The UnPopular Opinion: Terminator: Genisys

THE UNPOPULAR OPINION is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATHED. We're hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Enjoy!


There are some franchises that fans hold out hope for with each new film that it will somehow live up to it's iconic predessesors. Some films succeed and others fail and then there are some like the Terminator saga that have failed to live up to James Cameron's original movies in any regard. After two disappointing films, one with Arnold Schwarzenegger and one without, the series tried to reclaim it's former glory with the first in a projected trilogy. TERMINATOR: GENISYS was designed to reboot the Terminator mythology in the same way that J.J. Abrams did with STAR TREK and Bryan Singer did with X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST. While the box office results were incredibly disappointing and the critical consesus just as bad, TERMINATOR: GENISYS is actually a lot of fun for fans of the series looking for some killer robot action on the big screen.

What TERMINATOR: GENISYS is should not be mistaken or misconstrued: this is a reboot. Not a sequel but rather a tangent, Alan Taylor's film takes the story in a fresh direction that manages to erase everything in any of the previous movies and set the series on a new path with multiple possible directions. Many comparisons were made between TERMINATOR: GENISYS and the Marvel Cinematic Universe in that this was a PG-13 take on the grittier original films that was also imbued with more humor and glossy action sequences to allow it to appeal to a wider and younger target audience. The phrases "watered down" and "generic" were applied to the reviews for the movie that failed where the similarly nostalgic and glossy JURASSIC WORLD thrived and went on to become the biggest movie of the summer.

But, like any sequel to a fan favorite classic, there will always be comparisons to the original. Because TERMINATOR 2: JUDGEMENT DAY is heralded as such a masterpiece of science fiction and big budget Hollywood ambition, no sequel could ever meet expectations. That is where we as an audience made a massive mistake with TERMINATOR: GENISYS. By ever expecting this movie to be as good as T2 was dooming it to failure. In fact, many found the mere results that this movie was better than RISE OF THE MACHINES or TERMINATOR: SALVATION to mean that it came up short. If anything, TERMINATOR: GENISYS is a worthy successor to James Cameron's movies. Arnold Schwarzenegger brings much more to his performance in this movie than he did in the third film and setting the movie in a contemporary period removed the post-apocalyptic drivel that made McG's film so boring.

Like Abrams' STAR TREK, TERMINATOR: GENISYS weaves two disparate timelines briefly before sending this new adventure off on it's own direction. Essentially eliminating everything about the previous movies allows this film to eschew continuity and start from scratch. Many criticized Emilia Clarke and Jai Courtney as being lesser than Linda Hamilton and Michael Beihn, but these are not the same characters as featured in 1984's THE TERMINATOR. Because of the change in timeline sending Arnold Schwarzenegger to Sarah Connor's childhood, the character was completely changed at a fundamental level. Therefore, the new 1984 version of Sarah Connor would no longer be like the Linda Hamilton iterations of the role. Emilia Clarke imbues a balance between the naivete and badassness of Hamilton's performance to give us something new that works within the confines of this new set of rules. Jai Courtney, an actor I tend to not like, pales in comparison to the Beihn version of Reese but still creates his own take on the role of a man not only out of his own timeline but dealing with a new past, present, and future.

So, let's talk about the "twist". A lot was made of the fact that the trailers revealed that John Connor was the villain of TERMINATOR: GENISYS, a fact that director Alan Taylor blamed on the studio marketing team. Many felt that revealing the twist that the messiah of the future was now a robotic enemy cheated them out of seeing it in theaters. In reality, knowing that John Connor is altered comes within the first twenty minutes of the movie with the audience assuming he is dead until he appears and quickly showcases his newfound Skynet powers. While the use of John Connor feels like the weakest link in the movie, it serves the purpose to tell us that TERMINATOR: GENISYS does not abide by the same rules as the other movies in the franchise, opening up the future sequels to no longer be constrained by years of continuity. In fact, the change doesn't eliminate there being a new John Connor in this timeline. Everything old is new again.

Like Leonard Nimoy's role as Spock Prime in STAR TREK, Arnold Schwarzenegger brings his iconic performance to TERMINATOR: GENISYS, elevating it from a mere sequel to something more. Schwarzenegger has made The Terminator his role that no one else seems able to live up to. Sam Worthington, Kristanna Loken, and many more have tried to play robots the way Arnold has with Summer Glau coming close, but the action legend does something none of them have been able to: imbue a humanity to the character. Ironically, Schwarzenegger is the most wooden and least talented of the aforementioned actors but he has learned through this series how to slowly grow the Frankenstein's monster of the T-800 and make him become human. "Pops" is the most human of the Terminators that we have seen Arnold play and it doesn't come across as hokey but rather the next evolution from TERMINATOR 2. Sure, some of his scenes smiling and protecting Sarah Connor like her father could be construed as cheesy, but looking back at similar scenes in Cameron's lauded sequel are equally goofy in their execution.

TERMINATOR: GENISYS is a satisfactory reboot to a franchise that deserves to have James Cameron back in the driver's seat. But, with the special effects and action setpieces more than thrilling on the big screen and several plot threads left open for future sequels, this is a movie that promotes the potential for more TERMINATOR in the future. While the prospects of such sequels are looking tentative at best right now, we may not see the glut of metallic skulls and liquid metal bad guys that we deserve. In thirty years, we have gotten five Terminator films but we deserve a lot more. While imperfect in several ways, including the cumbersome new time travel rules, TERMINATOR: GENISYS is a great jumping off point for another filmmaker and director to come in and take things to the next level.

Oh, and if you have any suggestions for The UnPopular Opinion I’m always happy to hear them. You can send along an email to [email protected], spell it out below, slap it up on my wall in Movie Fan Central, or send me a private message via Movie Fan Central. Provide me with as many movie suggestions as you like, with any reasoning you'd care to share, and if I agree then you may one day see it featured in this very column!
Source: JoBlo.com



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