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Review: Terminator: Genisys (2015) — Quick, Someone Go Back in Time and Save This Franchise

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Terminator: Genisys (yes, that is a real title) is the fifth film in the Terminator franchise and follows the same basic premise of all but one: robot/human is sent back in time to kill/protect John Connor; an important figure in a future war with machines. In the year 2029, Skynet — in a last-ditch effort to win the war against humanity — sends a T-800 Terminator back in time to 1984 to assassinate Sarah Connor, the mother of resistance leader John. In response, Connor (Jason Clarke, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes) sends Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney, Live Free or Die Hard) back to protect her from the unstoppable machine. Upon arrival to 1984, Reese soon learns that things are not as they were anticipated, as Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke, Game of Thrones) has been raised by a re-programmed T-800 (Arnold Schwarzenegger, reprising his famous role) since the age of nine. Now that the timeline is changed, the trio must now embark on another mission to prevent Skynet from initiating Judgment Day, the end of humanity as we know it.

Does that sound confusing? Don’t worry you’re not alone, as Terminator: Genisys (real title) is one hell of a convoluted time-travel story, and the retcon from the first act is only the start of the insanity. Director Alan Taylor (Thor: The Dark World), struggles to balance the many, many various plot threads and the result is a garbled mess of a film with mediocre performances, a nonsense plot that makes less sense the more you think about it, and that frankly doesn’t even look that good.

"I'll be back. Again. And Again. And..."

“I’ll be back. Again. And Again. And…”

Honestly, the first hour or so of the movie was pretty good. I was on board for the alternate 1984, and it was fun revisiting scenes we’ve seen before, but altered slightly. This is something I also liked from Back to the Future II. Unfortunately, there is another time-jump that takes place which sends the story to the year 2017 and that’s where the movie completely implodes.

In what was spoiled by the film’s revealing marketing (skip this paragraph if you’ve managed to avoid it), the twist mid-way through the movie is that John Connor at some point in the future has been captured by Skynet and infected with nano-tech to create an all-new machine/human hybrid, the T-3000. This is another example of each subsequent movie adding a ‘new and improved’ model designed to freshen up the series. The problem is the T-1000 was the ultimate Terminator, which leaves the T-3000 (much like the T-X before it) a jumbled mess of undefined powers and abilities. Add in the fact that it looks kind of like a robotic Skeletor from the 1987 Masters of the Universe, and I’m not impressed.

See!

See!

Really, it’s no surprise that the only real actor that I enjoyed watching was Schwarzenegger. Ever since returning to Hollywood, you can just tell how much Schwarzenegger is enjoying his work, and his charisma and charm is evident on the screen, even when he is playing a robot! When a machine has more heart and character than the rest of the cast, your movie has problems.

The issue with the script is that, as well as being mind-numbingly complicated, there are questions raised that are left unanswered; such as who sent back the T-1000 and the guardian T-800 when Sarah Connor was nine years-old. When the question was raised we are told that the information was ‘classified’ and that’s the last we hear of it. I am assuming that the screenwriters are holding on to this information for the planned sequels, but that’s not how movies work. This is something that should have been resolved in this movie and holding back the reveal shows a lack of respect for the audience. Also, because of poor box-office performance, we potentially will not get any sequels, therefore never get an answer. Great. Thanks.

Me, trying to squeeze enjoyment out of this movie.

Me, trying to squeeze enjoyment out of this movie.

But not only is the script complicated, it is dumb. The main characters make decisions that, with the benefit of time travel, do not make sense at all. In 1984, Sarah Connor and Kyle Reese time-travel to 2017 to stop Skynet (now known as Genisys — spelled that way on purpose) from becoming self-aware. Despite the fact that they can travel to literally any time, they arrive around 30 hours before Judgment Day, despite the 33-year buffer. And because Connor and Reese time-jump, they never have sex in 1984, which means John Connor will never be conceived, which means none of this would have happened anyway. The screenwriters messed with the timeline so much that it no longer makes sense. Time travel doesn’t exist, so clearly it will never make sense, but at least the first two films were plausible. Once in 2017, Genisys is on a countdown that arbitrarily moves up the time which begs the question, why not just activate if the countdown doesn’t matter? And according to Terminator 3, Skynet becomes a cloud-based system (as is Genisys), with no system core to blow up, therefore Judgment Day is inevitable. Why do they keep making these movies? At least Terminator Salvation was fully set during the war with the machines. There are clearly no more stories to tell by travelling to the past. Let’s move on.

It's almost Sarah Connor cosplay.

It’s almost Sarah Connor cosplay.

The casting is all wrong. Emilia Clarke and Jai Courtney are bland, and not at all representative of the characters of Sarah Connor and Kyle Reese. Original actors Linda Hamilton and Michael Biehn imbued the characters with intensity, fear, desperation, and weariness. These are characters that have lived through, or were well aware of the coming apocalyptic war with the machines. Clarke is a fine actor, but she was miscast for this role; a role that required someone with a bit more grit and presence. Courtney on the other hand is just terrible as Reese, all of his lines are flat and with no conviction, and he brings absolutely no pathos to the character. Reese is a man who was born and raised in the middle of a war-torn Earth, but Courtney doesn’t have the chops to express the torment and suffering.

I don’t know what the problem is exactly, and this is a similar concern I had with Jurassic World, but there’s something going on with blockbuster special effects. Much like dinosaur effects from 1993, I noticed that — especially with the T-1000 — CGI hasn’t really improved much since the ground-breaking work done on T2 all the way back in 1991.

I find it hard to believe that James Cameron gave his blessing to this movie. Either he owed Arnold a favour, or his standards have dropped considerably over the years. Maybe a bit of both.

Llama Score: 4Terminator: Genisys (a real title) is not a very good film; it’s way too convoluted for its own good and is muddied by its own canon. Despite a relatively strong start, the movie descends into a mess of complicated plots, bland acting, and passable action. The only positives are nostalgia-based. A real disappointment.

 

Award: RecycleAward: Stan WinstonAward: Get to da Choppa!Award: nailsAward: Fury

Highlights Banner

– Alternate 1984 was pretty fun while it lasted. As was the opening scene set in the future war.

– Schwarzenegger is a standout, as always.

Lowlights Banner

– A scene where the heroes get arrested, followed by a mugshot montage set to the song ‘Bad Boys’. Laughing at, not with.

– Convoluted, nonsensical plot. Unintelligent use of time travel.

– Jai Courtney.

– NANOBOTS!

– Questions that are left unanswered, presumably held back for sequels.

Further Viewing Banner

The Terminator (1984)

Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)

Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003)

Catch up on The Terminator, buy now from Amazon!

Directed by: Alan Taylor Written by: Laeta Kalogridis, Patrick Lussier Produced by: David Ellison, Dana Goldberg Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jason Clarke, Emilia Clarke, Jai Courtney, J.K. Simmons Distributed by: Paramount Pictures Run length: 126 minutes Australian Release: Out now in all major cinemas

 

What did you think of Terminator: Genisys? Can you believe that is actually a real title? Leave a comment below or hit me up on Facebook or Twitter.

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