Terminator Genisys and all the images you see in this review are owned by Paramount Pictures
Directed by Alan Taylor
They BETTER not make another Back to the Future movie is all I’m saying. Oh Hollywood. Is there no pile of garbage you won’t slap a brand onto and sell it for matinee prices? Do you even give a shit anymore, or am I just that naïve that I didn’t expect this to suck more than an industrial strength vacuum? Another Terminator film is upon us dear readers and as hard as it is to believe, this is the worst one. Now I haven’t seen Salivation since it was in theaters, but even THAT one managed to suck without pissing me off (at least as far as I recall). This one though? Oh you have NO IDEA what’s in store for you if you choose to spend your hard earned cash on this instead of more useful things like Taco Bell and lottery tickets. If you HAVE seen it already, I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. Just remember that you’re not alone. A lot of us witnessed this tragedy and we will all heal with time. You know what might help though? Sharing the pain with others. Let’s get started.
Terminator Genisys (THAT’S NOT HOW YOU SPELL THAT!!!) is basically the Back to the Future 2 of the Terminator films only the quality is more on the level of Beastmaster 2. The movie starts by retconning Salvation where we see an alternate version of the future and the events that led to Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney who may remember from LAST year’s astoundingly terrible action film I, Frankenstein) going back to 1984 to protect Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke) as he did in the original. When he goes back though, everything has changed from the first film. Not only is there a T-1000 specifically hunting him, but Sarah Connor has already gone through the training she went through between Terminator 1 and 2, AND she’s also got a friendly Terminator that she calls Pops played by the lovable Austrian action star. It turns out that in THIS version of events, a T-1000 went back in time and tried to kill her when she was a child. It succeeded in killing her parents before getting destroyed by Arnie (I think) and she’s been living with him since then, training to become a warrior and the mother of the savior of humanity. How any of this works in the timeline is one of the great mysteries of cinema along with the Three Men and a Baby Ghost and the Munchkin Suicide.
After saving Kyle’s life, Sarah and Pops inform him of their plan to go to 1997 with a makeshift time machine (okay…) to stop Judgment Day from happening, but for reasons that are still completely unclear and are infuriating to think about, Judgement Day has ACTUALLY been moved to 2017 and Kyle is the ONLY one who knows this. After some confounding process where he convinces the two of them to change the date, the trio are off to stop the NEW Judgement Day (this time it’s caused by Apple apparently) from taking place, but their journey is fraught with more Terminators and surprises along the way.
I’ll admit that the time travel stuff in this movie bothered me. I’m aware that things like “rules” don’t actually exist when it comes to time travel, but everything in this feels half-baked and overly convenient. More so than any other film in the franchise, this one relies heavily on time travel and alternate time lines and whatnot, but it’s not careful about any of it. Everything feels sloppy and slapdash, from the fact that no one knew this badass Sarah Connor was waiting for them in 1984 (despite it happening in the past) to the justification of Kyle Reese suddenly having pertinent memories about stopping Skynet. They travel forward in time with a time machine they made in 1984, and yet in the year 2017, Skynet’s time machine is WOEFULLY underdeveloped despite having EVERY RESOURCE THEY COULD POSSIBLY NEED including one that CAME FROM THE FUCKING FUTURE. You might, with all fairness, point out that the original trilogy also had huge gaps in logic when it comes to their science fiction and time travel mechanics which you would in fact be right about. The problem is that in those movies, time travel was simply a device and wasn’t meant to be the driving force of the movie. The first one was a straight up cyber-horror film about being chased by an unstoppable murderer. The second one was about Sarah and John’s strained relationship, what with her knowing what’s about to come and him being burdened with humanity’s salvation. Hell, even the third movie which people LOVE to shit on has a ballsy ending where they fail to stop Judgement Day and John Connor has no choice but to bring humanity up from the ashes. This movie though? I have no idea what it’s about. We use our cell phones too much? You can… make choices about your life? Time travel is stupid? See, if there’s no strong theme to carry the story, then the plot device takes center stage and we realize just how fucking dumb it is, ESPECIALLY in this movie which may have THE WORST use of time travel I’ve ever seen!
