I, too, love “The Terminator.”
But just because I enjoyed that film in 1984 doesn’t mean I want to sit through a witless dinner-theater retread of the movie featuring a cast that is capable of much better.
Take Adrianne Palicki, for example, who plays Sarah Connor in this film. Beautiful girl, and her work on “Friday Night Lights” proves she’s more than just a pretty face. She’s a genuinely skilled actress who seems to be drawn to roles where she gets to play damaged or where she’s pushed to extremes. Or take Lucas Black, who’s been consistently good in pretty much everything he’s done since he was a kid in “Sling Blade.” Then there’s Dennis Quaid, who has often been better than the movies he was in, a big bag of charisma in search of the right vehicle. Even Charles Dutton strikes me as a guy you shouldn’t just waste like this.
My guess is Screen Gems paid well to make sure they had a big cast they could sell since they knew they were working with a first time filmmaker here. They were smart enough to put their one great image — angels with machine guns — front and center in all the marketing materials, and it seems to get people excited. But it’s a shell game, because there’s not a single fresh character beat or a genuinely good scene in the film.
You like that red-band trailer with the foul-mouthed fanged granny who runs up the wall? Well, that’s the whole scene. You like that clip of Doug Jones as the freaky ice cream man? You’ve seen every second of his screen time. And the worst part about showing those two bits out of context is that there’s not another moment in the film that even comes close to the invention on display in those beats. And in context, they’re so thrown away that they really don’t resonate at all.
Ultimately, it all falls on Paul Bettany as Kyle Reese… er, I mean as the Archangel Michael. If there’s anything good I can say about the film, it’s that he seems to me to be a credible action lead based on his work here, and he shows a subtle warmth that is isn’t always present in his work. Michael’s defiance of God comes out of faith and love, and although that seems like something that would be hard to convey in a film that’s primarily about shooting things, Bettany makes it seem authentic.
It’s a good thing for Scott Stewart that he’s already got his next film as a director (“Priest,” also starring Bettany) in the can for Screen Gems, but based on how dreary and painful a sit this was, I’m not sure it’s a good thing for audiences.
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