The latest Terminator movie, Dark Fate, struggles to give satisfying emotional arcs to its large cast of characters. Writer Sara Lynn Michener says it doesn’t help that a large chunk of the movie is wasted on a bombastic action sequence set aboard an exploding cargo plane.
“I think there’s this idea with, especially, male directors where they get really excited about trying to top what’s been done before, but do it even bigger and better and more Michael Bay-ish,” Michener says in Episode 386 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast. “And I’m like, really? Are we really doing that in 2019? It’s very upsetting.”
Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy host David Barr Kirtley agrees that the cargo plane sequence was silly, and stands in sharp contrast to the sense of realism captured in the franchise’s best installments, The Terminator and Terminator 2: Judgment Day.
“To my mind, the power of those movies comes from the juxtaposition of these creepy robots from the future set against this completely believable everyday reality,” he says. “And when you make it evil robots from the future in sort of a superhero milieu, it just doesn’t work. There’s no contrast anymore.”
Over-the-top action scenes aren’t just eye-rolling, they’re also expensive. Screenwriter Rafael Jordan warns that needlessly bloated budgets are placing unrealistic expectations on sci-fi movies. “The last three [Terminator] installments all made around $400 million, and based on first weekend grosses this is right in line with that,” he says. “There have been a whole series of films—the recent Star Trek films, Alita, Tron: Legacy—that make $400 million and are deemed failures, and this is just going to be another one of those. Hollywood has to figure out a way to make $400 million a viable amount of money again.”
Dark Fate represents Hollywood’s third attempt to continue the story of Terminator 2, after the 2003 film Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines and the 2008 TV series The Sarah Connor Chronicles. Science fiction author Anthony Ha says that the scaled-down TV version arguably surpasses its big budget rivals in terms of storytelling.
“Obviously a lot of IP is moving to TV,” he says. “So if [Terminator] were to come back—and I’m not necessarily convinced it will—I think it might come back as a TV show.”
Listen to the complete interview with Sara Lynn Michener, Rafael Jordan, and Anthony Ha in Episode 386 of Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy (above). And check out some highlights from the discussion below.
Sara Lynn Michener on James Cameron:
“James Cameron has this really charming idea of feminism, and his only real issue with that is that he hasn’t really updated it since the ’90s. I mean, when I saw Alita: Battle Angel, it felt like a wonderful movie that came out in 1995—other than the effects. … But he has this strong female obsession thing, and I think that unfortunately there’s sort of this strong female thing where it ends up being this commercialized ‘Megan Fox happens to know how to repair motorcycles’ thing, and it’s always this super-sexualized idea of a strong woman, and James Cameron’s women were not really that. And so that resonated with me very strongly. I loved The Abyss, I loved Aliens, I loved the Terminator movies. So it was a very formative part of my upbringing.”
Rafael Jordan on screenwriting:
“In general what happens is you wait and wait to get a job, and then the minute you’re hired it’s an extreme rush. There’s never enough time, and that’s the unfortunate thing, because the minute they call you they’re like, ‘Hey, so we’re finally greenlit, and we need the script immediately to secure the bond and the financing, so can you give it to us in a week?’ And you’re like, ‘What? No. I mean, I can give you something in a week, but are you going to guarantee I’ve got time to fix it and make it right?’ And sometimes you get that time, sometimes you don’t. … But trust me, these writers are pulling their hair out, and sometimes they’re sequestering themselves in hotel rooms for six to eight weeks if they get that luxury. But they’re definitely trying to make it better, it’s just such an uphill battle for quality, always.”
Anthony Ha on the Rev-9:
“My sense is that none of the sequels—including Dark Fate—has found a way to top the T-1000. I feel like that was pretty close to the Platonic ideal of a Terminator villain. But this is an interesting variation, and the visuals I think are very striking, and it definitely makes for some interesting action scenes, because you’ve essentially got two different Terminators with one brain going after [people]. I wish they’d done a little bit more to explore the powers of the Rev-9. … Like if [the two forms] had complementary powers, so the soft version is really good at insinuating himself into different situations, but the skeleton is there for brute strength. Something that makes it seem more distinctive.”
