Terminator: Genisys (2015)
A review by: Jeff Turner
Dir: Alan Taylor
Written by: Laeta Kalogridis, Patrick Lussier
Produced by: David Ellison, Dana Goldberg.
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Emilia Clarke, Jai Courtney, Jason Clarke, J.K. Simmons, Matt Smith.
Currently Playing at: Aksarben Cinema, Marcus Midtown Cinema, AMC Star Council Bluffs 17, AMC Westroads 14.
I remember the first time I watched Terminator 2. I was eight years old and flipping through channels. This movie came on and it had my attention almost compulsively. I did not realize that Terminator 2 was in fact Terminator 2, one of the most critically acclaimed blockbusters of all time. I rewatched it and really enjoyed, as did I the first one. Then I saw studios steadily run the franchise into the ground with Terminator: Salvation (although I can appreciate a good celebrity tantrum, thanks Christian Bale!)
Which brings us to Terminator: Genisys, a film so riddled with plotholes, it plays like a bad Terminator fanfiction. What kind of name is Genisys, anyway? Were the studios thinking of going with Genesis but changed it so they could sound cool and hip? It seems like a tacky title, but that’s the least of this film’s problems. I can appreciate a movie that revels in its stupid, Furious 7 was fun for this reason, as was Mad Max: Fury Road. Genisys is no Fury Road, it is so blissfully unaware of how unbelievably convoluted and idiotic its plot is.
Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney, a total milquetoast in the role) is sent back to 1984 to save Sarah Connor from a Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger). Little does Reese know that Connor already knows what’s coming because she got saved by another Terminator when she was a little girl, and who has warned her about the impending danger of Skynet. They’ve been preparing ever since. What’s magical about T5 is that everything you need to know has already been spoiled by the trailer. You don’t even really need to read this review to determine whether you’d like or dislike the movie, all you’d need to do is go watch the trailer.
I digress, there’s a lot in Terminator: Genisys that I saw and thought “well at least that seems like a good idea on paper” that the film then later proceeded to botch. Removing the mothering the leader of the resistance aspect of Sarah Connor’s character so she can stand on her own as an individual, but it fails to land.
The acting is generally pretty lousy. J.K. Simmons shows up as a cop in two different timelines, and he’s efficient despite barely being in the film. Emilia Clarke has her moments, there’s a bit of that Daenerys confidence that shows up in certain scenes, and there are other scenes where accent slips. Clarke should be in movies, I like her as an actress, but this was a bad choice for a first blockbuster.
Jai Courtney and Jason Clarke bored me to tears. What stood out to me in the beginning was how Clarke looked as John Connor. He looked scary, he had crazy eyes; he looked like a villain. It was apparent that was pretty badly miscast, and Jai Courtney’s not a whole lot better. His Kyle Reese is an absolute bore, and sometimes an active jerk towards Connor. Courtney and Clarke has no chemistry together, this is the worst chemistry I’ve seen between two leads since I don’t know when.
Schwarzenegger deserves credit where credit is due, he looks like he’s having a lot of fun. I’ve read a lot of articles stating that it’s time for the general public to declare him an auteur and I think there’s some truth to that. No matter who directed him, the influence of Schwarzenegger trumped anything a director could suggest. His scenes are the only parts of the movie where I genuinely laughed or was invested in, which the fact that Schwarzenegger was able to add a sense of life into this plot isn’t faint praise. More on that in a moment.
I can see what the studio heads were thinking with this plot. “X-Men: Days of Future Past focused on time travel and wrote the installments of the franchise that tanked out of the canon, we can do the same with Terminator and then people will like it again!” I don’t think Days of Future Past was entirely successful in what it wanted to do (especially since it’s only a matter of time before Marvel gets the property again, muddling up the timeline further) but what carried Days of Future Past was its immense ensemble cast and talented director. As for the director of T5, I’ve enjoyed Alan Taylor’s work in the past, he directed several episode from early seasons of Mad Men and Game of Thrones. Both are shows I love and his work is respectable, however, as Doug Ellin discovered when directing Entourage, Film and TV require a different approach. He shows no panache as a filmmaker. Perhaps said panache will be revealed in a project that he actually wants to make, but for Genisys he brings nothing.
Terminator: Genisys is a product. It’s a shallow effort by studios to convince fans of an old, long dead franchise to give them money. If it had been a bit better that may not have bothered me so much, I have recommended products in the past (see Transformers 4), but Genisys takes itself too seriously. It’s a half measure.