2015, PG-13, 125 mins.
2015, PG-13, 125 mins.
Arnold Schwarzenegger as Terminator / Emilia Clarke as Sarah Connor / Jason Clarke as John Connor / Jai Courtney as Kyle Reese / J.K. Simmons as Detective O'Brien / Dayo Okeniyi as Danny Dyson / Lee Byung-Hun as T-1000
Directed by Alan Taylor / Written by Laeta Kalogridis and Patrick Lussier
Despite the fact that THE TERMINATOR series has been one of the more prevailing and popular film mythologies of the last three decades, the franchise fanboy in me was more than a bit reticent at the notion of yet another sequel.
Cameron’s landmark 1984 sci-fi/action time travel mind bender gave way
to the superior TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY (still the most slickly proficient
action film of the last quarter century) and later two sequels in
TERMINATOR 3: RISE OF THE MACHINES and the most recent TERMINATOR:
SALVATION (the latter two being quite underrated).
Now we come a bit more full circle with star Arnold Schwarzenegger
returning to the role that made him a bankable superstar in the early 1980’s in
TERMINATOR GENISYS, but seeing as the actor is now approaching
senior citizenship the idea of him playing an unstoppable
cybernetic organism from the post-apocalyptic future feels, at face value,
forced and desperate.
good news, though, with the oddly named TERMINATOR GENISYS is that it’s not a lazily executed or
paint-by-numbers sequel. If
anything, this new potential franchise re-starter manages to be a
three-way hybrid of a prequel, sequel, and remake/reboot all rolled into
one. Much like what the
first STAR TREK reboot film did, TERMINATOR GENISYS plays fast and loose
with the established Cameron envisioned film milieu (granted, it all but ignores
the narrative threads of the last two films) and manages to pay homage to
specific events of early films while retrofitting them to this new
entry’s storyline. Unlike, say, this summer’s JURASSIC
WORLD (which wallowed in overused and monotonous series
conventions), TERMINATOR GENISYS has a sort of go-for-broke and somewhat
clever ambitiousness with exploring the very idea of what a sequel can be.
In forging bravely ahead with a whole new – and somewhat
compelling – reconfiguring of what has come before in TERMINATOR 1 and
2, GENISYS dares to be different, even when it stumbles in its own
attempts to do just that.
movie begins as a prequel to the events of the first TERMINATOR film in
that we see extended glimpses of the machine run, nuclear devastated
future of 2029 where the leader of the human resistance John Connor (Jason
Clarke) preps a final crippling blow on Skynet (the A.I. core of the
machines). After successfully
completely their strike, Connor and his right hand man Kyle Reese (Jai
Courtney) discover that the machines have concocted an elaborate time
travel machine and have sent back a T-800 Terminator back to 1984 to
assassinate Connor’s mother Sarah (Emilia Clarke).
Kyle bravely volunteers to enter the machine and travel back to
1984 to save and protect Sarah, but when he arrives at his destination
(essentially the opening scenes of the 1984 original) things seem (mostly
to audiences and somewhat to him) off right from the get-go.
Kyle is chased by what should have been an early 80’s LA police officer,
but is instead revealed to be a liquid metal T-1000 Terminator.
To make matters more puzzling, a surprisingly battle
hardened Sarah shows up, armed to the teeth, to rescue Kyle from certain
death. Things become even
more baffling when Kyle discovers that Sarah has been prepping for his
journey for years and actually has been trained by another T-800
Terminator (Schwarzenegger) that was actually sent way, way back to the
1970’s to protect and watch over Sarah since she was a young girl.
Complicating Kyle’s very mission is the fact that “Pops”
(Sarah’s nickname for her surrogate father machine) has been secretly
devising a time machine of his own in 1984 to send them to the right time
in the future to elude detection and shut down Genisys (an omnipotent OS
created by Skynet that will eventually destroy mankind).
Kyle and Sarah journey to 2017 to stop Genisys (leaving the Terminator
behind, who will have to wait decades to re-team back up with them in the
future), but are dealt with some shocking revelations that could derail
their mission altogether.
