Director: Alan Taylor
Notable Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jason Clarke, Emilia Clarke, Jai Courtney, JK Simmons, Byung-hun Lee, and a cameo by Matt Smith
Terminator Genisys is a reboot stuck in a conundrum. Just from the overwhelming fan reaction that said “we don’t want new, we want more of the same!” that erupted after Terminator Salvation attempted to take the franchise in a new direction, the makers of Genisys almost had to comply. But how do you make a new trilogy and still give the audience the rehashed elements that they so desperately cried for? This is how you do it. You take the greatest hit elements of the first two films, blend them in with new technology by changing Skynet from a defense program to an app, and hope to God that something sticks. Unfortunately, with Genisys almost none of it works. Standing in the shadow just another recently released sequel/reboot called Jurassic World, it’s almost dire just how terrible this film is – one that is certain to enrage fans of the franchise.
John Connor (Clarke) and Kyle Reese (Courtney) are on the brink of winning the war against Skynet in 2027, but just like Connor predicted, Skynet sent back a Terminator to 1984. He’s left with no choice: he must send back Reese to make sure history continues the way it’s supposed to. When Reese arrives though, Sarah Connor (the other Clarke) is not the waitress who needs a protector. She already has a reprogrammed Terminator (Schwarzenegger) for that, and another killer T-1000 (Lee) is waiting for him. This time it's different.
|The wheels on the bus go off a bridge, off a bridge, off a bridge...
There's a few moments in Genisys where Kyle Reese, played with a super limited range by Jai Courtney, asks if there is an off switch to keep our resident protector unit from trying to explain the plot as it begins to get more complicated. I'm not sure if this was intentional because the plot was already SO GODDAMN COMPLICATED or an indicator to the audience to not think about the film because it DOESN'T MAKE ANY GODDAMN SENSE. If you were a fan of the original film or the sequel, which generally made sense from a loose time travel standpoint, then you’re going to feel like you’ve been left in the past with how this film treats its plot. Some questions are obviously answered, like why Arnold ages (“Old, but not obsolete.”) but then the simple fact that Sarah and Kyle DON’T have sex in 1984 to even create John Connor who later becomes the villain (not a spoiler, it's in the damn trailer) makes the rest of the film moot from a logistical standpoint. There will not be a John Connor, at least not like the one we see as the villain for the rest of the movie. But like Kyle indicates, don’t try and think about the relentless plot progressions or massive soul devouring plot holes that arise…you won’t come back from that kind of mindfuck.
To make matters worse, the film focuses so much on the plot and moving it along that it often sacrifices two ingredients that might have saved the film: characters and action. The first Terminator film was a film whose tone and characters saved it from a low budget B-grade fate and the attempts at homage to that film in Genisys are met with resounding failure. It’s a bad day at the movies when the Terminator has better screen presence then the rest of the cast. Most of the secondary cast is left out to dry with hum drum pieces (J.K. Simmons and Byung-hun Lee are massive talents wasted here in throwaway roles) and the film has to be carried by Emilia Clarke and Jai Courtney. Neither are seemingly strong enough to overcome the scripts mighty, mighty flaws and their characters come off as flat and unfitting. Both are decent actors in the right roles, so one knows it has to be the film more than them. Even a lot of the humor that they attempt to deliver stumbles out of the gate. There were moments that could have worked, like the arrest sequence that is utterly ruined by the Cops theme, but over and over again it just fails.
That leaves us with the action, the one thing that could have saved the entire film from swirling down the drain. Hell, if it wasn’t for some strong action set pieces the third film Rise of the Machines would have been downright abysmal, so it can work—just not here. It’s obvious that Genisys tries desperately to inject plenty of the “classic” Terminator action beats that fans would crave. Chase sequences featuring a liquid metal man, plenty of robots smashing each other through walls, a big vehicle chase destruction set, and even the factory setting for the finale. What happens though is that despite these attempts at creating memorable action, almost none of it sticks. If it wasn’t for the semi-fun Arnold versus Arnold fight in the opening that’s way too brief, Genisys wouldn’t have anything that feels fresh. This redundancy is partnered with an unusual lack of tension too. Never once did I find myself fearing for their safety and the lack of ‘life or death consequences’ made much of the action yawn inducing instead of edge of your seat material. Genisys gets a B for effort in this category, but it’s far too little and far too late to save this film.
|You've got to hand it to him, he keeps this film afloat.
As a longtime fan, it saddens me that the franchise would see a new low with this reboot for the franchise. Terminator Genisys is simply too much nonsensical plot, not enough character work, and too redundant in its homage to the original films to be a worthy successor for this series. There is so many more specific complaints I have about the film (particularly in the plot holes), but it’s not worth the time to dive into those when there are better films to use my time to bring attention to. For fans, Genisys is going to be a huge disappointment and for new fans, I hope they rediscover the brilliance of the first two films instead of latching onto what this film has to offer.
Written By Matt Reifschneider