David Barr Kirtley on Arnold Schwarzenegger:
“The movie kind of lost me when they meet Arnold Schwarzenegger. I love Arnold Schwarzenegger, he’s great, but I already saw him as the good Terminator in three other movies. It’s been done, I hate the corny humor, and I felt like once he enters the story, it becomes much too focused on him rather than developing the relationships between the other characters. … When I saw the trailers, that Arnold Schwarzenegger was going to be in this, I assumed it was going to be a cameo—that they go to the cabin, and they meet Arnold Schwarzenegger, and he tells them whatever he tells them, and then they move on. I didn’t think he was going to join the cast. And I think probably anything positive about his inclusion in this movie probably could have been incorporated into a cameo.”
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These ten enterprise M&A deals totaled over $40B in 2019
It would be hard to top the 2018 enterprise M&A total of a whopping $87 billion, and predictably this year didn’t come close. In fact, the top 10 enterprise M&A deals in 2019 were less than half last year’s, totaling $40.6 billion. This year’s biggest purchase was Salesforce buying Tableau for $15.7 billion, which would…
It would be hard to top the 2018 enterprise M&A total of a whopping $87 billion, and predictably this year didn’t come close. In fact, the top 10 enterprise M&A deals in 2019 were less than half last year’s, totaling $40.6 billion.
This year’s biggest purchase was Salesforce buying Tableau for $15.7 billion, which would have been good for third place last year behind IBM’s mega deal plucking Red Hat for $34 billion and Broadcom grabbing CA Technologies for $18.8 billion.
Contributing to this year’s quieter activity was the fact that several typically acquisitive companies — Adobe, Oracle and IBM — stayed mostly on the sidelines after big investments last year. It’s not unusual for companies to take a go-slow approach after a big expenditure year. Adobe and Oracle bought just two companies each with neither revealing the prices. IBM didn’t buy any.
Microsoft didn’t show up on this year’s list either, but still managed to pick up eight new companies. It was just that none was large enough to make the list (or even for them to publicly reveal the prices). When a publicly traded company doesn’t reveal the price, it usually means that it didn’t reach the threshold of being material to the company’s results.
As always, just because you buy it doesn’t mean it’s always going to integrate smoothly or well, and we won’t know about the success or failure of these transactions for some years to come. For now, we can only look at the deals themselves.
Jumia, DHL, and Alibaba will face off in African ecommerce 2.0
The business of selling consumer goods and services online is a relatively young endeavor across Africa, but ecommerce is set to boom. Over the last eight years, the sector has seen its first phase of big VC fundings, startup duels and attrition. To date, scaling e-commerce in Africa has straddled the line of challenge and…
The business of selling consumer goods and services online is a relatively young endeavor across Africa, but ecommerce is set to boom.
Over the last eight years, the sector has seen its first phase of big VC fundings, startup duels and attrition.
To date, scaling e-commerce in Africa has straddled the line of challenge and opportunity, perhaps more than any other market in the world. Across major African economies, many of the requisites for online retail — internet access, digital payment adoption, and 3PL delivery options — have been severely lacking.
Still, startups jumped into this market for the chance to digitize a share of Africa’s fast growing consumer spending, expected to top $2 billion by 2025.
African e-commerce 2.0 will include some old and new players, play out across more countries, place more priority on internet services, and see the entry of China.
But before highlighting several things to look out for in the future of digital-retail on the continent, a look back is beneficial.
Jumia vs. Konga
The early years for development of African online shopping largely played out in Nigeria (and to some extent South Africa). Anyone who visited Nigeria from 2012 to 2016 likely saw evidence of one of the continent’s early e-commerce showdowns. Nigeria had its own Coke vs. Pepsi-like duel — a race between ventures Konga and Jumia to out-advertise and out-discount each other in a quest to scale online shopping in Africa’s largest economy and most populous nation.
Traveling in Lagos traffic, large billboards for each startup faced off across the skyline, as their delivery motorcycles buzzed between stopped cars.
Covering each company early on, it appeared a battle of VC attrition. The challenge: who could continue to raise enough capital to absorb the losses of simultaneously capturing and creating an e-commerce market in notoriously difficult conditions.
In addition to the aforementioned challenges, Nigeria also had (and continues to have) shoddy electricity.
Both Konga — founded by Nigerian Sim Shagaya — and Jumia — originally founded by two Nigerians and two Frenchman — were forced to burn capital building fulfillment operations most e-commerce startups source to third parties.
That included their own delivery and payment services (KongaPay and JumiaPay). In addition to sales of goods from mobile-phones to diapers, both startups also began experimenting with verticals for internet based services, such as food-delivery and classifieds.
While Jumia and Konga were competing in Nigeria, there was another VC driven race for e-commerce playing out in South Africa — the continent’s second largest and most advanced economy.
