US Release Date: 07-01-2015
Directed by: Alan Taylor
- Arnold Schwarzenegger, as
- Emilia Clarke, as
- Sarah Connor
- Jai Courtney, as
- Kyle Reese
- Jason Clarke, as
- John Connor
- J.K. Simmons, as
- Dayo Okeniyi, as
- Danny Dyson
- Matt Smith, as
- Courtney B. Vance, as
- Miles Dyson
- Byung-hun Lee, as
- Cop / T-1000
- Michael Gladis, as
- Lt. Matias
- Sandrine Holt, as
- Detective Cheung
- Wayne Bastrup, as
- Young O'Brien
- Bryant Prince, as
- Young Kyle
- Mark Adam, as
- Kyle's Dad
- Kerry O'Malley as
- Kyle's Mom
Arnold Schwarzenegger in Terminator Genisys.
With Terminator: Genisys, Paramount has taken a page from their new Star Trek franchise and attempted to reboot a series of movies while pretending it's a sequel instead. Although all of the events in this film contradict all of the previous films' timelines, by including Schwarzenegger and revisiting the opening scenes of the original Terminator film, the filmmakers have attempted to claim that this is a legitimate continuation of the original story. It feels like a pathetic bid to stretch the franchise out a little bit more and rehash everything that was already done before and better in the first two James Cameron directed films in order to lure in audiences by putting the word Terminator in the title.
The film begins as a recreation of the original film only told from the point of view of Kyle Reese, the resistance fighter from the future who is sent back in time to protect Sarah Conner, the mother of John Conner, the man who leads humanities' fight against the machines who have taken over the world in the future. When he travels back to 1984 however, he learns that things have changed in the past. Sarah Conner isn't the helpless student/waitress with no knowledge of her destiny that he expected to find, but has instead been raised by a Terminator who was sent back in time to 1973 by persons unknown. This aging Terminator (Schwarzenegger) and Sarah have already killed the Terminator (a CGI created young Schwarzenegger) that Reese was sent back to kill. And now they plan to travel to the future to stop Skynet, the machine that takes over the world, from ever being built (but which was destroyed already in Terminator 2, but never mind).
There's a famous line from Doctor Who (okay, famous amongst Doctor Who fans) where the Doctor tries to explain time travel like this, "People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect, but *actually* from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint - it's more like a big ball of wibbly wobbly... time-y wimey... stuff." That's pretty much how the makers of this film have decided to treat time travel, as a big ball of wibbily wobbly timey wimey stuff, because the timelines and events of this film contradict themselves and the events of all the previous films in the franchise. Characters in the film have knowledge of the past, the future, pasts that never happened, futures that will never happen, and pasts that will have happened in the future, without explanation. Events in the past (from a future perspective, but actually the present in the film, but the future from the audience's perspective) are changed constantly with seemingly no ripple effect to the further future. With all that in mind, you'll be far better off not even trying to make logical sense of the timeline.
During the time Reese and Sarah are in 1984, the story manages to be intriguing. The best scene in the entire movie is the recreation of the Terminator's arrival at Griffith Observatory where he meets and battles an older version of himself. Seeing Schwarzenegger vs. Schwarzenegger is the highlight of the film. If the movie could have pulled a Back to the Future 2 and actually had these new versions interacting with other events in the first film than the whole movie might have been entertaining. Unfortunately, Paramount doesn't own the rights to the first film and so was unable to reuse any of the actual footage from the original.
The cast is remarkable only for being unremarkable. Emilia Clarke is cute and likable, but she's no Linda Hamilton. She's a little too cute to be believable as the battle hardened Sarah Conner. Jai Courtney is bland as Kyle Reese, seeming to be hired more for his abs than his acting. Together they make a good looking couple, but with no real chemistry. Jason Clarke seems miscast as John Conner. He lacks the charisma needed for the part. He's supposed to be the inspirational leader of all mankind, but I just didn't see it. Schwarzenegger is Schwarzenegger and his mere presence provides some fun, but he never gets any particularly defining or iconic moments. Former Doctor Who himself, Matt Smith, plays the personification of Skynet, but is never given much of a chance to develop despite being the only halfway original contribution to the franchise, although a post-credits sequence hints that he might if a sequel is made.
There is plenty of action of course, but it feels very much by the numbers. It hits all the tickboxes of a Terminator film, trotting out well known lines, such as "I'll be back." and "Come with me if you want to live." and features the liquid metal Terminator in the form of a policeman. And of course there are the requisite car chases and explosions, all of them done with a gigantic budget, and so look quite good. However, there's no emotional connection to any of the events happening on the screen and so the action is reduced to mere eye candy. And the references to earlier films just remind the audience of how much better those earlier films were.
Hollywood needs to learn that just because you can make a sequel it doesn't mean that you should, although I suppose if it hasn't learned that by now it never will. This franchise should have been terminated a long time ago.
Jai Courtney in Terminator Genisys
As the film begins we are led to believe that the story will be told from Kyle’s perspective and that idea excited me. In the original film it was his confession of love to Sarah that created the movie's greatest emotion and truly connected us to this couple desperately trying to survive against a killing machine. Jai Courtney’s Kyle is likable enough and I was eager to see if he and Emilia Clarke, as Sarah Connor, could generate the same chemistry as Michael Biehn and Linda Hamilton.
Unfortunately, as Scott noted, their chemistry is nearly nonexistent but that has as much to do with the script as it does the actors. The best moments of their relationship do not even feature Kyle. I enjoyed the running joke of the Terminator asking Sarah if she and Kyle had mated yet, as they both know that is how the time circle works, somehow.
Kyle arrives in 1984 and goes through much the same paces as Biehn’s Kyle Reese. Then everything changes when he meets Sarah and she is not the delicate flower he was told she would be. Here begins the unraveling of a time travel story that had always walked a delicate line trying to make sense out of it. Rules were established, giving the audience something to cling to. Kyle goes back in time, saves Sarah and fathers her son, who grows up to become Kyle’s best friend who then sends Kyle back in time to complete the time circle.
Here a Terminator was sent back in time when Sarah was nine. He raised her and she named him Pops. That alone changes everything and also opens up the endless possibility of an infinite amount of Terminators to travel back in whatever time to kill Sarah. With that window thrown open, nothing that happens in this film holds any weight.
The movie almost had a moment when Kyle, Sarah and Pops meet John in 2017. Sarah tells John that if she and Kyle are killed, he will not exist. Then John does the whole time travel speech that Scott wrote about. It completely erases all and any rules we have come to know. It removes the last of whatever integrity the film may have had left.
Terminator Genisys has some good things going for it. Some of the action sequences are decent enough, if not too inspired. I have been a fan of Jai Courtney’s since he was on “Spartacus” and felt he did a decent enough job here. Emilia Clarke is cuter than Linda Hamilton but Hamilton could take her in a fight any day of the week. Like Scott, I enjoy what Arnold Schwarzenegger brings to the screen. His screen presence is reminiscent of John Wayne’s. He does not need to act so much as simply show up. His disturbing smile is one of the films better light moments.
Terminator Genisys looks good and the CGI budget was well spent. Too bad the script was not sent back for more rewrites with the instruction to stick by the rules already established. We could have also used some scenes of Kyle and Sarah connecting, for without those there really is no need for Kyle to even be in the film.
Photos © Copyright Paramount Pictures (2015)