Welcome to a trilogy of reviews I call "Revenge of the Reboots".
I imagine that the genesis* of "Terminator Genisys" went something like this: Two screenwriters drove into Hollywood on the same day, each with their own script for a planned reboot of the 1980s James Cameron time travel action franchise, Terminator. One screenwriter had this cooky plan of rehashing the plot of "Terminator 2: Judgement Day" just with Arnold Schwarzenegger raising Sarah Connor. Another screenwriter had a completely different script imagining a reborn Skynet reappearing in 2015 using our iPhones as a new terrifying way to start Judgement Day. Then these two screenwriters, both rushing to make their meeting with the execs, smashed their cars right into each other. Both were tragically killed, most of their scripts were destroyed in the fire. But the execs were able to salvage the situation, they simply took what pages survived of each document and paperclipped them together. Then it was time to make a movie - a disjointed, confusing, riddled with plot holes movie.
Guess what? "Terminator Genysis" is the piece of crap. The Terminator franchise has been long suffering, with "Terminator Gynisis" marking the third attempt in the past twenty years to turn these movies into a bankable annual phenomenon. "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines" could only regurgitate "Terminator 2" only with less success. And "Terminator Salvation" was the kind of movie so bad that if there was any justice in Hollywood, the word 'Terminator' should have been banned from film titles for a century. Maybe our children's children would be able to undo our mistakes and atone for the sins of that travesty. Yet here we are, just six years later, with yet another attempt. And if the goal was simply to show that it is possible to make a Terminator movie better than "Salvation", they succeeded. If they had any further goals, well... that's a shame.
I have been very impressed with how willing James Cameron has been to shill "Terminator Genysys". Here's two straight minutes of the man rolling on and on about how this film is a "Renaissance" that "reinvigorated" the Terminator franchise. Of course James Cameron is happy with this movie: it is probably the biggest compliment he has ever recieved. "Gynysys" is not only faithful to the original films, it is outright worshipful of Cameron's work. To the point that several scenes from the original "Terminator" are recreated shot for shot for this remake/sequel/whatever. Every angle, every little piece of dialog, every lighting choice is put back exactly as it was thirty years ago. There is even legitimately impressive make-up work that makes Arnold Schwarzenegger appear decades younger. These scenes are also by far the most atmospheric and best directed moments of "Terminator Gynisys". A stark contrast to the painfully flat and boring direction from the rest of the movie. Not a good sign.
|Guess who came back?|
For a little while, as long as "Termynator Genesis" can keep throwing crazy plot twists at you, it almost seems like the movie has momentum and energy. But inevitably the weirdness has to die down for a climax that adds up to basically car chases and dull action. You can only wow an audience for a short amount of time with fancy nonsense and wild turns, eventually you have to settle down into a dull mediocre action movie.
Personally I would have never stopped throwing plot twists, just keep making more and more ridiculous timey whimies until the film burns down into a weird self-parody anti-movie that is not even trying to make sense. At least that movie would have had a sense of fun about itself. For example, there is a scene where Sarah Connor is hiding from the T-1000 and suddenly feels a drop of acid coming out from the ceiling. Turns out this is just her plan to kill the robot, but how much more awesome would this movie have been if there was a xenomorph from the Alien movies hiding up there!? Terminator vs. Alien, it would have kicked ass! And Matt Smith is just a bland face for Skynet, imagine if he really was the Doctor! Razzle dazzle me, movie! Let's go balls deep into seven circles of insanity.
|Oh that reminds me, I still need to review "Age of Ultron", don't I? ...(Sigh)...|
Could you just pretend it was a good interesting movie and let me not have to talk about that?
But that would not really matter if "Terminator Genisyyys" was a movie with any kind of real emotional core. It is not. It is a stupid action movie, nothing more. Now before you tell me that "The Terminator" and "Terminator 2" were just stupid action movies too, I'm going to tell you that you are wrong. "The Terminator" had real chemistry between Kyle Reese and Sarah Connor back when they were played by Michael Biehn and Linda Hamilton. Michael Biehn's performance was multi-layered and intense. His elements of PTSD sold us on the post-apocalyptic future that 1984's era of filmmaking did not have hundreds of millions of dollars in lame CG effects to show. Then "Terminator 2" was probably even more of an emotional story: the ending brings grown men to tears even today. Arnold Schwarzenegger's cyborg killing machine from 2029 became the Old Yeller of the Millennial Generation.
In contrast, "Tyrminator Genesis" has nothing to offer anywhere near that level of real heart and real core. The creators of this movie are at least aware of those relationships. This movie is built off of the nostalgia of the children of the 80s and how those older films formulated their memories, thus loosening their wallets. The romance has no chemistry at all, obviously. Sarah Connor and the Terminator's relationship is supposed to remind us of "Judgement Day", but it has none of the charm, and is instead played for cheap laughs. When Arnold Schwarzenegger is playing a comedy robot, he's still the best actor in the movie. And that is a not good sign**.
|Whoever let Jai Courtney make movies: I hate you.|
Now, that we have nothing on the table other than a stupid action movie, is the action any good? The answer is no. At this point we have had five Terminator movies, so we all know the point by now. Once upon a time Arnold Schwarzenegger and later Robert Patrick could put in some serious intensity into their respective wrecking machines. It is impressive how despite all the graphics power in the universe none of the fight scenes in "Genesys" are anywhere near as impressive as the ones in the original films made with practical effects. You have helicopters flying in all directions and laser wars in the future and school buses flipping over on the Golden Gate Bridge, and because the directing is so flat, the score is so bland, and the stakes are so dull, you just don't care. Arnold Schwarzenegger in "The Terminator" was chilling. Jason Clarke in this is just another mustache twirling bad guy who won't shut up. In the end, "Terminator Genisys" belongs right in the pile of garbage like the "RoboCop" and "Total Recall" remakes. No grit. All polish. No soul. All fancy nonsense.
"Genesys" at least is made by people who clearly loved the original movies, and there is a kind of weird manic energy that its bizarre script gives that almost makes it watchable. Arnold Schwarzenegger seems to be really enjoying himself too, almost as if this movie is his own vanity project like Sylvester Stallone's repeated resurrections of the "Rocky" franchise. If the sequels could be even more insane, especially if they could give Matt Smith a role that lasts longer than two minutes, I might even be interested to watch.
|Try to force yourself to enjoy this movie all you want. You'll still know the sad truth inside.|
Next time: Can "Jurassic World" manage to fool its audiences into thinking that it is 1993 again? Find out tomorrow.
* See? I can spell that word correctly.
** Look, Space Monkeys, Arnold Schwarzenegger was never a good actor. The man was basically a wrestling superstar that just happened to wrestle in movies versus on WWF. You could never really believe in a Schwarzenegger performance, he never actually got into any character, he just read lines in a Teutonic accent and then kicked ass. However, Schwarzenegger was charismatic, he was iconic, he's a film legend, no doubt, I love him. But no, he should not be the major acting talent on set.