In case you haven’t noticed we are living in the days of the never ending franchises. It used to just be relegated to known B movie franchises, for the most part, like James Bond and Godzilla, but now it seems like every single blockbuster needs to be a trilogy and then get re-booted for three or four more. If there is one franchise the really needs to be put down it is The Terminator.
Terminator Genisys is the fifth movie in the time traveling killer robot franchise and while I don’t think any new entry will ever come close to the masterpiece of T2: Judgment Day we can at least hope for a good amount of old fashion mass property damage. I never really had any problems with T3 (other that it not being necessary), I’ve blocked out Terminator Salvation and I ignored the Sarah Conner Chronicles. As I thought about it there was nowhere for the franchise to go but up from Salvation.
During the lead up to Genisys I had really low expectations for the film. The ad campaign didn’t engender any excitement in me. My reaction to seeing that John Conner was now the new bad guy (cyborg) was little more than “So we’re doing that now? Ok?” In fact my main fear was that the film was going to be very crowded with too many bad Terminators and have little star power beyond Arnold. I was surprised that the former turned out not to be the case, but not surprised that I was right about the ladder.
Normally these days, trailers have a habit of giving away the whole movie by acting as cinematic cliff notes, but refreshingly that’s not the case here. I’ll give it points for that.
The Terminator franchise has fallowed pretty much the same format since the 80’s. John Conner (this time played by Jason Clarke) has defeated Skynet, Skynet sends a terminator(s) back in time to try and change that. With each new movie they just send a different terminator to a different time to try and kill a different person and fight the same Arnold. Each time, our heroes survive, after much mayhem, only to push the war back a few decades in order to pump out more progressively disappointing sequels with Arnold being the common denominator.
Genisys is basically a reboot of the franchise with just a few little twists thrown in and really nothing more. Without going too deep into the movie it pretty much starts out the way The Terminator did up until the point Klye Reese (Jai Courtney) gets to 1984. Once there, anyone passingly familiar with the franchise will see things aren’t the way they should be. There is a good T-800 (old Arnold or “Pops”), an evil T-800 (the one form T1), a T-1000 (the one from T2) that doesn’t look a thing like Robert Patrick (now Byung-hun Lee), and a total ready to rock Sarah Conner (Emily Clarke).
The first twenty minutes is pretty much a fun jumbled mess of fighting T-800 and T-1000 that blends elements of the first two films together in a cool, but not at all new way. It’s basically fan boy nostalgia. However, before you know it the bad terminators are beaten and we move on to the disappointment.
For the first time our heroes are going to go forward in time to stop Skynet in 1997 by using their own do it yourself time machine. After some Star Trek-eques time travel techno-babble Klye and Sarah instead jump to 2017 to stop an app from launching called Genisys that is just Skynet in hiding. They should have killed Bruce Banner and Tony Stark (and what’s his name from Ex Machina) just to cover all their bases.
This is where we find out John Conner has also come back in time, has been “taken over”, or something like that, by Skynet, turned in to a Super Terminator and is there to protect it in 2017. From here on out the movie totally gives up and rehashed the entire plot of T2. I think you could almost line them up scene for scene except this time without the grit and power and with too much unimpressive CGI.
It was fun to see Arnold back in a role he seems born to play. There are a few silly gags that explain away why he looks old and joints are creaky. I think the last time I saw Arnie on screen was in fact Rise of the Machines. It was nice. Jason Clarke and Jai Courtney are pretty much filler. While Clarke gets pretty far with his menacing look and cold blue eyes, his John Conner is given an extra flare (because he’s still kinda human) that seem overly melodramatic and out of place in a Terminator film. Courtney’s Reese is forgettable. Emily Clarke as Sarah Conner just doesn’t work. This was a role that Linda Hamilton truly made her own and any one else playing it is just as weird as if they got a different guy to replace Arnold.
When the credits started to role I was surprised that I didn’t have the visceral disgust for this movie the way I had for Salvation. Partly because it was just what we all like in 1991 but reheated. Genisys does go a long way to clear the pallid from Salvation. However, this is a franchise that should have been put to bed with T2.
The most tragic element of Genisys is the Marvel like post (important) credits Easter egg that shows us that “it’s not really over!” AGAIN! I guess I really should not be surprised, because with each new movie all they seem to do is push Skynet back a little bit. Can’t wait for Terminator: Exodus, or whatever it will be called.
There are a lot of problems with Terminator: Genisys, the biggest of which is that it is not bad, enough.
2/5 Death Stars