Key reason Terminator and Charlie’s Angels absolutely stank


One of the few remaining jokes still permissible in 2019 goes something like this:

Q: How do you know if somebody’s a vegan?

A: Don’t worry, they’ll tell you.

The point of the gag, apart from safely pissing off the one group of people that can never beat you up, is that we live in an age where people seem more obsessed with telling you what they are than being what they are.

This was put into sharp and financially disastrous relief recently with the release of two would-be blockbusters that seemed so preoccupied with telling audiences what to think that they forgot how to get an audience in the first place.

The latest Terminator movie and Charlie’s Angels films were both part of bankable franchises backed by big studio megabucks and ads plastered all over billboards and buses. And both sank like a stone at the box office, so much so that they have probably killed off the very franchises that were supposed to prop them up.

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Kristen Stewart, Ella Balinska and Naomi Scott in the rebooted Charlie’s Angels.Source:News Regional Media

And so what terminated the Terminator? What sent Charlie’s Angels to Hollywood heaven?

Well, maybe they were just terrible movies but I wouldn’t know because like just about everyone else on the planet, I haven’t seen them. Indeed, that is the whole point. People have been so turned off that they haven’t even turned up to see for themselves.

Nor were they panned by critics ahead of their release. While there were obviously some mixed reviews, the films received positive write-ups in entertainment bibles such as Variety, Empire and Rolling Stone.

Besides, even being universally panned by critics is no impediment to box office success – just look at the woeful DC superhero films such as Batman v Superman and Justice League, which were rightly crucified yet pulled in a billion bucks each.

But while both those movies may well qualify as crimes against humanity, at least they didn’t suffer from the insufferable preachiness or buzzword bingo that seems to have crept into the once sacred site of the brainless blockbuster.

Consider how the stars of Terminator: Dark Fate and Charlie’s Angels pitched these movies to the viewing public.

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Linda Hamilton and Arnold Schwarzenegger back in action for Terminator: Dark Fate. Picture: Australscope

Linda Hamilton and Arnold Schwarzenegger back in action for Terminator: Dark Fate. Picture: AustralscopeSource:News Corp Australia

In an interview on website SyFy.com, Dark Fate’s Linda Hamilton said three female leads were cast “to service a story about three women that would feel true to every generation of women watching them on screen”.

And star angel Kristen Stewart told Capital Breakfast radio: “I feel like we present a pretty diverse array of human beings in the movie. We were all able to bring a really truthful presence.”

Earnestly prattling on about “truth” and “diversity” is nauseating at the best of times but trying to claim you’re doing a service to truth in a sci-fi fantasy about homicidal robots is a level of pretension only Hollywood could muster.

There is also something especially boring and mindless about the notion that just because a movie has a powerful female in it that it must therefore be about female empowerment or that because it has a diverse cast that it is about embracing diversity. It is the equivalent of a comedian talking about jokes instead of telling them.

By contrast, the most brilliant movies effortlessly thrust women and “people of colour” to the fore without the painful self-consciousness or condescending tokenism.

The highest grossing solo superhero movie in the Marvel franchise isn’t Captain America or Iron Man, it’s Black Panther. And despite a silly storm about sexism, Brie Larson’s Captain Marvel beat the first two Captain Americas, the first two Iron Men, all three Thors and both Spider-Mans.

Neither film did it by setting out to make a statement. They did it by being damn good movies.

Indeed, this was demonstrated perfectly in the latest Spider-Man, in which Peter Parker is virtually the only Anglo kid in his class. When I asked a couple of the cast members if this was a deliberate attempt at diversity by the filmmaker, they laughed.

No, they said, it was just what a New York high school looked like.

Likewise in the latest Star Wars trilogy the almighty Rey looks set to single-handedly save the galaxy and restore the good name of the Skywalker dynasty because she is a great character played by a great actress with a great big laser sword.

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Star Wars: The Last Jedi copped some backlash from fans. Picture: Industrial Light & Magic/Lucasfilm

Star Wars: The Last Jedi copped some backlash from fans. Picture: Industrial Light & Magic/LucasfilmSource:Supplied

Indeed, it was only when the plot line tried to make a clumsily self-conscious feminist statement – a cocky young male pilot destroys an entire fleet because the female commander won’t tell him her secret plan and Princess Leia suddenly turns out to be an immortal being who can fly through space – that it collapsed into the nonsensical farce that has been ridiculed across the planet.

Telling an audience how they should feel about a piece of art is the laziest form of artistry there is, just as telling people what you are is a poor substitute for being it.

Strong female characters, like strong women, don’t need to make statements. They are the statement.

Joe Hildebrand is editor-at-large of news.com.au and co-host of Studio 10, 8.30am weekdays on Channel 10



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