready for the long-awaited sequel, Terminator 2: Judgment Day. Another long-standing issue concerned certain rights issues that were in dispute with the Hemdale Film Corporation. With some persuasion from Arnold, Carolco Pictures made a bid and acquired the rights, leaving the door wide open for a return to the Terminator universe.Terminator 2 poster

Arnold Schwarzenegger would reprise his role as the T-800 Terminator. Well, a new version of his old character anyway. He would incorporate a lot more humor and would have a greatly enhanced role playing the hero this time, rather than being the villain of the piece. This T-800 is programmed to save the main characters of Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) and her son John (Edward Furlong, Pet Semetary Two). As it turns out, the apocalyptic future was not averted and a new T-1000 Terminator (Robert Patrick, The X-Files) has been sent by the machines of 2029 back to 1991 to kill John Connor and weaken the resistance, while the resistance has sent the reprogrammed T-800 to protect him.

Terminator JD 4A decade has passed and life has not gone well for Sarah and her son. After years on the run, Sarah has become a fighter, skilled and prepared for what awaits her and her son. However, Sarah has been caught for her involvement in the events from the first film. She is considered mentally imbalanced and institutionalized while John has become a rebel, living in foster care and believing his mother is insane. But when the T-1000 arrives to kill John, the T-800 arrives to protect him. John begins to realize his mother was right all along and, after breaking her out of the hospital, the race is on to stop Skynet from becoming reality.

Whereas The Terminator was a gritty, low-budget cult film from the 80s, Terminator 2 is clearly a big-budget summer spectacular. The movie has a very glossy look and polished feel to it when compared directly to its predecessor. However, the high-tech special effects and blockbuster approach work very well as Terminator 2 was an incredibly well-crafted sequel. It incorporated logic into the plot, dealing with how Miles Dyson (Joe Morton) used the damaged CPU and right arm of the original Terminator to reverse engineer what was to become the foundation of Skynet. Essentially, the machines created the future by going back in time, one of those nasty time paradoxes so often overlooked in time travel stories.Terminator JD 2

Special effects were key to the success of Terminator 2. The T-1000 effects, the liquid alloy characteristics, were created by a combination of the new state-of-the-art CGI and old-school prosthetics from the legendary Stan Winston. The morphing effects are now common and still used in television and movies. The natural progression of Sarah Connor into a fighting and somewhat disturbed badass along with the rebellious son made perfect sense. It was also fun to have Earl Boen back as Sarah’s psychiatrist Dr. Peter Silberman and Michael Biehn in a cameo as Kyle Reese (via a hallucination of Sarah’s), which appears only in the director’s cut.

Terminator JD 3I was looking for holes in the story or weakness in the special effects upon revisiting Terminator 2. But honestly, the movie holds up incredibly well. While being a perfect continuation of the original, it stands on its own as a fun sci-fi adventure film. It was a huge success in 1991, earning multiple Academy Awards, including Best Special Visual Effects for Stan Winston’s work. It also resulted in an attraction at Universal Studios theme parks. The ride, called T2 3D: Battle Across Time, brought back all of the cast from Terminator 2 combined with actors playing the real-life characters interacting with the audience. There is a fun Cyberdyne promotional film as attendees wait to go into the theater. While Universal Hollywood has since removed the ride, it’s playing strong at Universal Orlando and well worth the time. Sure, it’s a little dated by today’s standards but it’s still a lot of fun and a little nostalgic.

After the huge success of Terminator 2: Judgment Day, fans would have to wait another 12 years for the sequel, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines. Tomorrow, we travel back to 2003 and see if the third film in the series holds up as well as the first two.Terminator JD 1

Revisiting the Jurassic Park Franchise – Part One

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Jurassic Park posterBefore we take the trip back in time to revisit the Jurassic Park universe, let me first say thank you. The last several months have been challenging with moving once again but the dust is beginning to settle. Plans for Monster Movie Kid were postponed, such as my Peter Lorre tribute month. However, as the boxes get unpacked and normality is returning, it’s time to get back on track with regular reviews. So thank you for hanging in there. Get ready as the rest of 2015 is going to be fun.

With Jurassic World opening this weekend, I decided it was appropriate to revisit the Jurassic Park franchise. It’s been quite a few years since I went back to Isla Nublar, so I unearthed the DVDs and over the next week, I’ll be looking back at the first three films and offering up my thoughts on the new fourth film.

It’s hard to believe that 22 years ago, Jurassic Park (1993) was released into the theaters. I honestly can’t remember the theatric al experience but I do remember rewatching the first two films quite a bit on VHS. From a technical standpoint, it was groundbreaking. Then state-of-the-art CGI made us believe these dinosaurs were real. The legendary Stan Winston would create fantastic animatronic creatures while director Steven Spielberg invested in DTS, a digital surround sound system that made those amazingly real dinosaur sound effects. All common place now but in 1993, it blew us away.JP 1

Jurassic Park was originally a novel by author Michael Crichton. Before the novel was even published in 1990, Steven Spielberg purchased the film rights for $1.5 million. Michael Crichton was then paid $500,000 to write the screenplay. Not too bad for a little book about extinct creatures come back to life. The story was about John Hammond (Richard Attenborough, 10 Rillington Place, Séance on a Wet Afternoon) and his bioengineering company InGen creating Jurassic Park, an amusement park full of dinosaurs located on the tropical island of Isla Nublar. After a worker is killed, the investors demand that the park be certified safe by experts.

JP 2The experts were paleontologist Dr. Alan Grant (Sam Neill, Omen III: The Final Conflict) and Dr. Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern, Grizzly II: The Predator), along with mathematician and chaos theorist Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum, Independence Day, The Fly). Along with John Hammond’s grandchildren Lex and Tim (Ariana Richards and Joseph Mazzello) and the stereotypical greedy lawyer, they take the trip down the rabbit hole and tour the park. But they soon find themselves at the mercy of Mother Nature in more ways than one. With a raging storm hitting the island, a computer genius (Wayne Arnold, Seinfeld) planning to steal embryos for another company and a Tyrannosaurus Rex on the loose, the ride offers anything but amusement.

At the time, the movie was a huge hit. Courtesy of a $65 million marketing campaign with 100 companies, Jurassic Park made more than $900 million worldwide in its initial release. Thanks to a re-release in 2011 and a 3D upgrade in 2013, it has now made more than $1 billion. With the perfect recipe for success featuring a solid script, a stellar cast, amazing special effects, the music of master John Williams and the guidance of Steven Spielberg, it was an instant classic. But how does it hold up 22 years later? For me, it was still a cinematic experience. From the beautiful imagery to the melodic sounds of John Williams, it is what movie theaters were made for. Full of excitement and adventure that is held together by actors who can act and a script that is more than just explosions. Many of today’s modern day filmmakers could take a lesson or two from Jurassic Park.JP 3

I’m sure everyone has seen Jurassic Park but in the event if you haven’t or, if you’re like me, and you haven’t revisited it recently, do yourself a favor and rewatch it today. It hasn’t lost any of its appeal and is just as engaging in 2015 as it was 22 years ago. And besides, it has Samuel L. Jackson in it, the man who is in everything today. ‘Nuff said right there.

Next time, we journey back to 1997s The Lost World: Jurassic Park. How does the original sequel stand up to the test of time?