6 out of 10
Terminator Genisys Cast:
Arnold Schwarzenegger as “Pops”
Directed by Alan Taylor
In 2029, the war between humans and the machines has reached a climactic moment but Skynet has a new weapon, a time machine they’ve used to send a cyborg back in time to kill Sarah Connor, mother of resistance leader John Connor (Jason Clarke). To prevent this, Connor sends his top soldier Sgt. Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) back to 1984 to save his mother (Emilia Clarke), but once Kyle gets there, he discovers everything has changed.
Terminator Genisys Review:
(Note: There may be a few SPOILERS in this Terminator Genisys movie review if you haven’t seen the majority of the trailers/footage already released for the movie.)
At this point, it’s hard not to be cynical about the latest attempt to revive the “Terminator” franchise, not only because previous attempts haven’t worked out, but also because it’s coming out in a summer following two excellent relaunch/reboots in Mad Max: Fury Road and Jurassic World. Terminator Genisys tries its best to replicate what worked with James Cameron’s earlier movies but only ends up copying itself and the amount of reverential repetition leads to a somewhat boring experience.
Opening with the type of monologue that’s become standard practice in these movies, essentially explaining the rise of Skynet that led to Judgment Day and the war between man and machine, we’re soon thrust into battle montage between the human resistance and Skynet’s cyborg army, going back to the original Stan Winston designs (and thankfully, ignoring Terminator Salvation). The human victory is soured once they realize the enemy has sent a Terminator back in time to kill Sarah Connor before she can give birth to the resistance leader. Kyle Reese is sent back in time to protect her and he arrives in 1984 just after a familiar-looking Terminator has arrived.
If that sounds familiar, then you’re probably already a fan of James Cameron’s original The Terminator, but we learn along with Reese that things are different as he faces a T-1000 disguised as a police officer and is himself saved by Sarah Connor along with her own Terminator that she calls “Pops.” At this point, so many obvious nods have been made to the earlier movies, you might start wondering if the filmmakers have any original ideas to work with beyond the twist on the original plot.
While traveling back in time, Kyle saw a fractured timeline in which he grew up with his parents during happier times in which Judgment Day never took place, and he wants to find out if this future has already come to pass. This is where things get interesting, because it breaks away from what happened in earlier movies as Sara and Kyle travel forward to 2017 where they have the last chance to take down Skynet, which is now infiltrating technology through a software upgrade called “Genisys.” This is the first point in the movie where it seems like the filmmakers are trying to create something more modern or relevant to our times. Since we already rely heavily on technology, it only makes sense that Skynet would use that against us. This timeline also introduces the always-excellent J.K. Simmons as O’Brien, a police officer who was on the scene when Reese first arrived in 1984 and has had his theory confirmed that time travel is involved when Kyle and Sarah show up just as mysteriously in 2017.
The film is plagued by a lot of cheesy dialogue but none more than when it gets into the exposition to explain what is happening. Schwarzenegger is best as the Terminator when he’s giving someone a look or spouting one of his trademark one-liners while fighting other Terminators–and that’s still the case here–but when he starts giving long scientific exposition to explain the time anomalies or anything else, it just comes across as silly. Terminator Genisys suffers from a similar problem as bringing Harrison Ford back to play Indiana Jones when he’s too old to be convincing, but at least in this case, they create a plot device to help explain why the Terminator robot (sorry, I can’t call him “Pops” with a straight face) looks so much older. They also do an impressive job creating a younger version of Schwarzenegger using CG.
As much as we love Emilia Clarke’s Daenarys on “Game of Thrones,” she’s no Linda Hamilton, and besides being significantly smaller and much younger, she doesn’t embody the strength that Hamilton brought to the role in the earlier “Terminators.” Instead, Clarke’s version spends a lot of time crying and yelling and carrying on about her protector Terminator, who keeps showing up at just the right time. The only thing more oppressive than this new Sarah Connor being thrust upon us is Hollywood’s desire to turn Jai Courtney into an action star. Surprisingly, he isn’t nearly as bad here as he was in A Good Day to Die Hard, because he does have a certain charisma, but he just isn’t given very interesting dialogue or a story to work with. The same can be said for fellow Aussie Jason Clarke, but at least he’s not as wasted as Matt “Doctor Who” Smith.
As seems to always be the case, there are things that just don’t make any sense like the fact that they have a working time machine to go into the future in 1984 but 33 years later in that same timeline, Cyberdine is still trying to perfect time travel. I’m not one to nitpick but that seems like one of the most obvious flaws in a movie that has quite a few.
The action continues at full-force as things progress, but director Alan Taylor eventually runs out of visual “Terminator” references to ape and begins blatantly ripping off everything from The Lost World: Jurassic Park and The Matrix (which itself was influenced by Cameron’s movies). You eventually come to realize that so many better science fiction movies involving artificial intelligence have come after Cameron’s earlier movies–a couple of bad ones as well–and much of the ideas originated in The Terminator and T2 just feel dated and irrelevant as hard as Genisys tries to update them.
(Although the movie seems to have a real ending, there is a mid-credits sequence that sets up another possible movie, which has always been the plan of relaunching the franchise.)
The Bottom Line:
Terminator Genisys is disappointing in that it doesn’t have a strong enough vision to relaunch the franchise with new ideas we haven’t seen before. It’s not even that Arnold Schwarzenegger is too old to be playing the part as much as it is that the whole concept just feels outdated and obsolete.[Gallery not found]