The story outside of the time travel mechanics isn’t that great either. The future shown in this movie is WAY cheaper than the one in Salvation and they show way too much because why keep ANY sort of mystique about the future or the events that led to Kyle Reese going back in time? Nah! Show EVERYTHING in excruciating detail so that we can’t even have a better version of it in our imagination! At least the scenes in 1984 aren’t terrible, and there are some downright enjoyable sections. While Byung-hun Lee is no Robert Patrick (and yet they ty so hard to make him), he’s still got the basic mannerisms down and is enjoyable as an homage to that performance if nothing else. Once they make it to 2017 though, things get fucking stupid REAL fast. It’s pretty apparent that the ONLY reason they pushed Judgement Day back was so they can do some “scathing” satire of the Apple Corporation and tablets. This falls so fucking flat though because they do NOTHING with it other than ape the aesthetics. Skynet is now taking over in the form of the new operating system call Genisys that’s supposed to connect ALL the devices in the world! WOW!! THAT’S SO UNLIKE THE WORLD WE LIVE IN NOW!! CAN YOU IMAGINE IF OUR PHONES AND COMPUTERS AND TABLETS AND TVS COULD ALL CONNCET!?!? Not only that, but people are SO excited to get their hands on this new OS that every fucking billboard in town is showing an electronic clock counting down when the OS gets released!!
And what does it all amount to? What is the point of showing the people rushing to meet their own doom in the guise of technological advancement? Nothing. Skynet isn’t going to turn everyone’s phone into bombs or their tablets into that trapper keeper from that one episode of South Park. Skynet is just going to release nukes like it always has in every other version of this story. It could have easily just sat quietly in the background and release the nukes when no one expected it, but it had to hire marketers and app developers and all this extraneous bullshit so that we have a very specific ticking clock looming over our heroes. We couldn’t just ASSUME Skynet was up to no good. We had to have a countdown. What a fucking waste. Oh well. Even if the time travel mechanics are half assed and the story is underdeveloped, we could still have some great characters… right? Ugh…
Yeah, the movie sucks in this department as well. The movie is ALL ABOUT Kyle Reese and his mission to get some chemistry going with Sarah Connor, but they’re banter is about as sizzling as a Popsicle. Jai Courtney is just AWFUL in this and pretty much every movie he’s in. He’s written poorly (WAA!!! I’M SO SMART BUT NO ONE LISTENS TO ME!! WAAAAHHHHH!!!!!!!!!) and his acting skills are on par with someone trying to deal with a migraine. It’s all just glowering, unfunny quips, and total indignation about EVERYTHING. I can’t even fathom what someone like Sarah Connor sees in this dude who just pisses and moans his way through almost every scene he’s in. He doesn’t even look the part of Kyle Reese. He looks like HE should be a fucking Terminator in this more than anything, and at least his acting would match better. Kyle Reese has never been played by an imposing actor like Jai Courtney is and that’s because he’s supposed to come off as capable yet scrawny compared to the machines he fights (he’s a solider, not a body builder). Why would you get someone with enough muscle mass to match Schwarzenegger in a part that would actively be diminished by it!? Oh right. Because no movie this shitty is complete until this guy shows his ugly mug. What I’m trying to say is that there’s just no sense of vulnerability to his character in either his appearance or his acting which is ESSENTIAL to the Kyle Reese character. HOW DO YOU FUCK UP KYLE REESE THIS BADLY!?!? Moving on to something LESS shitty, Sarah Connor is… not great. Oh, she is LEAGUES above Kyle Reese and might be a compelling character in her own right, but in this film at this time in her story, she’s just not interesting. She doesn’t have the kind of character arc that she did in the first film, and without her son around like in the second film, she doesn’t have much in terms of humanizing characteristics or tangible reasons to do what she’s doing. Now if the story had started when she was saved by the T-800, then THAT would be interesting, but we’ve missed all the development and now she’s basically a machine in her own right. She’s battle hardened, well trained, and doesn’t have much going for her other than to fight robots. It’s not a GREAT interpretation of the character, but at least she’s not out and out obnoxious like Kyle is, though they DO give her an awful scene at the end where she becomes hysterical and has to be restrained by the less emotional man next to her. Ugh… OTHER THAN THAT THOUGH, she’s decent in this movie.
