Since its inception way back in 1984, the Terminator franchise has made a name for itself. The first film was an unexpected success but it was the first sequel, “Judgement Day” which arrived seven years later, that launched the series into the upper stratosphere of pop culture. “Terminator Salvation” came out in 2009 and unlike most I thought it was a fun and unique perspective on the series. The film wasn’t as profitable as normal leaving the direction of the franchise uncertain.
But fear not, now we have a fifth installment in the form of “Terminator: Genisys”. It offers up a new story angle with a completely new set of people playing the same franchise characters. The only familiar face is Arnold Schwarzenegger who returns as the outdated but tough T-800 Terminator. While it does try to do several interesting things ultimately it rehashes too much from its predecessors and nearly all of its attempts at originality fall flat.
To be honest laying out a story introduction is easier said than done. In the future John Connor (this time played by Jason Clarke) leads a big final assault on Skynet. As victory looks certain it is discovered that Skynet has sent a T-800 back to 1984 to kill Sarah Connor (remember the first film?). John Connor sends his most trusted man Kyle Reese (this time played by Jai Courtney) back in time to protect his mother but during the process the timeline is disrupted. Basically this flubs up everything from the past movies which grants the writers a new canvas to work on.
Once Kyle arrives in 1984 he is attacked by a liquid metal T-1000 Terminator. He is rescued by a young Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke) and her pet…err guardian Pops. Pops (Schwarzenegger) is a T-800 sent back years earlier to protect her. Follow me so far? The rest of the film features the trio setting out to destroy Skynet before it destroys humanity. Skynet is hiding under the guise of Genisys, a popular worldwide operating system nearing its global launch. Infiltrate Genisys, blow it up, save the world. But of course that is easier said than done.
The time traveling hopscotch does offer some intriguing possibilities and the tie-ins with previous films at first are pretty great. But eventually the time element grows convoluted and most of the tie-ins feel more like crutches than attempts at any meaningful continuity. The further the movie went the more disconnected I became. In the end I kept saying to myself “This doesn’t feel like a Terminator movie”. Sure it is playing in the same sandbox, but nearly everything new it offers feels generic. There are some funny moments where they capture some of the charm that first surfaced in “T2”. There just aren’t enough of them.
And then there is the casting. Arnie is entertaining playing the cold, dry terminator (a mirror to his usual acting ability). He is given more fun things to do than anyone else and he has a blast with it. One the other end there is Emilia Clarke who never offers up a convincing Sarah Connor. Perhaps comparing her to Linda Hamilton is grossly unfair, but she doesn’t come across as genuinely tough or tenacious. Sometimes her performance is just bad. And it doesn’t help that she and Courtney have practically no chemistry. Even Jason Clarke’s scar-faced John Connor felt a bit off.
My problems with the cast could also be due to fatigue. It could be I’m just tired of seeing the same characters constantly being portrayed by new faces. The series has often addressed this issue with age gaps. But now we have had Clarke and Christian Bale as older John Connor; Edward Furlong and Nick Stahl as younger John Connor; Courtney, Michael Biehn and Anton Yelchin as Kyle Reese; Clarke and Hamilton as Sarah, etc. It may be an unavoidable dilemma but if so it stresses the importance of casting the right people.
“Genisys” does have a couple of cool action sequences, some good laughs, and an occasional fun nostalgic nod. And on its own it does make for decent, lightweight science fiction. The problem lies in its connection to a major popular franchise. A ‘Terminator’ film brings with it certain high expectations (from some audiences) and “Genisys” doesn’t meet them. As I said, it doesn’t feel like a ‘Terminator’ movie which in the end is a pretty bad thing.
VERDICT – 2.5 STARS
I’m still a tad confused as to what happened in this story. But there was at least some fun to be had with the action. Nice review Keith.
It was confusing, right? They basically flubbed up the timeline so that they could do anything they wanted with the characters. At least that was my interpretation.
Personally, I rather enjoyed this offering. It felt more like a Terminator film than the previous two. It’s definitely not perfect for all the reasons you stated, but I actually had a lot of fun with this one…on the second viewing. My first viewing, I was actually disappointed a little bit, but I think that was because of the disastrous marketing that spoiled everything. The twist involving John Connor would have been absolutely fantastic if they didn’t show that in the trailers. I like Jason Clarke as an actor, but as Connor, he does fall kind of flat. I thought everyone else did fine. Schwarzenegger was in fine form as always. It’s always fun seeing him as a terminator. This obviously isn’t the first film to deal with multiple timelines and universes, but it does pique my interest a little bit to see where they’re going to go with this. This is one of those movies that needs to be seen a second time. I think it’s actually smarter than most people give it credit for. Again, it definitely has its problems, but it’s one of the better action movies of the year, I think.
