July 4, 2016

Terminator: Genisys


Like many people, I am a big fan of Terminator 1 & 2. I have seen most of Rise of the Machines, and Terminator: Salvation barely felt like a Terminator movie at all.
Even if you ignore the plot inconveniences of writing a new movie about an antagonist that has been destroyed several times over (Skynet), it has become more and more difficult to create a fresh angle on the Terminator dynamic.
The lameness of T3 and Salvation made it easy to stay away from Genisys, but I noticed that people were talking about it. There are plenty of lame movies with zero buzz, but something about Genisys grabbed the imagination of Terminator fans who saw it. Most of the buzz was bad:

  • "They've thrown away the whole Terminator canon";
  • "This movie hates Terminator fans";
  • "You won't like what they've done to your Terminator".

But this level of engagement - good or bad - was curious enough that I was willing to try it out on Amazon Prime.
The first act of the movie is a wonderful fan service remake / mashup of the first two movies. Scenes from The Terminator are remade but with a nutty alternate timeline; the silvery T-1000 shows up; and Arnold fights Arnold! At the end of the third act the true villain shows up, and I was bored and confused almost immediately. The new villain does not make much logical sense, and as an opponent in action scenes, he brings nothing new to the conflict that the T-1000 already did.
So the last two-thirds was mostly battle-escape, battle-escape, battle-escape, but with little innovation on the battles Cameron invented with much more flair 25 and 30 years ago.
This movie brings back many of the characters from the franchise, and they've all been recast except for Arnold (Jason Clarke is the sixth actor to play John Connor!):

  • Emilia Clarke was excellent as Sarah Connor. She actually looks a bit like Linda Hamilton in 1984! 
  • I first saw Jai Courtney (Kyle Reese) as a cold-blooded assassin in Jack Reacher, and it's impossible for me to see him as a good guy.
  • Likewise, Jason Clarke (no relation to Emilia) never seems trustworthy in this film.
  • Oscar winner JK Simmons plays who exactly? I think he's a cop who believes in the whole Skynet/Terminator story, but has no real idea what's going on - kind of like Fox Mulder on the X-Files. I don't know why he's in the movie. I don't think he's playing a character from one of the earlier movies, but if he's a new character, what purpose does he serve?
  • The other acting standout is Arnold Schwarzenegger. He has no problem playing the T-800 again; what's a welcome surprise is the bone-dry jokes they've written for him. The level of humor in this movie is set just right. That's important for a story dealing with the mass extinction of humanity!
  • Coincidentally, there's two Clarkes and two Courtneys in this movie too- Courtney B. Vance plays the scientist character that Joe Morton played in T2 (yes, he died in that movie, that's totally irrelevant here).

I'd recommend this movie to Terminator fans for the fun remake/reimagining of the first third, but it gets pretty confusing and dull the rest of the way.

Fun Fact: I saw Terminator 2: Judgement Day exactly 25 years before watching Genisys - July 4, 1991.
Further Reading: How the Terminator franchise makes George Lucas look good.