Terminator Genisys – 2015

Director Alan Taylor
Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jason Clarke, Emilia Clarke, Jai Courtney, J. K. Simmons, Dayo Okeniyi, Matt Smith, Courtney B. Vance, Lee Byung-hun
Screenplay Laeta Kalogridis, Patrick Lussier

I have no animus towards sequels. In fact, since AliensLethal Weapon 2 and Terminator 2: Judgement Day, I have kind of held out hope that we could get something more with each new installment. It doesn’t always work, sure. More often than not, sequels are just treading over the same ground laboriously. Even so, one can still get enjoyment if there is something one that holds one’s interest. Special effects keep the Transformers series going, even if there is no real attempt to even pretend there is a cohesive background story. In short, it takes a lot for one to say “No mas.” In the latest attempt to breathe life into Terminator, I have come to the conclusion that they should give it a rest.

That’s not the only conclusion I reached. In fact, here are some others:

  1. James Cameron must have a stake in the profits to this film. There is no other way that one can surmise any sort of logical reason for him to say that he considers this the 3rd film of the franchise.
  2. If one sticks to the films that Linda Hamilton has a presence in, either on camera or via audio, they should be fine.
  3. Arnold Schwarzenegger is the only actor besides J.K. Simmons to provide any real charisma in the film. Both have roles that are way too small compared to the Clarkes and Courtney.
  4. Any film that wipes the best film of the franchise out of existence should be better than said film.
  5. Jai Courtney should not be allowed to be in the fifth film of any franchise.
  6. Having one actor fake an American accent in a movie is fine. By the time one gets to 3, maybe try casting a few more Americans.

The story starts out in the future, with John Connor finally living up to his potential and gets to the point where Skynet is on the ropes. This attempts to tie neatly to events that start the first film, when we see Kyle Reese (Courtney) thrust back in time in pursuit of the original Terminator. This is where things take a turn sideways. Not only do we discover that there is another Terminator who’s been “waiting” for the naked one, but Reese is being pursued by a liquid metal Terminator (Byung-hun). Sarah (Emelia Clarke) Connor and her Terminator, whom she unconvincingly calls “Pops” rescue Reese. They make a getaway to a spot where they expect they are being followed by the liquid Terminator. They are, and they dispatch him quite effectively. From here they decide to go forward into the future themselves with a time machine they have developed to take their own steps in ending Skynet.

By this point, the film could have been great, were it not for a trend that initiates with the first face off between Schwarzenegger’s T-800 and the T-1000. As that fight begins, we follow the actions of Sarah and Reese. Reese has to battle a newly re-generated T-800 that they finished off in the first moments after reaching 1984. Sarah heads downstairs, making very clear that she is familiar with her surroundings and is wanting to make sure that everything is prepared for…

All of the sudden, we see the T-1000, but there is no sign of Arnold. What happened in their fight? This was a large part of the 2nd film, and it seems like he was dispatched easily this time. No. Sarah springs the ingenious trap and we see the T-1000 begin to disintegrate. He almost escapes, but before he can get to Sarah, the Arnold Terminator comes out of nowhere, looking no worse for wear, finishes the job.

What happened between them in the first fight? The filmmakers don’t seem to care. So why should we?

The rest of the film consists of such moments. We are pushed from location to location, where no scene is set up with more than a few obligatory shots before the next clash occurs. Many of these moments are deliberately meant to echo better moments in the earlier films. This only accentuates the lack of requisite skill with which they are handled. Tension is not allowed to build before you are thrust into the next chaotic moment. The choice of what to cover during these clashes is odd and really uninspired. Why go to the effort of bringing Arnold back to the fore if one chooses to cut away from the T-800 clashing with an all new threat to see the soft tissue folks running down a stairwell?

One has to wonder if there is a reluctance to show Arnold in action because he is nearing 70, or if, perhaps they realize there is nothing they can show that was not done better by Cameron. Two have tried already and no one is discussing their work in college classrooms as far as I can tell.

Clarkes, Emelia and Jason and Jai Courtney bring little real excitement to the proceedings. There is absolutely no heat in any of the scenes that they share. The one liners between Sarah and Reese are as flat as anything  since A Good Day to Die Hard. Courtney was half of that magical combo as well. For his sterling legacy, Schwarzenegger just seems happy to be there as the writers attempt to come up with more technical things for him to say so we can chuckle at his ESL skills. The recurring references to his age just sounds cliche now. We’ve all seen enough movies going this route, it’s just not worth mentioning obsolescence by now. We all get it. No one cares.

Of the special effects, they are muted by quick cuts. There is very little time to marvel over anything because the camera rarely lingers. Those complaining about the Arnold cutout used for Salvation will get to see more of that here. At least in the 4th film we saw things that were different. The filmmakers are extremely self-conscious of the safe ground of modern-day on which they continue to tread. It’s like they understand the longer that they linger, the more boring we realize it’s nothing really new.

Where can they go from here? They obviously have plans for more, based on the way this one ends. We will have to endure more of the worst characters that we have seen. If you think this is a spoiler, just consider that this film has ALL of the worst characters in the series.

There are moments to enjoy here. Damn few of them though. The ship has run its course and its time to run it into the iceberg. Think of it as an act of mercy.

(*1/2 out of *****)

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