I know this is going to be hard for you to believe but Hollywood has released another sequel into theaters. Even harder to believe is that it’s for the Terminator franchise, which has seen its fair share of good and bad when it comes to expanding the story of machines rising up to wipe out the human race. And just so you understand, I’m writing this review with the assumption that you’ve seen at least the first two films. If you haven’t, I’m genuinely confused why you’d care how the new film stacks up.
As for the sequels, it’s generally accepted that T2 was pretty damn awesome, no one wants to remember T3, and T4 had some interesting concepts but collapsed under the weight of its self-imposed gravitas despite spawning an amazing Christian Bale audio file. With the fifth installment (Terminator Genisys), aside from an inability to spell Genesis (did Phil Collins threaten to sue?), we also have a bit of a sly reboot going on.
Have no fear, I won’t go as far as some trailers have in providing all of the plot details (don’t watch them if you value any sense of surprise). However, what I can confidently say is that the film handles integrating and yet dismantling the events of the first two films in the series pretty well (thankfully there is no mention of the other sequels). Of course there are plot holes. This is a movie about time travel after all. Outside of Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, has any movie gotten time travel right? (Yes, my tongue is firmly planted in my cheek … what does that even mean … where else would it be … my arm? Gross.)
So yes, we must take the time travel antics presented here on faith. Yes, we must suspend our disbelief when it comes to the amount of destruction that can occur in a city like San Francisco without larger questions being asked by authorities … or conversely when it comes to the response time of the California Highway Patrol during a small bit of mayhem on the Golden Gate Bridge.
But even with all of that, I have to say I enjoyed Genisys … damn, every time I say that I want to play Altered Beastor Sonic the Hedgehog. Was that really the name that tested the best? But I digress …
As part of the restructuring that goes on, we have a new Sarah Conner. Now played by the mother of dragons herself, Emilia Clarke, I have to say that this was an excellent casting choice. Linda Hamilton’s portrayal of the role is iconic, and was really the only respectable heroine not named Ripley from a big franchise up until George Miller resurrected the Mad Max franchise earlier this year. Clarke steps in and immediately owns the character, giving it a new dimension while still harkening back to what was previously established (though I do wish Clarke had done a one-handed pull up somewhere).
And of course, the Governator returns as the T-800 that just won’t die. Sadly, I don’t think there will be any new catchphrases born here. An old classic is used to my bemusement and there are a few attempts to give him new one-liners but they really don’t have the same pizzazz and generally fall flat. Still, despite the actor’s advancing age, and the still creepy CGI simulacrum of his younger self (they did this in T4 as well), the action works and there are few grand spectacles to be had (though again, if you see the trailer, you’ll spoil it all for yourself).
The villains are okay, and like Forrest Gump, that’s all I’m going to say about that. Again, I know the later trailers probably spoiled all this but I’m not going to be that guy (I only saw the initial teaser because I know Hollywood hates the idea of providing audiences with surprises other than how terrible the films often are).
What isn’t so okay is who they cast as Kyle Reese. Jai Courtney did fine in the Divergent series because he just had to play a muscular Macklemore and act like a dick. While I don’t blame him for how bad Die Hard 5 ended up, as that was a near perfect maelstrom of awfulness from every angle, he also didn’t do anything to alleviate that film’s shortcomings. Here in T5, he doesn’t do anything to derail the proceedings but he also doesn’t have much charisma and while the character isn’t supposed to be a total charmer, it does require more than Courtney appears able to provide. I have to imagine that somewhere, Michael Biehn is shedding a single tear.
What does all of my blathering add up to? I guess it adds up to an overall positive impression of Terminator Genisys. It’s not amazing. It didn’t blow my socks off (seriously, where do these phrases come from?!?). And it’s certainly not as good as Mad Max: Fury Road. But I liked it. I came in with severely low expectations, having already seen the Hollywood machine drag Jurassic World out like the bloated carcass it is (and no, I’m not done bad mouthing that lump of celluloid-comprised disappointment). And perhaps it was keeping my expectations so low that I was able to keep my brain turned off for the most part and generally enjoy the ride.
Maybe given a little time to think about it, I’ll poke holes in this movie like a porcupine with a water balloon backpack (That’s a new phrase I just made up. Use it with your friends!). I would recommend that you have seen the first two Terminator films, not so much because you wouldn’t be able to follow along but because it makes the changes and the callbacks more significant. I also would have preferred it to be truly R-rated and frankly, can’t quite understand how this wasn’t classified as such anyway, but I suppose they toed the line just right to get the more profitable rating. But regardless, I was entertained and I’ll likely be happy to watch this again once it hits the streaming services that are so ironically reminiscent of the very thing that the franchise stands against.
Lastly, may I suggest we start reading those Terms of Service agreements from Apple, Sony, Nintendo, Microsoft, and Google … who knows what we’ve agreed to already … and which one of them will eventually churn out mindless killing machines (my money is on Nintendo as Rob the Robot was just a test run to let our guard down … but that’s just me).
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and gunplay throughout, partial nudity and brief strong language.
Running Time: 126 minutes
Directed By: Alan Taylor
Release Date: July 1, 2015
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