Maggie

Director: Henry Hobson (2015)

As his daughter turns into a zombie, a father faces a terrible dilemma in this bleak gothic horror.

Fresh from the debacle of Terminator Genisys, Arnold Schwarzenegger plays against type in this thoughtful character study.

Sparse on action, low on budget and long on mood, it’s an admirable and interesting departure from Arnie’s usual flavour of explosive adventure.

It’s such a strange stitching together of component parts it could be a new round of TV’s improvisational game show Whose Line Is It Anyway?

Make a film with ‘zombies’ in the style of ‘Terence Malick’ starring ‘Schwarzenegger’. Go!

It’s a barking idea, albeit a welcome one. A provocative and almost perverse retooling of the Schwarzenegger brand.

Arnie plays Wade, tired, heavy footed farmer in a beard and lumberjack shirt. We meet him taking his daughter Maggie (Abigail Breslin) home from hospital.

Maggie is infected with the Necrombulist virus which decays the skin and changes the victim into flesh eating animal.

Wade knows Maggie will never recover from the virus which has devastated the world. Friends in the local services collude against the federal authorities to help them spend some final quality time together.

As Maggie slowly changes Wade ponders how to deal with her inevitable decline.

It’s an apocalyptic world of burning fields, missing person posters, deserted petrol stations and rubbish filled streets. Marshal law and curfews are enforced by an oppressive bureaucracy and a heavy handed military.

As the camera chases Maggie across fields, she’s backlit with the sun creating a halo. There’s an emphasis on close up head shots in shallow focus. The palette is washed out, chilly and grim.

With a doomed father/daughter relationship it has echoes of John Wayne’s The Seachers (1956). Arnie has the rigidly defined acting range of the Duke and a similarly framed and monumental presence.

It’s the flip-side of Life After Beth (2014) which was played for laughs.

Maggie is well constructed, intelligent, ambitious and achieves a scope beyond it’s budget limitations. Kudos to Arnie for using his industry clout to have it made.

But with it’s sombre, reflective tone and focus on parental guilt, broken homes and self-harm, it’ll disappoint anyone who is expecting the Terminator to turn up and save the day.

Terminator Genisys

Director: Alan Taylor (2015)

The psychotic cyborg franchise suffers a serious metal fatigue as it clanks into gear for a fifth time.

Despite a sprightly comedy turn by Arnold Schwarzenegger, it’s a dull and stupid sci-fi clunker with a confused script, curious casting, a jokey tone and variable CGI.

It’s little more than a rusty collection of old parts bashed together in a wreckers yard and re-tooled as a generic family friendly action movie.

In 2029, the leader of the resistance John Connor (Jason Clarke), leads the war against the machines and the Skynet operating system.

Skynet sends a Terminator (Schwarzenegger) to the year 1984 to kill John’s mother Sarah (Emilia Clarke). So John sends his trusted lieutenant Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) back in time to protect her.

What follows is a time-hopping mess full of routine action scenes devoid of character worthy of our interest.

It ends up in 2017 where the good guys have to save the future of mankind by attempting to unplug an app called genisys. That’s right, the big bad is an app.

The app is played by former Dr Who Matt Smith and it’s appearance and manner will seem familiar to anyone who remembers The Red Queen in Resident Evil (2002).

Because quantum nexus nonsense something, there are multiple versions of Terminators, explosions, cheap laughs and no chemistry between the romantic leads.

Emilia Clarke has the  unenviable task of replacing Linda Hamilton as Sarah Conner. She lacks the ripped intensity, plays her part like a stroppy teen and isn’t given any opportunity to suggest she can carry a major movie.

Famous for her frequent nudity in the TV series Games of Thrones, fans of the show may be disappointed she is always fully dressed.

Courtney was in the most recent and most terrible entry in the Die Hard franchise, A Good Day To Die Hard (2013). Here he’s awful: bland, smug and possessing less range and vitality than the robots.

Never more human than when he’s playing a robot, Schwarzenegger plays his once menacing character for broad, kiddie-friendly laughs.

It’s a vaudeville grandfather performance and I expected him to start handing out Wether’s Originals and pulling out silver pennies from behind a small child’s ears.

J.K. Simmons plays a bald cop, replacing Lance Henriksen who played a bald cop in the original film.

We see the Golden Gate Bridge destroyed in a tsunami of pixels. That’s not something I’ve seen in the cinema since Dwayne Johnson’s disaster movie San Andreas (2015) appeared last month.

Where the first two films arrogantly smashed their way into cinemas, this shuffles on with an apologetic air and tries to pander to the audience. And no-one likes a needy and pathetic kiss ass.

The Terminator (1984) was a ferocious sci-fi thriller and Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) was an SFX action spectacular.

Officially referred to as a reset not a reboot or a sequel, this film ejects Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003) and Terminator Salvation (2009) form the canon. There was also a TV spin off show.

Both benefitted from James Cameron’s extraordinary storytelling but we have no such master-craftsman here. At one point the director is really confused and riffs on Cameron’s navy SEALs in space shoot ’em up Aliens (1986).

There’s lots of humour but little that’s funny, just a lot of knowing winks to the first film which may confuse anyone not familiar with the first film, made thirty years ago.

Skeletal robots are frequently walking out of exploding walls of fire.

Lines cherished in geekdom such as ‘I’ll be back’ and ‘Come with me if you want to live’ are delivered and followed by a pregnant pause, presumably for the audience to register and laugh.

But if this is your first Terminator film, it will be just a weirdly delivered line of no particular relevance.

It all makes little sense and by halfway through I didn’t care if the machines and Skynet won.