Terminator Genisys (2015) – A Review

Terminator Genisys 2015 cast
Terminator Genisys

The Terminator franchise gets shaken up as timelines gets altered, new faces are introduced and Skynet creates new ways to make Judgment Day to come about.

In 2029 Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) gets sent back in time to stop a Terminator from killing the mother of human resistance leader John Conner (Jason Clarke). You know, just like the original movie. But instead of arriving in the 1984 that James Cameron showed us somehow events have been changed. Now Sarah Conner (Emilia Clarke) doesn’t need protecting. She’s already a combat-ready fighter, with her own elderly Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) at her side.

Their new mission is to stop Judgment Day from happening, which now has been pushed back to 2017. But the sneaky Skynet has a new weapon in the form of John Conner himself (Jason Clarke), who has changed him into a new type of Terminator. Plus, this evil Conner/Terminator also happens to be behind the new worldwide operating system Genisys that will be going online. Genisys isn’t just designed to help with email, but once up and running will launch a missile attack on the world causing Judgment Day. A lot of shooting guns, chases and explosions commence with our heroes trying to save humanity.

Oh brother.

I think even hardcore Terminator fans might sadly have to admit it might be better to just end this for good. All the while I was watching Genisys I kept thinking, ‘what is the point anymore?’. There is absolutely no excitement, no creativity, absolutely nothing new they’re coming up with here. The humane thing to do would be to shoot this ‘franchise’, take it outside and bury it behind the garage.

I had no interest in this movie. Those feelings were reinforced when I heard the loud negative reaction it got when it was released. But I tried to give it the benefit of a doubt, sat through it and not even halfway through I was ready to bail. It didn’t surprise me at all. It was really bad.

Terminator 1984 Arnold Schwarzenegger James CameronWhat’s funny is that everything I suspected about it, long before it even came out came to be true. Just based on the trailers I had a pretty clear image of what was going to happen here. I have no idea how those trailers got anyone, even the most optimistic Terminator fans geared up to see this. There is nothing here.

I really don’t want to recap my feelings on this series like so many others have done when talking about Genisys, but very briefly here’s how I feel about it:

  • The Terminator (1984) – Great movie. I could watch it right now and have a great evening.
  • Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991) – A fun blockbuster of a sequel. I don’t like it as much as the first, but a worthy followup
  • Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003) – I remember a crane chase scene and the T-X making her boobs bigger, but overall forgettable. I watched it once and never again.
  • Terminator: Salvation (2009) – Amazingly zero excitement in a post-apocalyptic story of humans fighting robots. I barely remember anything in it.
  • There was a TV show somewhere in here too, I never watched it.

Jai Courtney Kyle Reese Terminator GenisysThey just can’t help themselves going back to this series trying to continue the story. But really, there’s nothing more they’ve added to it since James Cameron left and wrapped things up with that second film. I can’t think of one thing that’s been added or done with this mythos since ’91 that perked up my ears and had me saying, ‘oh cool, I wonder where things will go now’. It never happens.

Once upon a time the Terminator brand had the mark of quality. The first one was an original, smart, gritty sci-fi actioner. The second was a big-budget, large scale blockbuster that used cutting-edge special effects at the time. Since then the Terminator name has consistently been dragged out again and again and with each new installment it has moved further and further away of what fans expect from it. Each sequel has been another judgement day for the series.

Usually the hook to the newest installment is the introduction of a new type of Terminator. They had the liquid metal Robert Patrick, then a sexy girl model who was some kind of liquid metal and can make weapons. Now it’s a John Conner/Terminator human-hybrid who’s made up of nanobots or something.

Along with that, now everytime out Arnold comes back as a good reprogrammed Terminator to fight the new advanced Terminator and protect the Conner clan. Arnold hasn’t actually played a regular Terminator since ’84. I mean an emotionless, unstoppable killing machine mowing down innocent victims. I prefer that Terminator over the nice, likable catch-phrase one. But I guess that evil Terminator was only a one-shot deal for him and forever more he has to be ‘reprogrammed’ for good. Now he even has a cute and cuddly nickname – ‘Pops’. I bet ’84 Terminator would never answer to that.

Arnold Schwarzenegger as The Terminator

I understand Arnold is a star and he’s the face of the Terminator movies, but realistically his presence could have been dumped in all the sequels. Well, the second one his appearance was cool. Sarah sees the same cyborg that has haunted her for years try to save her and she freaks out. That was a good scene.

