To say the Terminator franchise has been a troubled one these past two entries would be like saying there’s a distinctive taste difference between vanilla and chocolate ice cream. It’s that apparent. Just when you thought Terminator Salvation was going to reinvigorate the franchise, production of a fifth film went right down the toilet slapped with bankruptcy forcing the property to once again go up for sale. The question was who’s going to buy it? You? Me? Why not Annapurna Pictures with distribution help from Paramount? And then there’s that spelling of “Genisys” in this film’s title to deal with. Oh well! You can’t win them all. I suppose in the end we should all be thanking the Gods for even letting a fifth film in this troubled Terminator franchise to exist, right? Absolutely!
So I guess you can say Terminator Genisys serves as both a sequel to the previous films in the series and also a reboot. How’s that you ask? I’ll get to that pain point in a moment, don’t you worry. However, this time out there’s no Linda Hamilton, Christian Bale or even James Cameron involved, instead it’s a production directed by Alan Taylor off a script written by Laeta Kalogridis and Patrick Lussier. There is one familiar face though! Arnold Schwarzenegger reprises his breakout role in this one. He always told us he’d be back, right? Well, he is! Arnold joins newcomers Jason Clarke (a favorite of mine), Emilia Clarke (the dragon lady), Jai Courtney, Lee Byung-hun, Matt Smith and J. K. Simmons.
One thing to note, before even going into this one, is that James Cameron did go on record after seeing Terminator Genisys to say it’s “extremely respectful of the first two movies.” He also showed his support of it. So I guess armed with that much knowledge we should all at least give it a chance, right? I mean here’s a Terminator film that tries its hardest to match the tone and colors of the first two films since after all this is Terminator “Genisys.” If you’ve seen the trailers, then you already know events do go back in time to the periods of the first two legendary films. And that’s where things got a bit scary for me, not to mention the acting of Emilia Clarke in the trailers. Were my expectations too high of what a fifth film in the franchise should be like? Was I being too harsh on Clarke and the elderly quips of Schwarzenegger? This much and more I at least hoped to address with the movie’s press screening. The results of giving it the benefit of the doubt can be found below.
All in all, Terminator Genisys was fun, but it was an absurd kind of fun traveling down a familiar, however, very bumpy road. What I mean by that is both complicated and convoluted, much like the film’s plot. There is a lot of ridiculousness going on, not to mention plot holes abound, but the action pieces and the Terminator fanfare, lore and charm were prevalent throughout casting a shadow on just about everything else. In other words, the story, albeit a very familiar one, took a back seat to all here. Does that make sense? Did I mention the slapstick comedy? No I did not! Not yet that is.
There has always been comedic moments in the Terminator franchise, from the “I’ll be back” to Arnold’s non-verbal gestures, but Terminator Genisys amps the comedy to all new high levels. They never resist capitalizing on a joke that fans of the first two films would pick up like a cup of water in a desert. However, that’s also a plus here because that’s all part of that Terminator fanfare, lore and charm I mentioned up above. That’s what makes this adventure a fun one, albeit familiar and often chaotic at times. What makes it chaotic? Oh boy! Now that’s a loaded question.
The chaos comes from much of the same problems that plagued X-Men: Days of Future Past, the time travel woes. Whenever you do a time travel film, and let’s face it, that’s what Terminator franchise is all about, things can get very messy and convoluted if you’re not careful. Well there’s a lot of that going on around here in Terminator Genisys, messiness that is. But don’t fret! It can all be explained with that whole alternate timeline lingo. You know, a convent alibi. Time travel, when done right in movies, is brilliant (see Predestination as an example of one). However, when done wrong, time travel can destroy films. There ain’t no hole big enough to dig your way out of the problems associated with alternate timelines in Terminator Genisys. Thank God it’s a lot of fun, right Kori? And it can all be addressed sloppily in a sixth film. That’s right! Unless this completely bombs, there most likely will be a part six. However, even if it does bomb, can’t we just go back and erase this new timeline to make it so the events in the film Terminator Genisys never happened or are rendered irrelevant? LOL. I am just kidding. Or am I?