John Connor is in this movie as well (played by Jason Clarke who was also in Lawless), but his subplot is one of the more baffling things about the movie. He’s basically been turned into a Terminator by Skynet (right after Kyle left for the past) and is sent back to 2017 to stop Kyle and Sarah. They try to put A LOT of importance on the fact that this robot was once John Connor and everyone’s emotional connection to him (which they already did in Terminator 3 if anyone else besides me cares) but it never sold for me. Kyle is all “HE’S STILL IN THERE” and the movie spends a lot of time on this, but it doesn’t mean anything. Even if there was a part of John that was still in this robot (there’s obviously NOT) I just couldn’t bring myself to care because supposedly they were gonna actually stop Skynet this time which would make John’s role meaningless. If nothing else, he was kicking ass for the humans for a LONG time before he turned into a robot, so maybe he’s already done his part in saving humanity. As a Terminator though, I think Jason Clarke is very capable and is doing something different from what we’ve seen before. He’s got personality and wit along with great physical capabilities which make him a really good charismatic boss character, but everything else they throw on top of him here is just extraneous weight that this movie is trying to sell as meaningful and thought provoking. So the story and time travel mechanics are LEGENDARILY awful and the good stuff is hampered by the terrible script. Is there anything GOOD about this movie? Come on. Do you even have to ask that? You KNOW what the best part of this movie is!
Mother Fucking ARNOLD!!! He is the ray of sunshine in this gloomy mess of a film! He lights up the screen and makes you believe in the power of one-liners once again! He’s funny, capable, has REALLY good comebacks, effortlessly embodies the character that launched him into superstardom, and still maintains his title as the most charismatic action star of all time!! Hell, even his subplot about being a father figure for Sarah Connor is wonderful, and you don’t even mind the schmaltziness of it at points! There’s some genuine heart there with Sarah Connor having this guy as her only real father figure and the brief glimpses of the life they’ve lived together. As a soulless machine, he has more chemistry with Sarah than fucking Kyle has and he isn’t even SUPPOSED to be a robot. Like I said, it gets a bit schmaltzy and there are moments that are more over the top than his final scene in the second movie, but I’m apparently one of the few people who found it sweet then and I certainly find it sweet in this. Every single moment with this guy is absolutely joyous and makes you forget how terrible everything else around him is. He’s so good in this that you are that much more pissed that they fucked up everything else. It reminds of the Nightmare on Elm Street remake which was god awful but had the PERFECT Freddy Kruger in the form of Jackie Earle Haley doing his damnedest to make that shit work. As much as I loathe this movie, I would watch it again just to see good old Arnie in action, and THAT is saying a lot.
Other than that, the action is competent (though nothing truly great) and there are moments of humor throughout outside of Arnold that do catch you off guard. In the end, the movie is just a fucking disaster. Everyone was asleep at the wheel for this except for Arnie and what we get is what may be a legendarily awful film. Only time will tell if anyone cares enough to REMEMBER this the way we remember Highlander 2 or the Matrix sequels, but damned if I’ll forget it anytime soon. If you want a fun action film that brings back the Schwarzenegger you used to love, go watch The Stand. If nothing else, wait until this comes to Blu-ray or Netflix just so you can skip the terrible stuff and get to the only thing they bothered to get right. Terminator Genisys is easily the worst film I’ve seen this year. I can handle bad movies, but this was just insulting and incompetent. You know now why I cry.