Terminator Genisyss is an odd movie. I was so NOT looking forward to it. With Jurassic World you knew it would never be as good as the original, but I still had high hopes. Yet that franchise has seen it fare share of failed sequels. Terminator is different. After an excellent T1 and T2 another two sequels were produced that totally disregarded the originals cinematography and action style. Instead they were two popcorn flicks when they didn’t need to be. I think fans are right to be skeptical about the future of the franchise. As my expectations for this movie were extremely low I had psyched myself up to write a vitriol fuelled review. To my surprise Terminator Genisys is not a bad movie, It is quite OK, but not more than that. Director Alan Taylor did fall into some pitfalls, especially near the end of the movie.
So what should I write about if I want to keep the review Spoiler free? I have to at least discuss some story points otherwise my remarks would be meaningless. Genisys starts in the future. SkyNet is almost defeated but manages to sent back a Terminator to kill Sarah Connor in 1984. Kyle Reese follows on orders of John. So far nothing weird. However, after Kyle arrives he is attacked by a T-1000 while an aged Terminator called Pops and a feisty Sarah take out the Terminator sent by SkyNet. Long story short. Some important changes have occurred that makes whatever Sarah and John knew of the future mute. Judgment Day did not happen in 1997 as was foretold in T2, nor did it happen in 2003. Instead Kyle begins to remember an alternative life in which the world would not be destroyed by an A.I until 2017. This A.I is called Genisys.
I will stop the spoilers right there. Know that I have only touched upon some larger story points that mostly occur early on. Terminator Genisys tries to weave an intricate story though multiple timelines. It partly succeeds, though I have a hard time telling the difference between 1984 and 2017. Often it is just small issues that distract and prevent Genisys from being a good movie. J. K. Simmons as detective O’Brien in 2017 who was also confronted by the T-1000 in 1984 was a fun side-story, but it also made very little sense. It was yet another distraction. Terminator Genisys is supposed to have a sequel. Yet there is so much story development here that this movie could have also been split into two, with the added benefit that the pacing would slowed. After I saw Terminator Genisys I can say with confidence I watch it for Arnold Schwarzenegger and Emilia Clarke. Clarke makes for a hot and feisty Sarah Connor, but her portrayal becomes problematic in the second half.
So where did Genisys go wrong?
Too much lip service to Terminator fans. The scripts is filled with numerous small references to past Terminator movies, some have absolutely nothing to do with the storyline and distract. The joke of seeing Arnold Schwarzenegger do a fake smile wore thin quickly when the scene was featured in the extended version of T2. Genisys should have instead focused on creating its own lore and associated humor. Not that any Terminator movie should have too much humor. Just enough for the audience to remember that all the violence and deaths are just fiction.
Genisys also suffers from the fact that few of the lead actors are well known. Normally this may allow actors freedom to do what they want, but in this case characters such as John Connor and Kyle Reese are already well established. Jason Clarke and Jai Courtney fail to convince as either, both just seem to pretend to John and Kyle. Whenever I see Kyle in Genisys I have to think about Michael Biehn and than I notice Jai Courtney bares no resemblance to him at all. The same occurs when I see Clarke as John Connor. I have to think about Michael Edwards brief portrayal as John in the opening scene of T2. In fact, Clarke with his baby-face is an incredible distraction.
Yet, this brings me to the biggest flaw with the movie. Emilia Clarke. She is an odd choice to be playing Sarah Connor. She is not as skinny or ragged looking as Linda Hamilton, though I was willing to go along with it. Emilia does a decent job of portraying Sarah in the first half of the movie. The line she screams to Kyle when he is pursued by a T-1000 ‘Get in Soldier!’ had Hamilton dead on. After the first half her acting changes. She slowly becomes more and more the damsel in distress. For a character who is remembered as a role model for many women who joined the military in the 80’s and 90’s the changes are a bit of a disgrace. I think the director opted to have Emilia play Sarah more and more as herself to give them more freedom for future movie in the franchise. Sadly, the changes do not work.
Are there any things that were particularly well? After all, I did say the movie was OK. The sexual tension between Kyle and Sarah is palpable. The Kyle that is sent to 1984 does not know he is destined to be John’s father, though I thought from the original T1 that he must have guessed the truth. Fans of Emilia Clarke do not get to see more than a bare shoulder, but the scene in which Kyle and Sarah have to take the time-machine and travel naked to 2017 is funny. The movies central theme is Sarah’s disappointment that she has few choices in life. SkyNet killed her parents decades before they should have died. The older Terminator continues to remind her of the importance that John Connor needs to be conceived. After SkyNet or Genisys is defeated at the end of the movie Sarah can make her own choices again. It is problematic that the story did not squarely focus on Sarah, but instead also tried to flesh out Kyle’s, John’s and even the Terminator’s story. All this is too much for a script that has way too many action scenes near the end.
So a script that slowly turns into a Transformers movie and plenty of miscasts make sure that this movie comes up way short of the greatness of the first two movies. It is way better than T3, and a bit better than Salvation. So there is that. Genisys made me feel nobody, not the writers nor the director had seen the original two movies. The pacing especially is all wrong and becomes more noticeable near the end. The time-travel aspects were handled well but could also be confusing at times. At this moment two sequels are scheduled for release on May 19, 2017 and June 29, 2018. However, a lot will depend on how Genisys does at the box-office.
Score; 7 / 10. A decent Terminator flick with some clever time-travel plots. Yet it suffers from a weak second half.