Tag Archives: Joel Schumacher

Where “Terminator: Dark Fate” went wrong and could now lose $150 million

Last night I went and belatedly saw the sixth movie in the Terminator series, which is sort-of the third because the script wisely ignores what happened in the 3rd, 4th and 5th movies and the TV series.

It needs a gross of $450-$480 million just to break even.

It cost $185 or $196 million to make depending on whom you believe and it needs to gross $450-$480 million just to break even.

It is reportedly facing an estimated loss of $100 million to $150 million. Now I know why.

The action scenes were edited too tightly and the non-action scenes were edited too slackly.

Only my opinion, of course – and what do I know?

But parts of the action sequences were cut to the point of disjointed abstraction – a style which seems to me to have started with the overly-edited action scenes in Joel Schumacher’s un-involving Batman & Robin in 1997.

And, in non-action scenes in a modern movie, you really do not need to see what I sat through in Terminator: Dark Fate – people walking or driving to a new location to get into the next scene. It’s padding; just as some conversational scenes were thrown in to create atmosphere but without any plot point. They were padding which varied the pace (good) but did not develop the plot (bad).

There was one missed chance where a mini-revelation which might have been quite effective was ruined by a shot in the promotional trailer.

Arnie may have aged 27 years, but why did the machine?

And – a big thing because it troubled me all the way through – it was never explained how or why Arnold Schwarzenegger’s character – a terminator – had physically aged 27 years since the second film. He’s a robot! Arnold Schwarzenegger has aged 27 years, but why would a robot/cyborg/machine age like a human?

At least try to throw in an explanation.

For fuck’s sake, the movie cost $185 or $196 million to make: at least plug any holes which might detract from the audience’s willing suspension of disbelief.

It’s all the more surprising because there were signs that the whole thing might have been influenced by some committee which included (God help us) marketing people.

I like movies with kick-ass female action heroes but this one had three central female action heroes (well, two-and-a-half) and no male action hero – Yes, Arnie was introduced after a bit, but he really filled the traditional ‘sidekick to the hero’ role with action added. The feminist role casting, good in itself, may have arguably backfired because it was over-calculated.

Perhaps the commendable feminist role-casting backfired?

One other, admittedly very minor, point is that the title Terminator: Dark Fate doesn’t really mean anything specific. It can be argued in vague terms that a ‘dark fate’ for the human race is averted but, really, there is nothing specific to the plot of this movie. 

It’s a generic piece of title waffle.

It smacks of some focus group or studio suit coming up with a seemingly ‘sexy’ but generic movie title.

Dark Fate is a phrase with a seeming ‘hook’ for an audience. But, really, you could sub-title any movie that – from Iron Man: Dark Fate to Beverly Hills Cop: Dark Fate to Snow White: Dark Fate – with as much relevance and effect.

It’s not big; it’s not clever. Not mean, not lean, not clean.

Just titular waffle, missus.

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Hobbs & Shaw and the John Wick films: nonsense plots – Why does Wick work?

Hobbs & Shaw – Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham – full of sound and fury signifying nothing.

I saw Hobbs & Shaw tonight. The spin-off movie from the Fast & Furious franchise.

Now, everyone’s tastes are different and this is only my own personal view and, anyway, what on earth do I know about making multi-million dollar mega-movies? But…

What a load of old rubbish.

It’s technically very proficient, there’s a staggering amount of work put into it and it looks like all the money (an alleged $200 million) is up there on screen and I can see why it is making a lot of money at the US box office… but what a load of old cobblers.

I don’t necessarily object to scripts that are utter nonsense.

Keanu Reeves starred as John Wick – cobblers but compulsive

The storylines for all three of the John Wick movies are similarly a right load of old cobblers. But all three (especially the third, which allegedly cost only $75 million) are tremendously enjoyable. Whereas Hobbs & Shaw was not; it was like The Blues Brothers, where you just watched lots happening and the budget spiral on screen. (It cost around $30 million in 1980.)

But I don’t think the plot of Hobbs & Shaw (though nonsense) was the main problem.

It is what I like to think of as the Batman & Robin problem.

The first Batman movie franchise was brought down by Batman & Robin, directed by the usually fairly dependable Joel Schumacher.

The trouble with Batman & Robin was that there was a lot happening. 

Which is fine.

But a lot of the action scenes involved special visual effects, which meant that there was no way to effectively have an establishing shot or wide shot of the action… because the action was actually NOT happening – it was a series of abstract action shots.

There was not really any easy way round that because of the use of post-production effects.

With Hobbs & Shaw there was a similar problem, though it looked like a lot of the effects were physical not visual effects.

Lots of quick-cutting to make it all feel frantic and exciting for the video-game-playing, post-MTV generation. But they were abstract, fast-moving action shots so, deep-down, the viewer (I, at least) was distanced rather than drawn into the action sequences.

To confuse matters, Chad Stahelski and David Leitch (both former stuntmen) co-directed the first John Wick movie. Stahelski, solo, directed the second and third John Wick movies and Leitch went on to direct Hobbs & Shaw.

But back to audiences being psychologically involved in action sequences…

My favourite film is probably still The Wild Bunch (1969), Sam Peckinpah’s western set in 1913 about “nine men who came too late and stayed too long” – a movie which you can maybe only fully appreciate once you are over a certain age.

Sam Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch – “If they move, kill ‘em!”

A UK director once pointed out to me something I had never noticed about Sam Peckinpah films and which certainly holds true for The Wild Bunch.

The director pointed out to me that Peckinpah almost always uses a wide shot at the very beginning of (not just) action sequences.

Having established that – having put into the audience’s brain the exact location of the characters in relation to each other and in relation to the location of the scene – he could do whatever he wanted including the Big Subliminally-Audience-Alienating No-No of continually ‘crossing the line’.

Because your brain knew the layout of the location and the characters, it didn’t matter if he crossed the line. He could do anything, because you ‘believed’ in the reality of the scene.

The trouble with the action in Batman and Robin and in Hobbs & Shaw, to my mind, is that – certainly in the fight and battle scenes I saw tonight – you are just watching movement within the individual shots. It’s movie-movie action aplenty and your eyes may be stimulated by the movements, but your brain is not anchored in what it feels to be a real scene.

In the John Wick films, the geography of the action scenes is much clearer and therefore the brain believes it is within the action not just objectively watching the action.

My point is that the plots of the John Wick movies and Hobbs & Shaw are all bollocks. But, because my willing suspension of disbelief was deployed in the John Wick movies but only my eyes were deployed in Hobbs & Shaw, I came out of the latter saying to someone: “What a load of old rubbish”.

I came out of John Wick 3 saying: “That was a load of old rubbish, but it was SO enjoyable.”

On the other hand, it could just be me writing a load of old rubbish in this blog.  

Everyone’s tastes are different and this is only my personal view and what on earth do I know about making multi-million dollar mega-movies?

Bugger all.

That’s it.

 

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