Review: Terminator: Genisys
PLOT: After defeating Skynet, John Connor (Jason Clarke) sends soldier Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) back in time to protect his mother Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke) who’s been targeted for termination. When Reese arrives in 1984, he discovers that Sarah is more than prepared to fend for herself, having been raised by a paternal T-800 “Pops” (Arnold Schwarzenegger). Now, the three of them must stop a diabolical new plan to launch Judgment Day in 2017 in an alternate timeline where the machines will be able to exterminate mankind once and for all.
REVIEW: Here we go. Walking into TERMINATOR: GENISYS I’ll admit I was skeptical. Having been raised on the first two movies, I’ve watched in horror as the franchise has just been run into the ground thanks to subpar, James Cameron-less follow-ups, with TERMINATOR: SALVATION arguably being the series nadir. On the positive side, fans can rest assured that GENISYS is far better than SALVATION as for all of its faults it has one giant Austrian ace up its sleeve. But, being better than TERMINATOR: SALVATION isn’t much of an achievement.
Truly, a TERMINATOR film couldn’t and shouldn’t be made without Arnold Schwarzenegger. He’s the face of the franchise and for good reason as he proves here just how much goodwill he can generate for even the slightest material. Sure enough, GENISYS is pretty bad, but Arnold keeps it from being the outright disaster it no doubt would have been without him.
There’s been much buzz over how the timelines are played with, making this a kind of BACK TO THE FUTURE 2 of TERMINATOR sequels. This franchise retconning is headache inducing as the more you think about it logically, the more the premise starts to fall apart. Then again, no one goes to these movies for realism so if the film had at least been entertaining this would have been forgiven. Sadly, it’s not entertaining at all.
At its worst, TERMINATOR: GENISYS is simply a watered-down PG-13 cliffs notes version of the franchise, designed to appeal to the family audience that has made the Marvel movies so massive. As such, of the two hour run time, at least ninety percent of it is devoted to CGI heavy chase scenes where the laws of physics need not apply. This is the kind of movie where Reese and a Terminator chase each other in CGI helicopters that pull 360 degree flip-flops under bridges while flying through explosions, while Clarke’s Sarah Connor and Arnie fire cannons out the back seemingly destroying half of San Francisco. It seems director Alan Taylor has been brought on board to bring this as close to being a Marvel movie as possible, complete with franchise building, comic relief (including a decades-late shout out to ‘Cops’) and even a post-credits tease.
The only way this movie could really work is for younger audiences who have never seen the first two films. They won’t know what they’re missing so they might have fun. Those of us that have seen the first two aren’t so lucky. The absolute worst thing about this reboot is how the Sarah Connor/Kyle Reese romance has been watered down. The life and death romance of the first film is gone, replaced by lots of chases and no romance. Emilia Clarke and Jai Courtney don’t fare well in their parts as neither seems to be taking the film at all seriously – but can you blame them? All Clarke and Courtney get to do is shoot-weapons and make wisecracks – neither has any personality whatsoever. Jason Clarke as John Connor fares even worse, with a truly boneheaded decision having been made along the way to totally revamp the part, with a twist (that’s revealed in the trailers but which I won’t go into here) betraying everything about the character that we know. For his part, Clarke – normally a good actor – is bland.
Basically, this is Arnie’s show. While playing a machine, he’s the only one that shows any life. Truly he’s got the part down cold, and when he’s on-screen the movie comes close to working. His age is addressed, and he even manages to convey a little warmth towards Emilia Clarke, with the twist here being that she has better chemistry with him than with Courtney. The only time this movie entertains is when Arnie’s doing his thing, but don’t think for a second this is his movie. He gets star billing, but he’s supporting Courtney and Clarke, with him being off-screen for big chunks of time. Outside of Arnie, the only one who shows any life is J.K Simmons as the defacto comic relief, being a paranoid cop who ran afoul Byung-hun Lee’s T-1000 in 1984.
It’s really a shame that TERMINATOR: GENISYS is such a lame addition to the franchise as clearly Arnold is still capable of playing the part. Outside of James Cameron or a really inspired director coming on board to revamp things it seems like creatively this is the end of the road for the franchise. While we might get more movies, they’ll be TERMINATOR in name only, which is basically all this is.
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