E-tailers Takealot and Kalahari had been jockeying for market share since 2011 after raising capital in the hundreds of millions of dollars from investors Naspers and U.S. fund Tiger Global Management.
So how did things turn out in West and Southern Africa? In 2014, the lead investor of a flailing Kalahari — Naspers — facilitated a merger with Takealot (that was more of an acquisition). They nixed the Kalahari brand in 2016 and bought out Takelot’s largest investor, Tiger Global, in 2018. Takealot is now South Africa’s leading e-commerce site by market share, but only operates in one country.
In Nigeria, by 2016 Jumia had outpaced its rival Konga in Alexa ratings (6 vs 14), while out-raising Konga (with backing of Goldman Sachs) to become Africa’s first VC backed, startup unicorn. By early 2018, Konga was purchased in a distressed acquisition and faded away as a competitor to Jumia.
Jumia went on to expand online goods and services verticals into 14 Africa countries (though it recently exited a few) and in April 2019 raised over $200 million in an NYSE IPO — the first on a major exchange for a VC-backed startup operating in Africa.
Jumia’s had bumpy road since going public — losing significant share-value after a short-sell attack earlier in 2019 — but the continent’s leading e-commerce company still has heap of capital and generates $100 million in revenues (even with losses).
Airbnb’s New Year’s Eve guest volume shows its falling growth rate
Hello and welcome back to our regular morning look at private companies, public markets and the gray space in between. It’s finally 2020, the year that should bring us a direct listing from home-sharing giant Airbnb, a technology company valued at tens of billions of dollars. The company’s flotation will be a key event in…
Hello and welcome back to our regular morning look at private companies, public markets and the gray space in between.
It’s finally 2020, the year that should bring us a direct listing from home-sharing giant Airbnb, a technology company valued at tens of billions of dollars. The company’s flotation will be a key event in this coming year’s technology exit market. Expect the NYSE and Nasdaq to compete for the listing, bankers to queue to take part, and endless media coverage.
Given that that’s ahead, we’re going to take periodic looks at Airbnb as we tick closer to its eventual public market debut. And that means that this morning we’re looking back through time to see how fast the company has grown by using a quirky data point.
Airbnb releases a regular tally of its expected “guest stays” for New Year’s Eve each year, including 2019. We can therefore look back in time, tracking how quickly (or not) Airbnb’s New Year Eve guest tally has risen. This exercise will provide a loose, but fun proxy for the company’s growth as a whole.
Before we look into the figures themselves, keep in mind that we are looking at a guest figure which is at best a proxy for revenue. We don’t know the revenue mix of the guest stays, for example, meaning that Airbnb could have seen a 10% drop in per-guest revenue this New Year’s Eve — even with more guest stays — and we’d have no idea.
So, the cliche about grains of salt and taking, please.
But as more guests tends to mean more rentals which points towards more revenue, the New Year’s Eve figures are useful as we work to understand how quickly Airbnb is growing now compared to how fast it grew in the past. The faster the company is expanding today, the more it’s worth. And given recent news that the company has ditched profitability in favor of boosting its sales and marketing spend (leading to sharp, regular deficits in its quarterly results), how fast Airbnb can grow through higher spend is a key question for the highly-backed, San Francisco-based private company.
- 2009: 1,400
- 2010: 6,000 (+329%)
- 2011: 3,1000 (+417%)
- 2012: 108,000 (248%)
- 2013: 250,000 (+131%)
- 2014: 540,000 (+116%)
- 2015: 1,100,000 (+104%)
- 2016: 2,000,000 (+82%)
- 2017: 3,000,000 (+50%)
- 2018: 3,700,000 (+23%)
- 2019: 4,500,000 (+22%)
In chart form, that looks like this:
Let’s talk about a few things that stand out. First is that the company’s growth rate managed to stay over 100% for as long as it did. In case you’re a SaaS fan, what Airbnb pulled off in its early years (again, using this fun proxy for revenue growth) was far better than a triple-triple-double-double-double.
Next, the company’s growth rate in percentage terms has slowed dramatically, including in 2019. At the same time the firm managed to re-accelerate its gross guest growth in 2019. In numerical terms, Airbnb added 1,000,000 New Year’s Eve guest stays in 2017, 700,000 in 2018, and 800,000 in 2019. So 2019’s gross adds was not a record, but it was a better result than its year-ago tally.
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