Movie Review - Terminator Genisys

It makes absolutely no sense. This movie took what was a simple and compelling premise and has so convoluted it that one almost has to just dismiss it. Yet, this movie is so aggressively confusing that I can't. It gets to a point where it becomes all about blowing up, crashing or punching things, and if that's all one needs, this movie will suit just fine, but even still Alan Taylor is not as good at directing or editing action as James Cameron.

It essentially accomplishes what Scream 4 accomplished. It's a sequel that's also attempting to reboot by riffing on the original. It's doing the same thing with a few twists. One of the twists is one that Cameron invented and it's a twist that I liked and could have appreciated, if more care had been put to it.

Jai Courtney (Jack Reacher and A Good Day to Die Hard) stars as Kyle Reese, the same man from The Terminator (1984) who is spared from the nuclear holocaust launched by an artificial intelligence called SkyNET that has deemed humans not worthy to exist. SkyNET builds a series of robots to hunt down any survivors, capture and kill them.

Jason Clarke (Zero Dark Thirty and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes) co-stars as John Connor, the man who rescues Kyle from the robots and trains him to be a soldier. In fact, John has become the leader of the human survivors who have formed a resistance army to fight back against the robots and ultimately bring down SkyNET. He's scarred but seems very self-assured.

John and Kyle lead one final mission to destroy SkyNET but before they do, SkyNET is able to send a robot that looks human, the T-800, played by Arnold Schwarzenegger, back in time in an effort to prevent John from being born by killing his mother right before she gives birth to him in 1984. John and Kyle get to the time machine and realize what SkyNET did. John then decides to send Kyle back in time to stop the T-800 and protect his mother.

All of this is seen on screen in this movie in great, action-movie detail. It's stuff that was merely spoken and relayed in dialogue in Cameron's original. Essentially, the opening reel of this film is just a visualization of the first film's back story. It's when Kyle is thrown back in time that things diverge.

Emilia Clarke (Game of Thrones) also co-stars as Sarah Connor. She's the aforementioned mother of John. In the original film, Sarah was a meek and mild waitress in Los Angeles who is taken by surprise by Kyle's presence as her protector.

However, the twist here is that Sarah is not taken by surprise by Kyle's presence. In fact, she's expecting him. She's not a meek and mild waitress. She's actually a well-trained soldier who's probably just as good at fighting and ballistics as Kyle.

The questions are why and how. Writers Laeta Kalogridis and Patrick Lussier explain how but don't explain why. The external reason why is because the filmmakers wanted to invoke the Sarah Connor of Terminator 2 or rightfully be more in-line with recent, strong, female, action heroes like Charlize Theron in Mad Max: Fury Road, Jennifer Lawrence in The Hunger Games or even Shailene Woodley in Divergent, another film featuring Jai Courtney.

However, the internal reason why is not revealed. It's a big question mark that hangs over this movie. Actually, it's like an anchor weighing down the narrative. The whole time I was just frustratingly asking why, why and why. Without an answer, the whole thing feels pointless or an obvious, sequel builder.

The other twist here is the one that Cameron invented. For Terminator 2, Cameron made the T-800, which was the villain in the first film, the hero. Schwarzenegger went from being the bad guy to being the good guy. It was a stroke of brilliance on Cameron's part. Kalogridis and Lussier do the same thing here, but in the opposite direction. This film takes a good guy and turns him into a bad guy.

What this film could have done with that twist, that reversal, could have been interesting. The fight has always been a fight between man versus machines in which the end goal has always been annihilation. This movie has the Cameron-esque twist and could have changed the end-goal to assimilation and not annihilation. Much like in Star Trek: The Next Generation and its popular characters known as the Borg, this movie could have made the machines decide not to fight man but join with them in a physical sense, invoking not just the Borg but also the alien pods from Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956).

If you remove the science-fiction failings though, the writing doesn't work on more basic or traditional levels. The acting perhaps doesn't help either. The key relationship in the original film was the romance between Kyle and Sarah. This film is not really able to replicate that, or give a substitute that's just as good or even adequate enough. Of course, Kyle is going to fall for Sarah. She's a pretty girl who is in reality his only prospects. However, I don't get why Sarah would fall for Kyle. Yes, he's pretty. Courtney has a very handsome face and a hot, sexy, beefcake body, but other than that and given her altered back story, I don't see why she would be so for him.

At least in the original film, it was an old-school romance of Sarah being rescued by Kyle, his devotion and even willingness to sacrifice himself was a big draw. Yet, here, Sarah rescues Kyle more times than he's there for her.

The key relationship in Terminator 2 was the father-son relationship between John and the T-800. This movie tries to replicate that but instead it's a father-daughter relationship between Sarah and the T-800. However, Terminator 2 did a good job of developing that father-son dynamic and building it up as the movie played out on screen. This movie doesn't develop or build it on screen. When we meet the new and improved Sarah, we just simply have to accept that she has the father-daughter bond with the T-800 when it's not enough.

Schwarzenegger actually saves most of the film. He's funny in a lot of scenes and he as the T-800 actually sells the father-daughter bond. He's really the best thing about this convoluted adventure. Oscar-winner J.K. Simmons (Whiplash) is funny and great in this film too. I wish he were in it more. Unfortunately, there just isn't enough time. The movie moves from set-piece to set-piece with all alacrity and at times break-neck speed. Most are serviceable but nothing that's innovative or bold.

Two Stars out of Five.
Rated PG - 13 for sci-fi violence and gunplay, partial nudity and brief strong language.
Running Time: 2 hrs. and 6 mins.


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