If the Terminator is an infiltration unit, designed to blend in and eliminate human targets Skynet would naturally have to change up its appearance. We’ve seen different looking Terminators in the first movie. Reese describes the T-800 in the original as being new “They look human…sweat, bad breath, everything. Very hard to spot. I had to wait till he moved on you before I could zero in on him.”

Luckily Skynet made the fatal error of making most of their T-800s look like an Austrian bodybuilder. So if you see someone look like this one particular individual that’s a good indicator that he’s a Terminator. The resistance could have just passed out flyers with his picture to soldiers.

I’m being a bit nitpicky, but really unlike other 80’s action icons like Rambo or John McClane the Terminator is a role that could easily be recast each time out with a different actor with no explanation and still be believable. Fans would understand that this character can always look different.

Yes, we like Arnold as the Terminator, but they go to such lengths to keep bringing him back it doesn’t seem worth it. Plus, each time seeing the same looking Terminator really stretches the logic within the story and makes it harder and harder to swallow. I think I’d prefer a new actor taking a crack at this part who wouldn’t be so anxious to insert one-liners into all his or her scenes.

Now this T-800 in Genisys looks old because his human skin ages in the same fashion as a human being. Fine, I’ll go with it.

Anyway, this time out they try to re-boot the series with director Alan Taylor directing. They try to take all the best bits and ideas from Cameron’s films, add some of their own stupid stuff with new actors to it and the the whole thing becomes a horrible mess.

Terminator Genisys T-1000 liquid metal

So just as Reese is about to time travel, Conner is attacked by Skynet in human form (Matt Smith). This makes Reese go through some broken timeline thing being dropped into an alternate 1984. Waiting for him is ‘tough’ Sarah Conner and Arnold as this old T-800 Terminator who has been her guardian since saving her when she was little from another Terminator.

Old Arnold shares a few punches with his younger version then, they easily take out the original ’84 Terminator. An added threat comes from a liquid metal T-1000 (Byung-hun Lee) that shows up. No idea how or why he would be there, but that’s just the beginning of the head-scratchers to come.

Just to cut through a lot of the convoluted BS that unfolds, Jai and Emilia time travel in a time machine old Arnold makes because Reese now knows Judgment Day has been delayed until 2017 in this new timeline. Despite the original movie setting up that they can only travel back through time and not forward, luckily in this new timeline they can travel wherever they want to. They arrive in 2017, run into Terminator/John Conner, he tries to kill them, they get thrust into a few boring action scenes, leading up to them blowing up Genisys thus defeating Skynet – or did they?

You could sit for hours dissecting the ludicrous leaps of logic and confusion in the story – and there are no satisfactory answers to be found anywhere. It’s comparable to asking a little kid why he did something, him answering, “Because” and that ending the conversation. Simply put, nothing makes sense.

It’s a real change from Cameron’s original two stories that laid out the rules and stuck with them. Those stories were tied in nice tight bows and you could always follow the logic and limitations that the characters were placed in. Now the guidelines change from scene to scene. It throws half-assed explanations at you in order to get to the next set-piece even if it completely contradicts what was just said and what came before.

Terminator Genisys action scene CGI

So forget logic and consistency and just go along with whatever momentary objective these guys are trying to do scene-to-scene – it still stinks.

There’s the action scenes. That’s a big part of Terminator movies right, so maybe those can redeem some of the movie. Don’t get your hopes up.

The action is lazy, uninspired and very badly directed. A lot of it looks like it’s a made-for-cable cheap SyFy flick. There’s horrible CGI, boring action and just plain dumb moments. The climactic helicopter chase looks like it was lifted out of a Terminator video game.

This isn’t even the same series of movies anymore. And yes I’m going to reference the original Cameron movies again. If Genisys wants to play around with them and remind me of their existence then I’m going to draw comparisons.

Terminator Michael Biehn Kyle Reese

At the beginning of the original Terminator, Reese drops into 1984 and smacks down naked on wet hard pavement. I recall how much it looked like that hurt Michael Biehn. In Terminator 2 the T-1000 jumps onto a truck and yanks the driver out sending him onto the road. To this day I watch that scene and think, ‘man, how could that stuntman not have broken a bone on that fall’.

