Terminator Genisys

Release: Wednesday, July 1, 2015

[Theater]

Written by: Laeta Kalogridis; Patrick Lussier

Directed by: Alan Taylor

He’s back . . . but is he better?

Of course the answer to that one is pretty easy. Arnie himself admits it, deflecting by describing himself as “old but not obsolete” in key moments where the action lulls and the characters just have to say something. Terminator Genisys is not nearly the disaster its predecessor was but doesn’t that feel more like a kick to the metallic groin than anything else? Alan Taylor’s follow-up is more complicated than any cyborg’s internal structure, it’s frenetically paced and pretty long but it does make good on reintroducing the franchise’s iconic T-800 in his (now-creaky) glory, as well as providing some unexpected comic relief that plays on both the franchise’s longevity and Genisys‘ conceptual convolution.

This film, as much as it likes to tout the return of Arnie, is primarily concerned with the prevention of Judgment Day, as John Connor (Jason Clarke) leads the final charge against the machines amid the dire apocalyptic wasteland of the present-day established in Terminator Salvation. Seemingly having just watched X-Men: Days of Future Past, Connor believes humanity’s last hope is to send someone back in time to 1984 to kill Skynet before it becomes . . . you know, all corrupt and stuff. Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) volunteers for the mission, desperate to meet up with Sarah Connor (Khaleesi Emilia Clarke) who will be instrumental in the preventative attack. Naturally, all does not go according to plan as a cyborg in the “present” makes it known that no matter what kind of effort humans will put forth, Skynet will come out on top.

Genisys spends much of its time weaving together parallel timelines, one in which Kyle Reese has existed and another that is completely foreign to him. Given the narrative structure, it’d be a great idea to refresh yourself on your history. I didn’t, and my head hurt because of it. While the mission itself is relatively straightforward — prevent Genisys, a Google-esque “app” capable of syncing more than just your nifty devices, from coming into being (a countdown clock helps in pinpointing our position relative to the dreaded ultimatum) — the execution requires real brainwork. Genisys, more simply put, is the physical means through which Skynet would eventually spread globally in computer servers.

In some senses it’s refreshing to be in the company of a blockbuster that makes you think but there are so many throwbacks to the original and T-2 that sighing and giving up halfway through becomes inevitable when one too many fight sequences occur between the real T-800 and his digitized forms, not to mention a T-1000 reminiscent of Robert Patrick’s shape-shifter. There’s a distinct Jurassic World insipidness about the way in which the film can’t break free from the pre-established, and yet new twists abound, the details of which I won’t reveal in order to keep some of the confusion sacred for those wanting to stay in the dark. Needless to say . . . well, actually it isn’t needless but I’ll say it anyway: Matt Smith plays a role in Genisys‘ major deception.

What’s most impressive about Alan Taylor’s revisitation of these hallowed grounds is his ability to skirt around the events of the third and fourth installments. While it does use Salvation‘s final rally against Skynet as a launch pad for its intricate time traveling plot, Genisys feels more inspired by James Cameron’s world building. We quickly leave the present behind (the year is 2017 — I think) and join forces with a younger but less brash Sarah Connor and an aging T-800 who is trying to blend in more with society, at least according to Sarah. In Genisys everyone’s favorite Terminator is wittier, talkier, more conscious of those around him. The essence of the character remains in tact though a mainstream appeal has certainly been foisted upon him. It’s a credit to Schwarzenegger that his identity isn’t lost in the shuffle; he is still very much a good reason to see this film.

More difficult to embrace is Jai Courtney’s blank-slate Kyle Reese who is reminiscent of Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s soldier in Godzilla, for all intents and purposes an everyman slotted right in between two significant character arcs: Sarah’s relationship with the Terminator and with her son John, but ironically and unfortunately Courtney’s ill-equipped to carry the burden. His Reese won’t be any more, though probably not less, memorable than Anton Yelchin’s from 2009. And despite her best efforts Emilia Clarke doesn’t fare much better as the former-waitress-turned-gun-enthusiast. Together these steadily rising talents are meant to uphold Taylor’s vision of a world where humanity has its best chance of breaking Skynet’s brutal grip but they simply feel out of their depth in a story this large, especially when standing beside Schwarzenegger.

Of course, this is a franchise steeped in fascinating science fiction rather than award-winning performances. It’s getting old but it’s not quite obsolete. Not yet anyway. There’s plenty to enjoy for diehards. But with an emphasis on action and metal-on-metal showdowns it’ll prove challenging even for those viewers to juggle story and spectacle for two-plus hours. Taylor doesn’t have a good sense of pacing and seems far too eager to move on to the next set piece, which he’ll soon destroy for good measure. That becomes very problematic when dealing with timelines functioning in the present, past and future.

“Be quiet Arnie — Jai and I are trying to have chemistry.”

