Terminator Genisys (2015)

Ouch! That. Was. Painful. Now, my Spidey-senses certainly pointed directly into the ‘NOT GOOD’ column after I saw the first trailer for this steaming pile, but damn…sometimes I hate it when they turn out THIS correct! What’s even more baffling (aside from James Cameron’s suspicious endorsement for this insult to his original two films) is the fact that it turned out even a little worse than I suspected. Added to which, a handful of friends and co-workers have popped up to say either ‘It’s not as bad as I thought it would be.” or “It was great!” ( I do sometimes question THIS co-workers sanity). To which I HAVE to ask…what the hell were ya’ll smoking, and where can I get some?! Wow!…this movie was some kind of awful. Many, MANY critics have come out of the woodwork to proudly proclaim “It’s better than ‘Terminator Salvation’!”, and this is a perspective I simply don’t understand or subscribe to. I’ve always kinda liked Terminator 4. Was it a flawless piece of science fiction / action art on par with the first two movies? Absolutely not. But it did, at least, try to give us something other than just the usual time-travel shenanigans.
Something the fans have ALWAYS wanted to see, is a movie dedicated to the war against the machines, circa 2029, and ‘Salvation’ got close. Despite director ‘McG’s douchey uni-name, I have to give the guy credit for, at least, trying a different approach and ‘look’. The script could’ve used an over-haul and the Marketing Department could’ve toned down their spoilers, but we did get to see some Human vs Terminator action in the scorched wastelands of ravaged North America. The whole movie lacked the tragic sense of ‘gravity’ that we saw in the first ‘Terminator’ film; through ‘Reese’s (Michael Biehn) PTSD-inspired ‘flashbacks’. The sense of doom and hopelessness from just those two scenes hinted at a goldmine of dark sci-fi content (the scrawny, dirty kids staring lifelessly into flames inside a smashed television set, in the concrete underground warrens of Humanities remaining few…*shivers*). There’s a GREAT film stemming from those unsettling images, waiting to be made…and this is most certainly NOT it.
‘Terminator Genisys’ takes the premise of the 1984 original and ‘Star Trek’s it into a whole new timeline. ‘Kyle Reese’ (Jai Courtenay…replacing the irreplaceable Michael Biehn) is sent back to 1984 to protect the mother of the human Resistance, ‘Sarah Connor’ (Emilia Clark), from a T-800 Terminator unit sent back through time by the murderous super-computer ‘Skynet’, to assassinate her and prevent the birth of her future Resistance leader son, ‘John Connor’ (Jason Clarke). Just as things are playing out as they did in the 1st Act of the first film, a major curve-ball is thrown at the plot, and ‘Sarah’ suddenly turns up, just in time to save a newly-arrived-from-the-future ‘Kyle’ from a T-1000 (Byung-hun Lee) who inexplicably pops into frame. ‘Sarah’ is now all bad-ass’d out, with her teeny leather jacket and penchant for using firearms that are very ill-suited to her stature (A Desert Eagle?! Really?! That gun’s, like, half your friggin size, chick!! Think tactically!!!). She also now has a pet Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger), who she VERY annoyingly calls ‘Pops’ throughout the flick, who’s been protecting her since she was 9 (sent back by a very convenient and lazy *FILES DELETED TO PROTECT MYSTERIOUS BENEFACTOR’S IDENTITY…TILL SEQUEL…HOPEFULLY*). From here, further time-travel hi-jinks ensue, revolving around a silly notion of a universal ‘app’ / operating system doubling as a Skynet ‘Trojan Horse’ nuking the world through our addiction to hand-held devices. It degenerates into a confused and convoluted mess of overly-CG’d action that tries REALLY hard to remind you of the first two, FAR SUPERIOR movies…while insulting them in the process.
Let me see if I can pull ANY ‘good’ out of this lack-luster movie-going experience. I have to give credit to director Alan Taylor (‘Thor: The Dark World’) for his visual style. This movie looks good, with the opening of a re-imagined nuclear holocaust standing out as genuinely impressive. It’s just too bad that the moronic script didn’t do any of the decent visuals any good. There did seem to be some attempt to maintain a level of visual continuity with the first two films, especially in the sequences where they were literally remaking ‘The Terminator’ (1984) shot for shot. MOSTLY, that Cameron-esque motif continued.
The Sound Design was pretty sweet too, with a good deal of ‘punch’ given to the gunfire and explosions.

And…everything else pretty much sucked.