Interesting take. Maybe I’ll give it a second view. It’s funny how it felt more like a Terminator movie to you but one of my bigger gripes is that it didn’t. Perhaps a second viewing would help me get a better handle on what the film is shooting for.
Some movies take more than one viewing to try and get what they’re going for.
Nice analysis and I can’t say I disagree. Genysis (what a horrible spelling by the way) is a few steps back from being a wholly satisfying entry but I liked this more than its directed predecessor. Of course it’s been awhile since I have sat through Salvation but I just remember that movie being largely disappointing. Funny how I complained about that one too, as I usually am all for movies that try to change up the formula to avoid repetition. A goal that didn’t pay many dividends with that one in my book. As for this, yeah, it’s a mess but I also had some fun with it. 5/8 from me.
Hey Tom! I think I’m one of the few who had a lot of fun with “Salvation”. I liked that it stepped away from the normal formula. I think the biggest problem is that it lacked the charm that T2 first brought to the franchise. “Genisys” tries to get it back and does so to a degree (for me). But ultimately this thing just didn’t fully click.
Fair enough. 🙂 Either way, it’s not hard to argue this franchise has been in decline since Judgment Day. Hard to imagine what else they can offer if they do confirm a sequel to this one.
True. Then again Judgement Day really set the bar high. I remember when it first hit theaters. Talk about a ton of excitement.
I wonder if T3: Rise of the Machines suffered Elevated Expectation syndrome just like Spectre has recently. . . .
Hmmm. That’s a really good question. Could be. T3 had some great moments. That cemetery scene!!!
Truthfully I haven’t seen T3. I don’t know why or how it happened but that needs to be corrected. One day I’ll just marathon this franchise. 🙂
I’ve only seen it a couple of times. And it’s actually been a while since my last viewing.
Nice write up, Keith. Gotta admit. I thought this entry was pretty rote and spent way too much time going over and blurring too many plot lines and devices from T1 and T2, while not ever feeling like a Terminator flick. Arnold was pretty capable, like always, but the rest of the cast didn’t do anything for me (The twist with John Conner was cringe inducing). I actually prefer Salvation to this one (like you, I dug it and also own the film). Some cool but forgettable moments of action, comedy and stunts, but man, by the end I was staring longingly at my blu ray copy of X Men First Class waiting for this flick to end. Doesn’t fully click is an astute observation, Keith. Nice job bro! 🙂
Thanks man. We are definitely on the same page and I’m glad to hear from someone else who appreciates “Salvation”. Granted it is very different than the others but I thought it was a good sci-fi action flick. Better for me than this one.
I completely agree about the sheer number of actors being a problem (though as you point out, I guess it has been necessary given the longevity of the franchise). I think it should be left alone now, but presumably won’t be! I didn’t actually dislike Genisys as much as some people seemed to, and actually thoroughly enjoyed the way it revisited the first two movies during the first half hour or so. After that it’s a bit by-the-numbers, and the story gets bogged down by the whole time travel stuff. It could have done without that smile Schwarzenegger kept on doing too, but I’ve definitely seen worse blockbusters this year!
I would agree. I’ve seen worse. This one was very ‘meh’ – a down the middle, neither good or bad, movie. And I’m fairly certain there is another on the way. I think Genisys made a pretty good profit.
I think this is the point I skip out, unless it gets very good reviews!
Yep. Same here.
I went in with low expectations. Really enjoyed it the first time, but it didn’t hold up the second time. Like the Honest Trailer said, stop trying to make Jai Courtney happen!
Great comments. My wife and I have had the same discussion about Courtney. The only thing he has impressed me with was his small role in “The Water Diviner”. Did you see that one? In everything else he is so stiff, wooden, and emotionless.
I haven’t seen it, hmm. I liked him as a murderous creep in Jack Reacher though.
I forgot he was even in that.
This movie really disappointed me. And I wasn’t expecting much at all. I think your review is probably more fair than I was able to be. If it wasn’t a Terminator movie I might have been kinder but it doesn’t hold a candle to the first two even though it is so obviously trying to function as a sequel to those movies specifically, so that really took all the enjoyment out of it for me.
Thanks for the comments Sean. You and I definitely agree. It probably would be slightly better if it were its own thing. But the fact that it is a Terminator picture really hurts it.
To be honest I did rather enjoy Genisys, it did have flaws but I think the fact that I found it superior to Rise of the Machines and Salvation aided my enjoyment! Still, it’s leagues away from Cameron’s original classics!
Several people have said they enjoyed it. I am right down the middle on it. It just didn’t excite me at all. On the other hand it had its moments.
Yeah it’s a shame the sequel is kind of in limbo as I’d like to see where they might go with the story and hopefully work out some of the kinks.
I bet another will come. I read where it made more money at the box office than any Terminator film aside from T2. But with Arnold aging it would be interesting to see where the story would go (if he were to have another part).
Yeah I read that too, they have China to thank for that it was a big financial success there.