Pain looked real, impacts took a toll on human beings. People got hurt. Yeah, Terminators could get shot up and they’d just keep strolling along, but our human characters were at serious risk.

In Genisys a naked Kyle Reese gets hit by a speeding car that must be doing at least 50 mph, he rolls onto the hood, breaks the windshield, rolls back onto the pavement and just walks it off.  Give me a break! There’s no stakes anywhere with either Kyle or Sarah.

What was it that Kyle says in the original, – “Cyborgs don’t feel pain. I do. Don’t do that again.” But I guess this is a new timeline so that rule has been changed. You know, ‘Because’.

Even Arnold, an extremely heavy robot, bounces around the road like a ragdoll after falling out of the bus. It looks so bad. It seriously looks like something that would happen to Wile E. Coyote.

Emilia Clarke Jai Courtney Terminator Genisys

As most of us suspected when first seeing the trailers for this, Courtney and Clarke are terribly miscast here. Fans have criticized their performances consistently since this was released and I can’t add anything new to all of that. Yes, they are both very bad in this and they have no chemistry at all. They’re simply placeholders in the roles of Kyle Reese and Sarah Conner. I can’t blame them completely though. The characters are so poorly written here I doubt any actors could have made me like or sympathize with either of them in this.

It’s crazy to think they tried so hard to explain why Schwarzenegger would return as an old Terminator, plus all the money that must of went into re-creating a young version of him, and the two main human characters feel like a complete afterthought.

Jason Clarke goes through the motions as an evil John Conner. JK Simmons shows up as a cop who has bumped into the time traveling trio before and helps them out. He looks like an important supporting part, but it’s too brief to hold any weight. He at least provides a few chuckles – the only humor that works in the movie. Schwarzenegger does his thing. There’s really nothing more I have to say about him. If him returning to the role got fans excited fine, but his appearance didn’t redeem the movie for me.

Arnold Schwarzenegger smile Terminator Genisys

The glory days of Terminator have happened a long time ago and it doesn’t look like they’ll ever recapture even a sliver of what made it special in any of the sequels.

 Salvation was supposed to be the start of a new Terminator trilogy. That fell apart. Now Genisys is another hoped for beginning to a new trilogy and that looks like it’s now in doubt because of the terrible reception it’s gotten. The threat that they might actually try to continue the story laid out in Genisys is more terrifying than Judgment Day.

What an embarrassing position they’re in now. It’s either go forward with their followup, (the one we’re all meant to be excited to see) or quickly just try to reboot it again before the rights revert back to Cameron in 2019 and hope to make some quick cash off it. Maybe the new Terminator can be invisible or fly or something.

When are they going to learn that they should first try making one good movie that excites audiences and then worry about announcing sequels later. Why would anyone be interested or enthusiastic in a sequel to a crappy Terminator movie?

I guess ‘Because’.

 

The infamous trailer that ignited furor in fans. But honestly, even if the ‘twist’ wasn’t spoiled here the movie still would have sucked.


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1 Response

  1. Nick_H says:

    Very poor film. What disappointed me the most was Reese and Sarah. In the '84 film, Sarah was an ordinary woman thrust into a living nightmare and she coped with it as well as you could expect, in fact she grows in courage, inner strength and resourcefulness as the film goes on. This Sarah is flip, sassy and in control at all times. It's as if the film makers are too worried about making her seem weak or frightened or else they're going to be accused of sexism. They're not clever enough as writers to find a way to present an ordinary woman in extraordinary circumstances.

    As for Reese, Courtney is such a bland version but worse he's played as a dupe for the most part. This goes completely against the Reese character as established. What made him good in the '84 version is that he's very much a human who, like Sarah, is being pushed to his limits. He's grim, focussed but also vulnerable. You see the Terminator and you think there's no way for this guy to beat him but Reese's courage and cunning go a long way to make up for the disparity in strength. Reese is great to root for because he's willing to put himself on the line to stop the unstoppable killing machine. Sarah is great to root for because she's an everywoman who we want to survive. Biehn and Hamilton are ideally cast in their roles.

    It's a sad fact of modern blockbusters that the film makers continually offer up bland protagonists who never feel like they're in danger. They always have a quip, always have a way out, never break into a sweat. The Reeces, John McClaines and Indiana Joneses….the hero who sweats, bleeds, feels fear, improvises and struggles has been replaced by the hero who quips, bounces, punches out people behind him without looking and walks away from explosions.

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