For me, Terminator Genisys is just a watered down summer blockbuster. Now don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with that label. It’s just that we have seen this EXACT frickin’ storyline before. Why not just kill off Sarah’s parents? Better safe than sorry no? Why did you have to take two of the most favorite films from my childhood and ruin them with your alternate timeline because you had nothing better to write about? Is that a way to start off a new franchise? I think not. There’s too much of this “ghost in the machine” going on in here too. I was hoping for something fresh and cultivated with new ideas, story arcs and dilemmas. But fret not, like the title says up above, it is absurd fun to be had. LOL. Ain’t that a kick in the nuts? If it wasn’t fun, I’d be having a field day ripping this film apart, but I digress.
So let’s spend a bit talking about all the major players involved here. Obviously, it’s no secret, Arnold is back. But who is he back as? Ah! Isn’t that a loaded question. Arghh. It irks me a bit and will probably frustrate you, but like it or not, he is shoehorned in this storyline with the name “Pops.” Yes! You heard me right. He’s pretty much Sarah Connor’s father figure, albeit a Terminator, ever since she was 9 years old. How is that possible? Good question! Filmmakers…you care to shed some light on that one? I thought not! However, don’t you worry your sweet bottom here as Arnold is back and funnier than ever. Sure there are a lot of Expendables like jokes and cracks at the expense of his age, but as he says in the film “I’m old, not obsolete.” Ain’t that the truth. Arnold cracked me up in here and his Terminator charisma shines brightly throughout in this film. If it weren’t for him, this would be an unwatchable mess for me. Arnold makes this one. He owns it!
While Arnold still has his game, clearly, let’s focus on the efforts of Jason, Jai and Emilia next. While the former is excellent in anything he does, Terminator Genisys being no exception, the middle one is bit goofy in this re-casted role of Kyle Reese, but he makes it fun nonetheless. Clarke, on the other hand, leaves a lot to be desired. The role of Sarah Conner has always been that of a very independent and strong woman. I still feel like this gal is still riding dragons in this one. Her acting is deplorable at times and only plausible at best others. I really wanted more strength and charisma in her iconic character, but alas I got none of that. The trailers don’t lie. When she points a gun and sprays bullets, it’s not supposed to be funny is it? I don’t feel like she could harm an ant.
As far as the effects go they are done well, but let’s face it. Not much has changed the past 30 years here in this franchise. The technology we are scraping the surface here within is still very much the same as what’s in the first two films. That’s where it gets a bit boring. So it should come as no surprise that the effects look better in this day and age compared to 30 years ago, but bigger and grander? No. Not really. The exception being the character that Jason Clarke inhabits, but if you’ve seen last year’s Lucy, it’s really no different. So in other words, don’t expect Terminator Genisys to break any new grounds in FX like its earlier predecessors once did.
Last but not least let’s talk story, or as I said above, the lack of. Yes. There is a story, but it’s nothing new at all. It all has to do with the first Terminator film and here is where the respect comes into play that Cameron went on record discussing. It’s cool how they seemingly blended new footage with old, etc., but man did they ever destroy the Terminator timeline we all knew and loved so much. It’s a whole new ballgame now, albeit not a fresh one. The plot is simple. Skynet has been defeated in the future so they send the original Terminator model back in time to kill Sarah Connor in 1985. You see the similarity to the first film? Bingo! If you guessed the plot’s the same, you’re right! We do time jump a bit and land in 2017. It’s here where we learn what the name “Genisys” implies and/or what it refers to. Don’t worry, I’m not about to spoil anything for you. I will say this though, there is a mid-credits zinger so if you weren’t throughly disgusted with the feature, stick around and see the very predictable set up for a possible sixth film in the franchise. Yawn.
So even though it seems like I’m bashing and ragging on Terminator Genisys every chance I get I still very much had a lot of fun with it. It’s the absurd summer kind of blockbuster fun that makes me escape every day life. We all need that at times. I just wanted more I guess. And I would have been much happier if it didn’t butcher the first two films I so dearly loved in my life. However, despite my grief and complaints, Arnold is the real star here. The spotlight belongs on him. He makes this franchise and without him I don’t think there would be much life in this series. It would flat line instantly. With that being said, do go out and have a good time with this one. If you’re scared, see it at matinee prices. It’s not as bad as all the other critics are saying. They just don’t know how to cut loose and have fun with their films. After all, it’s a summer blockbuster film. What more do you want? Shh. That was rhetorical question!