This movie was awful…and I don’t even know where to begin. The Actors, you say? Sure! As good a place to start as any.
The casting for this movie was immensely misguided. Aside from Schwarzenegger, EVERYONE is badly miscast. Jai Courtenay (‘Jack Reacher’) wasn’t as terrible as some have said…but he’s definitely bland. Whoever it was who thought that THIS guy was a fitting replacement for Michael Biehn should have their goddamn head examined! Even Anton Yelchin (‘Star Trek’ ) was a better fit, in the constantly lambasted ‘Salvation’. At least he vaguely resembled Biehn! It also didn’t help that Jai Courtenay was physically jacked up…to a degree that seemed at odds with the already established post-apocalyptic world. Aside from some artistically-arranged battle scars (the key one, a hideous burn scar on his back that said tons about Biehn’s version of the character, was noticeably absent), dude could’ve been an underwear model. I always took away from Biehn’s portrayal that ‘Reese’ was like a starved and homeless dog that just wouldn’t go down without a fight. He was lean and quick, not bulked up and clumsy-looking. It said a lot about the future he had come from, without showing us anything (by that point). They also tried to give this ‘Reese’ a sense of humor (TOTALLY wrong for the character) that, coupled with Courtenay’s dull-as-shit line deliveries, fell flat on its face. Emilia Clark, while sexy in her own tiny way, was hilarious as ‘Sarah’. Not once did I buy her as this trained and determined fighter in charge of her own destiny. She felt like cosplay performed by someone who…just…didn’t…get…’it’. Linda Hamilton and Lena Headey both brought brains, brawn and steely determination to their versions of ‘Sarah’. Clarke’s version seemed like she’s be more worried about what lip-gloss to wear. Jason Clarke (‘Dawn of the Planet of the Apes’ ) is normally good in the projects he picks, but this… was a mistake. Physically, he just didn’t have what I’ve always associated with the character (that one slow and dramatic zoom at the beginning of ‘T2’ just summed the character up for me), and the make-up effects depicting his facial scarring was
hilariously bad. It LOOKED like what it was…make-up. Again…I got the cosplay feels. Schwarzenegger was born to play the T-800 and he did it well, again…it’s just too bad that so much of the dialogue renders him to ‘punchline’ status. Too. Many. Jokes.
This movie is packed with stupid one-liners and, on that level alone, stacks this one equally with ‘Terminator: Rise of the Machines’ (2003); the most insulting one so far (Male stripper sunglasses scene, anyone?). The heart and the drama of the first two movies are again squandered for idiotic attempts at low-brow humor and situational comedy, among bouts of dull, CG-enhanced gun-play and action. Much of this is the direct fault of The Written Word. When the hack script-writers weren’t trying to be all cutesy-funny, they were simply lifting lines straight out of the previous films. And PEOPLE, if we end up cursed with another of these…please try to refrain from overusing lines like “Come with me if you want to live!!” or “On your feet, soldier!” again…among others. They, like the now-stupid time-travel angle, are ‘done like dinner’. Cast them aside!! Give us something new!! Something that respects the source material…instead of making a mockery of it!!
That’s a good way to look at this one ( and ‘Rise of the Machines’, while we’re at it!). A mockery. These are movies that do not respect the paying audience; the audience that keeps coming back in hopes they’ll EVENTUALLY get the follow-up that’s worthy of the first two films. It’s ‘lowest common denominator’ thinking, on the part of the so-called filmmakers. It reminds me of all the attempts there’ve been to try and get ‘The Punisher’ movie adaptation right. ‘Frank Castle’s backstory is pretty basic and should, therefore, be pretty painless to adapt. But no!! Not once have they gotten it right, after numerous attempts! Same here. Ever since ‘T2’, we’ve been fooled 3 times into thinking “This MAY be The One!”, each time a new Terminator movie is shat out…but it never is. I may not hate ‘Salvation’…but I don’t think it’s a worthy successor.
The Marketing of this movie certainly did it no favors, but even without the questionable reveal of ‘John Connor’ is now ‘Skynet’!!’, there still wouldn’t be any worth-while surprises popping up in this one. The only thing close to being a surprise is *SPOILER* that Matt Smith (‘Doctor Who’) is now the physical embodiment of ‘Skynet’, in 2029…a trick we also saw in ‘Salvation’ with the use of Helena Bonham Carter’s likeness; to give the marauding super-computer a face to relate to. My question is this: Why in the hell does ‘Skynet’ need a face?! Personally, the idea of a faceless computer program bent of eliminating the human race through cold and calculating means is FAR scarier. Not having a visage or even voice to express it’s intentions and ‘thoughts on the matter’ makes The Enemy far more alien and untouchable. That’s part of what I’ve always found creepy about the idea behind the ‘Terminator’ franchise: A faceless enemy that we created, that we can’t understand the motivations of, is the very thing that may cause our extinction. So this was just another example of the simpleton writers insisting on cutting off the ‘balls’ of the story, in order to make sure every idiot in the theatre understands their script…that I’d wager they probably don’t understand much themselves.
All in all, ‘Terminator Genisys’ is another weakly-written and dumb entry into a stumbling franchise that just needs to go off and die in a corner somewhere. Even though James Cameron gets the rights reverted back to him in 3 years time, I don’t think that even he could undo the damage done to the franchise he created so ably, back in the day.These filmmakers are clueless as to what the fans actually want and continue to ignore us with these lame-ass, transparent attempts to capitalize on the now-classic sci-fi legacy of ‘The Terminator’ and ‘T2: Judgement Day’. In this one, the acting is poor, the dialogue is shit, the script makes no sense when you ponder it for even a minute, the action is numbing and not terribly imaginative, and the music is generic and dull. There’s too much CG and many attempts at humor back-fire, all the while spitting in the face of the ‘heart’ and palpable sense of doom that intelligently wove through the scripts of the first two movies. I wish I could critique the 3D presentation (actually, I don’t), but my common sense stepped in and stopped me from wasting any more cash on this cinematic dung-heap.
As far as I’m concerned, the ‘Terminator’ series began with ‘The Terminator’ in 1984 and ended with ‘T2’ in 1991 (an argument can also be make for the inclusion of ‘The Sarah Connor Chronicles’ too.). It’s that simple. Everything else is basically expensive fan-fiction that has all managed to miss the mark…sometimes spectacularly. If you MUST see this one, wait for it on NetFlix. It’s not worth your time or cash on The Big Screen.

*And Jim Cameron…Jimmy…what are you thinking?!! You’re a gazillionaire!! Did you really need whatever cash Paramount waved in front of you, to say that you felt that this was “the true Terminator 3”? That shit couldn’t have been true…could it? You’re a smart guy…this is a stupid movie. Can’t you see that?! Are you missing the fact that it narratively erases your two films…the best ones in the franchise?!! You saying THAT, in public, coupled with your insistence on making 3 more unneeded ‘Avatar’ movies, has me worried that you’re losing your touch (and maybe your mind!) a la George Lucas. Say it isn’t so, Jim!!

Aw well…at least I’ll always have ‘Aliens’.


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