That’s a lot of plot to cover, but I’ve really just scratched
the convoluted – if not somewhat confusing and exposition heavy –
storyline of GENISYS. Even
though I thoroughly enjoyed director Alan Taylor’s (THOR: THE DARK
WORLD) attempts at trying to make sense of all of the overlapping
timelines and temporal traveling logic, there’s no doubt that the
film feels at times that it requires its own road map to make sense of it
all. On one hand, the
multiple coalescing temporal tangents are wonderfully varied and help
give GENISYS a sense of unpredictable forward momentum (you’re never
really sure what will happen next), but upon close scrutiny they don’t
seem to completely hold up under paradoxical logic.
Then there is the nature of a key and shocking plot twist involving
a major character that was pathetically spoiled in GENISYS’ advertising
campaign, which had the damning consequence of robbing it of its seismic
impact to audience members.
though, GENISYS has ample fun playing connect-the-dots with the
established timeline present in the first two TERMINATOR films and
displays even more giddiness in concocting do-overs of iconic scenes
present beforehand. There’s a rather brilliantly executed scene where
the original “younger” Terminator battles and “older” version of
himself (young Au-nald is meticulously recreated using a thankless
combination of clips from the ’84 original and bravura visual effects).
GENISYS also revels in some incredibly well sustained action beats,
like the early aforementioned extended chase between Kyle, Sarah and
“Pops” and their T-1000 pursuer, and another late chase sequence
involving a school bus on the Golden Gate Bridge in 2017 as the heroes try
to fend off their new enemy. Taylor
may not have all of the tools at his disposal to make a cohesive
TERMINATOR film on a level of plot cadence and flow, but he sure is adept
at delivering on the film’s intended pulse pounding action, which have
been franchise staples from the beginning.
only wished that the casting of key characters here was as inspired as the
film’s technical brilliance. Jai
Courtney certainly has the façade of an action hero, but he lacks star
appeal and charisma to make Kyle a truly worthy hero that elicits our
rooting interest. Emilia
Clarke is a feisty and empowered actress (as on display in GAME OF
THRONES), but she seems oddly miscast here as the battle hardened,
gun-totting Sarah (she seems a bit too diminutive and soft considered what
Linda Hamilton brought to the table over twenty years ago).
Recent Oscar winner J.K. Simmons is a nice addition to the cast
whose character has ties to the heroes in both the present and past, but
what could have been an intriguing new persona to this new retconned
universe is terribly underutilized. Jason
Clarke is strong, assured and authoritative in his fairly meaty role of
the Christ-like future messiah who arguably has the trickiest performance
task to pull off out of all the cast members.
audiences see TERMINATOR movies to bare witness to sight of the
unflappable Schwarzenegger (now a ripe 67-years-old) fully embodying his
cyborg eradicating his enemies while making puns and attempting (with
various degrees of success) to become more human in the process.
GENISYS has a smart (if not overly convenient) explanation as to
why this new Terminator looks nearly geriatric (living tissue on the
outside can age over the edoskeleton underneath) and also manages to dryly
comment on its star's advancing years with some amusing dialogue exchanges.
Nevertheless, it’s a real trip to see Schwarzenegger slip back
into his icon role without missing a performance mark.
He clearly hasn’t forgotten how to sell is movie star swagger in
this part and he more than confidently makes up for the film’s few
TERMINATOR GENISYS builds towards a conclusion that’s both fiendishly exhilarating, yet borderline anticlimactic for those that have seen similar third acts in the previous films. It opens up possibilities for more sequels for its newly minted chronology, but even I would concede that perhaps it's time to put the Arnold T-800/Sarah Connor thirty-plus years story arc to bed…for good…and move on. Recommending TERMINATOR GENISYS is a challenge for me. Its chief star is on ample ass-kicking display. The visual effects and action sequences are top notch. The film’s overall plot is niftily executed (even when it confounds viewers) and has many fresh ideas (something that usually seems to be lost on fifth films in franchises). TERMINATOR GENISYS didn’t leave me excitedly clamoring for more sequels beyond it, but it should be lauded for not redundantly recycling sequel and series formulas. You’ve never quite seen a TERMINATOR film quite like this, which is what gives GENISYS that much needed creative jolt of inspiration that so many other sequels lack.
The series – like its aging title character – may be old, but it's not totally obsolete.
MY CTV REVIEW: