Terminator: Genisys (2015)

Directed by Alan Taylor

Contains spoilers.

In this fifth installment of the Terminator series we're given, rather than a reboot which Hollywood is so fond of, a retcon of the franchise (which is only possible because of the movie's time travel mechanics). We get jaw-dropping movie science, the triumphant return of our classic Arnie, some fun machines to play with, and the same, familiar, explosive fight scenes. Basically, we don't get anything new except enhanced CG, cleavage, and the situation where funny references can be made to the previous films.

Genisys returns us to the story of Kyle Reese (played by Jai Courtney), a story that's all too familiar. But wait, it's different this time, even though everything started the same way... Reese follows a T-800 back in time to protect Sarah Connor (played by Emilia Clarke), but upon arrival he's set upon by a different terminator, a T-1000. He begins his getaway, the same getaway from the original Terminator, but the T-1000 is a better hunter than patrol cops. Sarah ends up saving Reese [and a real cop], whisking him away in an armored truck. He meets another T-800 (played by Arnold Schwarzenegger), but this one is on their side, a terminator she affectionately calls Pops. The T-1000 tracks them down, damaging Pops before they can stop it and the T-800.

They use the computer chip from the T-800 to program the time machine that Pops has built. Sarah has a plan to stop Skynet, but it requires using that time machine to go to the future and stop Judgment Day. But since the timelines have changed, Judgment Day has changed; during Reese's trip back he saw visions, new memories, and convinces Sarah of the correct date to travel to. Sarah and Reese are arrested after arriving in 2017 and soon are rescued by John Connor, who's come back in time. Pops outs him as a terminator-hybrid, sent back to ensure the rise of Skynet, and the story only gets more confusing from here on out.

The Terminator franchise is built upon original, deep storytelling that carries a surprising amount of emotion for movies revolving around machines. This newest installment does the franchise a disservice by ending those traits.

[Genisys] takes the elements, ideas, and features of the franchise and mashes them into an unrecognizable casserole that's wholly hard to digest.

The original film set fun, new standards for a realm of realistic time travel, and managed to weave in a great romance along with satisfying action and great acting. It's sequel had a great story and pioneered CG and visual effects. It's story and acting weren't as good, but the action was more fun, and possibly even more suspenseful. The third was alright; it focused mostly on the action so the story wasn't as good, but it held true to the standards of the franchise. The fourth was a gritty, standalone story that depicted no time travel; not a true member of the franchise, but a great standalone story nonetheless. With each film, they introduce a new element, a new idea, a new feature to spice up the story or action.

However, Genisys takes the standards set by the previous franchise installments and rips them to pieces. It takes the elements, ideas, and features of the franchise and mashes them into an unrecognizable casserole that's wholly hard to digest. Attempts were made to introduce new ideas but instead they cannibalized the previous movies and tried to pass off the old ideas as new ones. Traveling back in time? Seen that. Machine with human skin? Duh. Machine of liquid metal? Been there. Hybrid human-machine to pass as human? Sam Worthington, anyone? Explosions, motorcycles, helicopters, we've seen it all before. There literally isn't a single new idea or effect in this movie that hasn't already been explored. Not only was the franchise started with intriguing stories and science fiction, but it pioneered new visual effects; this movie couldn't even do that.

Then they have to fuck with our classic terminator by giving him the molten metal at the end. "Old, but not obsolete," was a good line until that point. It's indicative of the fact that they can't let the franchise go, because maybe it can still generate money. But why'd they have to do so in such a bastardizing fashion?

Let's take our hero of the franchise, John Connor, and make him the bad guy. PLOT TWIST. Except that it's a shit idea. Sure, it was executed well, and Jason Clarke does a bang up job, but a shit idea nonetheless. Admitted, this movie has some interesting story elements, like allowing Schwarzenegger's T-800 to age by having to "take the long way" when our characters jump forward in time... which unfortunately allows them to have a bunker full of weaponry at the ready when they arrive... Talk about taking an easy way out, writers. But that also means they have to time travel forward through time, the third time jump in the film, which is a little excessive, no?

Time traveling forward to stop Skynet means cutting out over 30 years of time with which they could've used to do the stopping. Being in 1984, they had already had trouble finishing their time machine (using a T-800's schematics), so they jump to 2017, with far more advanced technology to stop, and find that the new time machine, built by a massive technology company instead of one, old machine and a young girl, is still incomplete... There are so many plot holes and so many stupid inclusions in this story that I have trouble comprehending it all.

At one point, Pops even explains how the timeline changed. When a character in a movie has to explain the movie then you know it's too complicated. The story becomes so ridiculous that Reese literally has to go and tell his younger self to repeat a message to a mirror so he'll have the memory of it when his past self time travels back. All in all, its obviously not unusual for events to change in a movie about time travel, especially when one of the key lines is, "There is no fate but what you make for yourself." But so many changes that every single storyline is different is almost nonsense.

 

The action in this film is a far cry from the previous bouts, in that it's prettier. But that doesn't mean that it's better. Modern action is slick, fast, and has a nice back in forth utilizing obvious dichotomy. And guns aren't utilized for extended action sequences because they're far removed from the action, almost impersonal, defying what it means to be a movie. They're used a lot, sure, but not for extensive fights. Add to this that we're past the point of having two enemies slowly hit one another as hard as they can, but that's what we get in this movie. They try to make up for the seen-before fights with pretty CG expounding on magnets and big explosions. It just isn't enough, and ends up barely satisfying. Taylor's lucky that he included numerous fun references to the previous films.

If the story is mediocre then the emotion or the action or something else has to make up for it. But that isn't the case here. Genisys seems almost like an adventure in mediocrity: they must've been trying to make a movie so horrendous. Or it might've just been an accident. Maybe Alan Taylor was so swept up by the franchise that he let it fall apart, even opting to stylize the word "genesis," in case futuristic war machines time traveling wasn't a cool enough prospect. I mean, really, you got me to rate this lower than fucking San Andreas. That's a true feat. Until his next failure, Terminator: Genisys will be a greasy stain on his resume.

 
 
  • Acting – 6 / 10
  • Story – 4 / 10
  • Cinematography – 5 / 10
  • Soundtrack – 4 / 10
  • Entertainment Factor – 17 / 30
  • Sci-Fi/Action – 6 / 20
  • Other – 5 / 10

TL;DR: What Genisys tries to be is a serious science fiction and action film, using the pull of its familiar characters, without realizing that the time travel element (which makes up a majority of this story) should've been killed off after the second film instead of quickly overused. The movie lets itself get far more complicated than it should be but has beautiful visuals and satisfactory action. A fan of the franchise will have nostalgic-heavy fun, an action buff will think the fights are just okay, but a science fiction connoisseur will be quickly underwhelmed. If you see it, go all the way and spring for a 3D matinee, at least you'll get the best visuals; or wait for the DVD and rent it.

 

Film Grade F = 47 / 100