In our ‘Terminator: Genisys’ review we find a classic sci-fi franchise rebooted again with bad casting and even worse acting overtop a confusing mess of a plot….
By Damon Martin — Editor/Lead Writer
When ‘The Terminator’ debuted in 1984 it was an ‘R’ rated science-fiction movie that played like a serious drama while dabbling in a dystopian future on a minimal $6 million budget that mostly revolved around the battle between two survivors and an unstoppable killing machine.
What was so brilliant about that film was the way it was shot in such minimalist fashion where it only took three characters, a few special effects and a script full of well engineered dialogue that told a story without bludgeoning you over the head with CGI.
The second film aptly titled ‘T2’ was an upgraded version of the original and while it boasted a lot more in the special effects budget, everything about the movie still worked perfectly. Linda Hamilton’s turn from demure waitress to computer factory bombing psycho should have earned her at least a few award nods and the discovery of Edward Furlong for his one memorable movie role (although I still love ‘Brainscan’ as well) flowed in sync alongside Robert Patrick’s reserved portrayal as a liquid metal monster.
And of course who could forget Arnold Schwarzenegger, who became an action movie icon following the first ‘Terminator’ and then shot into the stratosphere with his icy yet warm play as a robot with (out) feelings in the sequel. He unfortunately motored back as a machine in ‘Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines’ but it was only his likeness used in an equally forgettable ‘Terminator: Salvation’. Actually the only thing I can remember about the latter film is Christian Bale’s epic meltdown on set. Or then again, like Jar-Jar Binks, maybe I’ve just blocked out the painful memories of a bad movie going experience.
Outside of ‘Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles’, which was an underrated and underappreciated masterpiece, the franchise just hasn’t had much to offer until the new film — ‘Terminator: Genisys’ — landed in theaters this week.
Unfortunately after sitting through this abysmal attempt at a reboot/reimagining, there’s not much hope going forward that the ‘Terminator’ franchise will ever turn it around again.
Right away this is where ‘Terminator: Genisys’ gets murky because the story starts out like the classic film of old where John Connor is leading a human resistance against a self-aware robot army hell bent on destroying mankind. His top lieutenant is Kyle Reese and they are just a couple of attacks away from bringing Skynet to its knees. The last stop happens in two parts where one garrison of troops will attack the Skynet main frame while Connor and Reese will attempt to take out the computer’s final weapon that it can use a moment of panic — the time displacement unit.
Does this all sound familiar?
If you’ve seen any of the ‘Terminator’ films it should, but from the moment Kyle Reese steps into that time machine and gets shuffled back to 1984, this movie goes left, right, up and down but anywhere back to where things are familiar.
Without giving away too many plot points, ‘Terminator: Genisys’ resets the story from the moment Reese lands and finds out that Sarah Connor is already on the hunt and awaiting his arrival. Things only splinter from there as Sarah reveals that she teamed up with another ‘Terminator’ she calls ‘Pops’, who came back in time to protect her as a child and has been with her ever since.
The long and short of the story is this — when Kyle traveled to the past, an event happened back in his current era that changed the course of history forever and he ended up creating a rift that distorted the time line and we ended up with two separate realities.
It’s like something out of ‘Star Trek’ but not nearly as cohesive or interesting this time around.
Add to that, the trailer that was released a couple of months back already gave away a major twist in the story and you can imagine how things just go from bad to worse at that point.
The only thing more robotic in this movie than the Terminator is Jai Courtney’s attempt at acting. I’m not sure at what point this former ‘Spartacus’ star became an action movie hero but if his work in the worst ‘Die Hard’ movie of them all wasn’t enough of a clue, this film should do the trick to convince anyone even thinking about making him a leading man to think again.
Emilia Clarke is one of the best young actresses working in Hollywood today, but she’s just not convincing as a steely savior of the world like Sarah Connor. Linda Hamilton set the bar awfully high when she transformed the role between the first and second films, but even Clarke’s ‘Game of Thrones’ co-star Lena Headey had a certain presence about her when she played the iconic mother of the future.
Clarke still looks so young to play this particular role and her 5’2″ frame just doesn’t carry the gravity of the scenes when standing next to muscle bound meatheads like Courtney. Clarke can absolutely be an action star and a leading lady, but this just wasn’t the role for her and it shows in the performance. Make Clarke the new leader of a woman led ‘Mission: Impossible’ or see how good she might be wrangling dinosaurs. One thing for certain, Clarke might be Khaleesi in our hearts, but she’s no Sarah Connor despite her very best efforts.
Admittedly, Schwarzenegger and Jason Clarke prove to be the best parts of the cast when it comes to their roles in the movie. Playing an emotionless cyborg killing machine is second nature to Schwarzenegger, but while he’s closer to 70 now than 30, he’s still able to carry a scene even if everything about the movie as a whole just doesn’t click. Clarke stealing a few scenes shouldn’t be a surprise after his work on ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ or even ‘Dawn of the Planet of the Apes’. He’s superb in everything he does and even with a lot less worthy material to work with in this film, Clarke still shines.
DIRECTING AND WRITING
Alan Taylor, best known for his work on series such as ‘Game of Thrones’ and ‘Thor: The Dark World’, is a great director but he just couldn’t find any semblance of rhythm with this film.
The action beats are grand in nature and the effects are done well enough, but without a cohesive plot or interesting dialogue, Taylor just doesn’t have much to work with.
The script for this film is confusing at best, awful at worst as the story jumps from one scene to the next with such little connectivity that nothing seems intertwined. There’s no real chemistry between the two lead stars and only Schwarzenegger manages to hold it all together with his powerful grip.
It seemed like they were going for twisty yet gritty time travel adventure akin to ‘Looper’ and ended up with a plot better fitted for the SyFy channel at 2am on a Saturday after the latest ‘Monster Fish meets Octo-Shark’ movie finishes up.
WHAT’S WRONG WITH THIS MOVIE?
From Courtney’s off kilter acting to Emilia Clarke trying so hard to play a role that’s just not right for her to all the facsimile actors who jump into some of the iconic scenes from the 1984 classic that are reshot for this movie — it just doesn’t work.
In the same way I tried desperately to like ‘Terminator: Salvation’, this movie flutters between bad and almost unwatchable at moments and it just doesn’t hold up to the high standards this franchise deserves for a 2015 reboot
It’s unfortunate that so many things went wrong with ‘Terminator: Genisys’ but that’s just how this particular movie played out. There is a great ‘Terminator’ sequel still to be made, but it should likely come from someone like Rian Johnson or maybe see what Cary Fukunaga could do with a movie like this while giving him some ‘R’ rated latitude that this film clearly doesn’t have.
It’s also a bummer as Ahnold gets up in age there’s no telling how much longer he can pull of the look of ‘The Terminator’ although Harrison Ford is still an action star and he’s been using an AARP card for years. Maybe, just maybe, there will be one more attempt at a ‘Terminator’ film in the next two or three years with an ambitious director with a script that could see Schwarzenegger ride off into the sunset as the iconic robot one last time. Maybe he could even be the bad guy again? Just an idea.
‘Terminator: Genisys’ gets 2 out of 5 on the Skolnick Scale