Film Review: Terminator Genisys
In July 2015, Alan Taylor released Terminator Genisys, the fifth installment in the Terminator franchise originally created by James Cameron. Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jason Clarke, Emilia Clarke, Jai Courtney, J. K. Simmons, Dayo Okeniyi, Matt Smith, Courtney B. Vance and Lee Byung-hun, the film has grossed $224.8 million as of July 12. The first of a new stand-alone trilogy, two sequels are set for May 2017 and June 2018, with Schwarzenegger confirmed for the first sequel.
Humanity has finally won the war against SkyNet in 2029, but it has already sent the Terminator to 1984 to kill Sarah Connor before her son, John is born. As a response, Kyle Reese is sent to the past to protect her, but once he gets there, he discovers she’s already survived an assassination attempt in the past and she must now protect him from a more advanced Terminator to prevent Judgment Day.
Terminator Genisys is a downright awful film where the nods to past films only serve to remind of significantly better product. In order to create a continuity reboot, the film brings a lot of call-backs and nods to the previous films in the franchise. The biggest call-back the film provides is that the entrances of the T-800 and Kyle are exactly the same as they were in the first film, right down to Kyle’s police chase and the Terminator approaching a trio of punks. Further there’s a point when Sarah yells “now soldier” to Kyle, which references when she said “on your feed soldier” in the first film, with the slight difference that instead of character development from ordinary to survivor, she’s been a survivor for years due to an altered timeline. And while these call-backs are done very well, they accomplish the exact opposite of what they’re meant to do. Both of those references are in the first half hour of the film, which is actually the best part. But once the timelines have found to be altered, the film falls apart and the aforementioned references stick in the mind of the audience, causing a desire to rewatch the first two films to get away from this one.
Then there’s the acting, or lack thereof. It really says something about a film where the best acting comes from a man who’s supposed to be playing an emotionless cyborg. Courtney and Clarke, while established as having acted well in the past, just seem to act so wooden that it comes off as that they really don’t care about the film they’re in. There’s also the overwhelming misuse of Matt Smith, who is in three scenes at most and really should have been given more screen time. That, and the way he spoke seemed unnatural even for a Terminator.
However, behind the film falling apart and the bad acting the film’s real problem lies in the fact that it really didn’t need to be made, which is a problem that has been around since Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines. After the successes of The Terminator and Terminator 2: Judgment Day, it was realize that making the films into a franchise would be a veritable cash cow and since then, films have been made that betray the tone and effect of the first two films.
Essentially, the first two films either placed thrilling suspense before action or made them equal. And ever since then the thrilling suspense has been completely replaced by nonstop action. Not only that, but subsequently made films negate anything presented in the first two films, which essentially seek to tackle the ideas of free will and predestination, seen when Reese in the first film says that “there is no fate but what we make for ourselves” and in the second by actually stopping Judgment Day. Then the third film came after 12 years and stated that there is no free will and Judgment Day was only postponed, opening the floodgates up for subsequent films to be made simply to grab cash. And though Terminator Genisys goes back to the first film and reboots the franchise, voiding anything that happened in the second, third and fourth films, it had no business being made other than to make a lot of money.
Furthermore, the odd thing about the film is that it seeks to ask a question that is an interesting one on the surface, namely if the existence John Connor is even necessary for the future of mankind. But delving into the intricacies of the question only really seem to show that the film really didn’t think farther than the question itself other than making John a cyborg and killing him off. And while the conundrum will possibly be further explored in the sequels, all that does is show how much better the original film was because even if Judgment Day hadn’t been made, it would still have been a well-made film in its own right.
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