Recommendation: Alan Taylor manages to justify lengthening the Terminator saga, but barely. There’s a ton of narrative clutter in this film and it will leave a great many scratching their heads on their way out the door. But for simple pleasures, like seeing Arnie back in action, and crazy big explosions, the film delivers. There is a post-credits scene that nearly everyone in my screening missed out on by leaving too soon so be sure to stick around for that! 

Rated: PG-13

Running Time: 125 mins.

Quoted: “I’ve been waiting for you.”

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited.

Photo credits: http://www.impawards.com; http://www.imdb.com 

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31 thoughts on “Terminator Genisys

  1. Glad to see you had a pretty good time. When this hits DVD I might just do a Terminator run and watch them all back to back.

    • That wouldn’t be the worst thing you could do. Genisys is so damn confusing with its dual time lines and whatnot, having some immediate experience with what has come before might make it a better movie. I liked a lot of this, especially seeing Arnie back. But I recognize it’s many faults as well. I am a little annoyed to hear it’s not the end of the line, either. . .

  2. I loved the first two Terminator movies. Hard to believe T2 came out over 2 decades ago. I didn’t care for 3 or 4 so nothing short of glowing reviews could’ve put me in a seat to see a 5th one. However even I was surprised at how badly this film flopped. Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 was

    I enjoyed your review. It’s rather positive but I still can’t bring myself to take another plunge again.

    • No, I can completely understand that. Terminator Genisys is definitely a case of diminishing returns, and yet it’s still somewhat an improvement over 4. I can’t recall anything of the third, so I might have to go back and re-watch. Or just re-watch this franchise from the beginning and remind myself why this review is overly positive lol!

      On the financial front, yeah I can imagine this flopped. I saw it opening night and the theater had maybe all of 20 people in it. I was shocked

  3. Despite the, at best, average write-ups this has been getting I’m still kinda looking forward to seeing it. I’m a massive Arnie apologist and seeing him on the big screen again is great.

    • This definitely delivers good old-fashioned Arnie action. He’s the best thing this has to offer as the story is completely overcomplicated and silly. But I enjoyed it enough to recommend. I felt a 50/50 would be a tad harsh though I understand how it hasn’t worked so well for others.

  4. You liked this more than me Tom. I couldn’t get past the abundance of plot, nor the very sterile characters (apart from Arnie, who’s good fun). It did make me a laugh more than I thought it would in fairness. Great work mate!

    • There were a ton of flaws in this thing for me as well. I didn’t like how complicated it was. It was almost a chore getting through but in the end I had to give it a decently positive rating bc I did have fun. It was great seeing Arnie and like you said, he played a big role in the fun factor. And let’s be honest, this is legions better than what has directly preceded it.

        • Salvation in my opinion is a completely forgettable installment. It’s been awhile since I’ve seen it but I remember when I saw it with some friends who were much bigger Terminator fans than I and they had some major, major issues haha.

  5. Never saw the trailer, I’m thinking about seeing this. But I love T2 too much, I don’t think I’ll be capable of enjoying it! Sucks to hear Jai Courtney isn’t much good, let me guess – there are a bunch of scenes with him shirtless?

    Great writing as always mate

  6. Thorough writing as always Tom. I am intrigued by this, but like you stated in your review, it sounds like it would benefit one from being up to date with all of the movies.

    I’m pretty sure it has been a decade since I watched the second, and I missed out on Salvation. I think it would be best if I passed on this one lol!

    • The way this film develops, I’m not even sure that being completely brought up to speed on the old films would make this perfectly understandable. It’s a pretty big mess, narrative-wise. But it’s pretty fun, too. This could have been far worse. Maybe give it a rent some point. 🙂

    • Hahah! Yeah, we need to do like some sort of head-to-head post where we both go off on a tangent about Man of Steel. What didn’t work for you and what worked for moi!!!!! 😉

      Sorry for that comment I left btw, I didn’t mean for it to come off the way it did haha.

      This thing is *not* better than Man of Steel. Although seeing Arnie back in action gave me a little. . . man of steel. If you catch my drift

      • A little man of steel? I don’t get it. 😉 Lol…. I…. Don’t know what to say now! I have an odd image in my head! Your Man Of Steel comment totally cracked me up, though. I want to find another movie that we disagree on now! Did you like Interstellar???? 🙂

  7. If I see this in the theatres, I’ll be sure to stick around for the post credit scene, thanks for the heads up. I saw the trailer for this and I thought it gave away a little too much, but who knows maybe there’s another twist eg, the Matt smith one that you mentioned? Great review!

    • It’s better than advertised, I think. Unfortunately yes this is yet another victim of a spoiler-rich trailer but even given that, it’s fun seeing Arnold back in the iconic role. Even if it’s a bit different this time around. Thanks as always Eddie.

    • I can’t say I loved it but it was better than I was expecting it to be. There was just too much stuff going on all at once for this to be a truly compelling installment. Thanks for the comment!

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