By BRUCE DENNILL
Terminator: Genisys / Directed by Alan Taylor / PG13 5
Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice / Directed by Zack Snyder / 13V 3
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 / Directed by Francis Lawrence / PG13 4
The Man From UNCLE / Directed by Guy Ritchie / 13V 7
When a film is successful and its makers (or others in the same industry) feel that it’s a good idea to make another one in the same vein, that’s fair enough – it makes obvious business sense. This is true even when the later installments in the original series become progressively worse (The Matrix, anyone?). But when a new film is marketed as a “reboot”, there are plenty of grounds for suspicion, as the thinking appears to be this: “We have a good core idea, and it’s been a while since the last chapter, so we’re safe putting out a retread with a few tweaks.” The truth, though, is that even with Arnold Schwarzenegger back in his signature role, there’s simply not enough wiggle room in the formula to come up with anything that’s both new and viable as a plot mechanism in Terminator: Genisys. So there is another bit of time travel, another apocalyptic battle, another set of questions regarding who will be who in the future or who did what in the past and what impact that had, and a fair bit of CGI to make the ageing Schwarzenegger look younger than he is. All of this makes for a watchable action shoot-em-up, but one that groans under the expectation of living up to its heritage.
The concept of this Batman V Superman needed a lot of hard-selling when it was first mooted, and that’s not surprising, given that superheroes are supposed to be the good guys. Many, many millions of marketing dollars later, audiences were willing to accept, at least in principle, that folks who are occasionally responsible for the destruction of half a city or who don’t mind using dirty tactics to take down a few corrupt politicians should be held accountable. But a potentially exciting – if convoluted – idea is ruined by endless truckloads of bombast and a consistently sour tone. Neither Henry Cavill as Superman/Clark Kent nor Ben Affleck as Batman/Bruce Wayne is bad, but both actors are sidelined by daft plotting and a plodding script dotted with random acts of CGI (possibly slotted in because there was no other way to join disparate threads). The piece is far too long, and though, from DC’s point of view, the wheels need to be kept in motion ahead of the next chapter (Gal Gadot’s Wonderwoman enjoys far more than a cameo), it could have left the better part of an hour out without losing any power. And Jesse Eisenberg must find a way to eradicate his performance as Lex Luthor from his CV – it’s his weakest role and a blight on an otherwise excellent record.
“Part 2”. Alarm bell words, as they speak of an unwillingness or inability to edit effectively. The entire series has been overwrought, but the nature of the stories’ core concept, which fluidly combined corruption, blood-sport and er, reality TV was strong enough in the first couple of films to carry the teary complexity of the relationships and the self-indulgence of the central characters. By stretching the Mockingjay chapter to two films, all the franchise’s makers have done is suggest that its termination is for the best, rather than going out on a high. Jennifer Lawrence’s screen presence is just about enough to hold everything together, and Julianne Moore with steel-grey locks adds a new focal point, even if it’s not as compelling as it should be. The winding up of the story means that some of the characters have become expendable, and there are a range of dangerous situations in which they can meet their ends. But beyond a couple of breathless moments in which you have to take a moment to process the dedication of Panem’s rulers to their own nefarious ends, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 is little more than a lengthy denouement to a story that lost much if its vitality some time ago.
There are two kinds of spy films – those that replicate the complexity of the actual act of spying, using brief action sequences as levity after viewers have waded through huge amounts of strategising and plot extrapolation and those that place good looking individuals in unlikely situations and throw in a bit of intrigue to balance out all the tongue-in-cheek joshing going on elsewhere. The Man From UNCLE is firmly in the latter camp, and nobody familiar with the ouvre of the piece’s director, Guy Ritchie, wuill be terribly surprised. The story involves the unwilling collaboration of CIA agent Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill) and KGB man Illya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer). This set-up ensures that the characters will share a range of useful and possibly lethal skills and that they will seek to use them – even if they’re working towards the same goal – in a way that keeps the pair on their toes as they continue to try to outdo each other and establish which of them is the alpha dog. There is plenty of suaveness and a ream of droll asides, and Ritchie keeps the action slick, fast and loud enough to entertain throughout. Unburdened by the expectations that go with a new Bond flick, this offers the same sort of approach, and is perhaps more successful in that endeavour.