Monday, 6 July 2015

Reboots, Remakes and Nostalgia

Summer blockbusters this year seem to all be about nostalgia. First there was "Mad Max: Fury Road", bringing the road warrior back to the big screen for the first time since 1985. Then we had "Jurassic World", to enormous blockbuster success. Now we have "Terminator: Genisys", living up to the eternal promise of 'I'll be back'. Like a lot of people my age (let's say, thirty-ish) I remember the original films from the first time around (except for Mad Max, which I watched in the Nineties) and have a lot of warm and fuzzy feelings about them. I was too young to see Terminator until about a decade after its release but I watched T:2 when it came out on VHS and absolutely loved it. Of the three franchises, it was Jurassic Park that held a very special place in my heart; I saw it four times in the cinema when it came out in 1993 and loved every minute of it.

I'll admit, I'm still a little sad that movies aren't all that original anymore and rely on glories of the past to get bums on seats. If it's not superhero movies getting a reboot every two years, it's sequels to franchises that have been out of the limelight for two decades. Saying that, I have been thoroughly enjoying the current wave of sequels. Watching the latest Terminator addition got me thinking about this; I should probably hate all these films, for not living up to my memories of their founders, for trying to ruthlessly cash-in on established franchises with a strong fan-base. But I don't. All have been entertaining, all have made going to the cinema something I wanted to do (it's rare for any film to make me want to spend the cash for the big screen anymore) and most of all, I've felt that all have respected their origins. Some have done it better than others but none have made me feel like they're shitting all over their roots. In fact one of the things I like best about Terminator: Genisys is that it removes films 3 and 4 entirely from the timeline, two films that did not respect the original at all. Still hate the title though.

Of the three, I think Mad Max Fury: Road has done the best job of bringing something new to the table. It spun the whole Mad Max premise around and created a film that isn't all about Max, but about the female characters and their experiences in a post-apocalyptic world. Obviously that's going to chime with my feminist leanings but aside from that it was a really good film; the action is astounding, and with no CGI all the more impressive. The performances were incredibly convincing and the script was clever enough to not seem all that clever. This is not to say that Jurassic World was worse in any significant way, it was just different. Like Terminator, it's a retread of the story from the first film, and it works. But the thing that both Mad Max: Fury Road and Jurassic World have in common is that they work as stand-alone films. You don't have to have seen or know anything about the originals to enjoy them. And this is where Terminator: Genisys has a problem.

In all honesty, I really enjoyed the latest Terminator movie but I suspect a lot of that comes from loving the first and second films, and hating the third and fourth additions. But it doesn't work so well as a stand-alone film, and that closeness to its predecessors is only going to hurt it. This is no Terminator or T:2, and it does suffer in comparison. But the very nature of the film demands you to know those two movies well, especially the first one, the strongest of the franchise. James Cameron has given his seal of approval, going so far as to say that he sees Terminator: Genisys as the third film in the series. But it may not be enough to save it; initial reviews have been largely poor and the box office takings low (as of Sunday 05/07). It's a shame, as it's taking the story in a new direction, one that could be very interesting. But I won't be holding my breath for the next instalment.

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