Posted July 9, 2015 by Daniel Hodgson in
Even film critics get vacations. So when Terminator Genisys hit theaters while I was on hiatus, I had a decision to make. Either I could see it for fun, and review it because simply because I like writing reviews (or I wouldn’t be doing this), or wait until I was back, and see it then.
I looked at RT and Metacritic, and it came as no surprise that reviews were poor, so I put off screening the film until a couple of nights ago. It didn’t even occur to me that a third option existed, which was that I could have skipped it all together. I wish I had.
This movie is a mess. It should not even exist. The Terminator is a good movie, arguably a great movie, a classic. Remaking it is sacrilege. Rebooting it is absurd. Oh Hollywood, why can’t you leave anything alone?
This new film is told from Kyle Reese’s point of view, portrayed this time by Jai Courtney. If you’re unfamiliar with the franchise, I’ll briefly explain. Kyle Reese is a soldier from the year 2029, a post-apocalyptic world ruled by machines. Kyle is sent back in time by John Connor, the leader of the resistance, to protect his mother Sarah Connor from the Terminator, a robot that looks human and intends to kill her before she can give birth to John.
But wait, there’s more! In this version, Kyle witnesses a robot attacking John Connor (Jason Clarke) just as the time machine transports Kyle back to 1984. New memories based on a new timeline fill his mind. Kyle recalls that something in the year 2017 called Genisys is Skynet, the artificial intelligence that will lay waste to mankind, and must be stopped.
It gets more complicated from there. In this version, Kyle does not save Sarah. It’s the other way around. Kyle is attacked not by the T-800, the terminator from the first film, but the T-1000, the morphing quicksilver foe from Terminator 2, played this time by Byung-hun Lee. Sarah (Emilia Clarke) is aided by “The Guardian” (Arnold Schwarzenegger) a T-800 robot and father-figure who’s been protecting her since she was nine.
It is explained that this is an alternate time-line, a different version than the events of the original Terminator. That said, even for a time-travel movie, Terminator Genisys makes no sense. If there is some explanation for how “The Guardian,” a re-programmed Terminator, ended up in 1974 to protect Sarah as a child, I freely admit I missed it.
There is no such thing as “spoiling” this movie. Trailer #2 for the film has already done that. The poster for this film has already done that. So let me go into greater detail.
Sarah defeats the T-1000. It’s a tedious battle, seeing as how we’ve already seen the metallic creature for the majority second film in the franchise; been there, done that. After its demise, there is a long stretch without a bad guy chasing Sarah and Kyle, an essential element of an action-thriller like this, which has a duty to keep the pressure on. So here we have a film that’s boring when there is a too-familiar villain on screen, and boring when there isn’t one at all. Somehow, it gets it wrong both ways.
Much of Genisys (and I abhor that spelling) plays out like a strange rom-com between Sarah and Kyle, with “The Guardian,” as Schwarzenegger’s character is called on IMDb, standing between them as some kind of cyborg murder-bot father-in-law. Eventually, both Sarah and Kyle must strip naked and time travel together. It’s like a weird love scene, with Sarah asking Kyle if it will hurt. Well, only the first time, darling.
The ridiculousness of the situation results in this year’s most atrocious lines of dialog, something the film is self-conscious of. Genisys is a bad film, and it knows it.
The special effects are anything but special. VFX these days are capable of incredible verisimilitude, but everything in Genisys looks fake, especially the faux-explosions of the film’s opening sequence. Back when the original was made, explosions were the real deal. Shit really blew up, and effects were practical. These days, more often than not, kabooms are nothing more than digital effects, and monsters are merely CGI.
Whenever a movie like The Terminator is reiterated, there is an obligation for the studio, the filmmakers, and even its advertisers, to make a film that is worthy of the original, and sell the film without ruining it. It is an obligation that is rarely met, with James Cameron’s Terminator 2 being an exception. Everything after that has been a cash-in, particularly this film. Then again, it is the fifth film in a franchise. Is anyone expecting anything else?