Film Review: Terminator Genisys (2015)

Also known as: Terminator 5 (informal title)
Release Date: June 21st, 2015 (Berlin premiere)
Directed by: Alan Taylor
Written by: Laeta Kalogridis, Patrick Lussier
Based on: characters by James Cameron, Gale Anne Hurd
Music by: Lorne Balfe
Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jason Clarke, Emilia Clarke, Jai Courtney, J.K. Simmons, Dayo Okeniyi, Matt Smith, Courtney B. Vance, Lee Byung-hun

Skydance Productions, Paramount Pictures, 126 Minutes

Review:

“God damn time traveling robots! Covering up their god damn tracks! I knew it.” – Detective O’Brien

*Written in 2015.

What a shitty movie. But it was, at certain moments, a fun movie.

To start, Terminator and Terminator 2: Judgment Day are classics and close to perfect blockbuster films. They are a measuring stick. However, just like every other film in the Terminator franchise after T2, this one doesn’t measure up.

Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines was horrendous, Terminator Salvation was dog shit and this one fits right alongside those two films. I would say that Terminator Genisys is the better of the bad films in the series and it at least attempts to be more inventive and original than the other bad sequels.

The saving grace of this film is Arnold Schwarzenegger. He is great as always in this role, he seems comfortable as this character and his wit and humor are perfect. Granted, the one liners and quips aren’t as great as they were in T2 but maybe that is because T2 is the first time anyone experienced a humorous T-800 and it has been a staple in pop culture now for 24 years. I loved every time that the T-800 was on screen in this film but he was underutilized and overshadowed by the other iconic characters, who were generally portrayed poorly.

Another positive is Jai Courtney, who I enjoyed in something for the first time. Playing Kyle Reese isn’t an easy task and he did fall short of living up to the iconic status Michael Biehn gave to that role. That’s not Courtney’s fault, however, and no one else that has taken on that role has succeeded. I didn’t hate him in this, so I guess that’s a plus.

Jason Clarke was okay as John Connor but I don’t even know who John Connor is anymore and I have watched all the films and portions of the television show featuring the character. The problem is that John Connor isn’t a character people can relate to, as every time you see him, he is played by a different actor – seven, in fact, and that isn’t even counting video games or infant actors. And every actor plays him completely different. Clarke plays it safe and gives us a generic sort of future hero turned suped-up robo-villain. Yes, John Connor is the villain. That plot point was ruined in the trailer and would have been a much bigger and better reveal had the studio not spoiled their own film with desperate marketing.

Emilia Clarke, who I don’t think is related to the aforementioned Jason Clarke, plays Sarah Connor. Clarke, who is most famous for sad eyes, great boobs and playing with dragons, walked into a role that set her up to fail. I wouldn’t say that she is a great actress by any means, at least she hasn’t wowed me yet, and her portrayal of Sarah Connor didn’t help her case. I can’t blame her though, as she had immense shoes to fill with what Linda Hamilton did with the role. Clarke just couldn’t pull off that badass bitch shtick anywhere near as close as Hamilton did.

Now J.K. Simmons, let’s talk about him. The guy is great in everything he does, whether as J. Jonah Jameson in the original Spider-Man films or as the guy in the Farmers Insurance commercials. He was awesome in this film but like Schwarzenegger, was a bright spot that was underutilized.

I was glad to see Matt Smith find work in a big film now that his Doctor Who run has ended. He was barely in the film but he was in a pretty pivotal role, even if that role evolved into being the face and shape of Skynet’s evil yet lame A.I. – now renamed Genisys, which was just some Trojan horse in the guise of a smartphone app everyone in the film was obsessing over.

And that brings me to the plot. While the film took a different route, it was pretty weak. There were multiple timelines, shifting timelines, lots of time traveling and the T-800 giving clunky explanations of the science in the film. It is just one of those movies where you need to embrace suspension of disbelief and just not think too hard about it. Just roll with it or you’ll go mad. Although, I wouldn’t mind seeing Schwarzenegger giving physics talks or having a science show where he explains complex concepts poorly.

Also in the realm of bad science was the physics of the film. Just watch the big helicopter battle, which is the major action sequence before the big climax. Actually, just watch the whole film, there are several times you’ll see things happen that are physically impossible. And why did they have to flip the school bus? And it would never flip like that. Ever since the infamous semi-flipping scene in 2008’s The Dark Knight, blockbusters have been trying to recreate that magic moment.

The special effects in this film are a combination of spectacular and atrocious. The scene with the MRI machine ripping apart John Connor was beautiful and just looked amazing. Then there was the helicopter chase scene that looked like a bad cartoon, completely ignoring physics, plausibility and came off as rushed and unrefined.

I thought the score was pretty good but the iconic Terminator theme never blasted through the theater speakers in its full glory. Well, not until the credits rolled. Talk about a wasted opportunity.

The problem with this film and all the films and television shows in this franchise after Terminator 2: Judgment Day, is that there isn’t a real continuity from film to film. The plots completely shift things around, the actors are never the same and you just don’t care about these characters or events because everything that happens in these movies is easily wiped away and rewritten with each new installment. It makes all the previous work sort of moot. It also disrespects what the previous filmmakers have done before it.

At face value, this is mediocre film with some good effects that is a fun ride. But it is a “one and done” fun ride. I’ll never have the urge to watch this again, as I have never watched any film in this franchise more than once since T2. For the record, I watch T2 almost annually, if not more so.

I had higher hopes for Terminator Genisys, especially since James Cameron, the director of the first two films and the creator of the franchise, gave this one the thumbs up. But maybe, like John Connor, he’s no longer the hero.

Rating: 5.25/10
Pairs well with: The other Terminator movies but is better paired to the films after Terminator 2 a.k.a. the shitty ones.

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