It’s difficult to believe that that the theoretic science behind time travel can be made to seem so much more mind bendingly convoluted than it may actually be.. Thanks a lot Terminator: Genisys.
When John Connor (Jason Clarke), leader of the human resistance, sends Sgt. Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) back to 1984 to protect Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke) and safeguard the future, an unexpected turn of events creates a fractured timeline. Now, Sgt. Reese finds himself in a new and unfamiliar version of the past, where he is faced with unlikely allies, including the Guardian (Arnold Schwarzenegger), dangerous new enemies, and an unexpected new mission: To reset the future.
Movies or television shows that rely on time travel as its central plot device are doomed to fail. The best line regarding time travel in cinema is a direct quote from the movie Looper, when Bruce Willis says to his younger self “I don’t want to talk about time travel..” “If we start talking about it then we’re going to be here all day talking about it, making diagrams with straws.” Truer more prophetic words have never been uttered when time travel is involved. Terminator: Genisys chooses to ignore this sound advice instead electing to map out what time travel is in it’s own universe, the end result being a massively over written wordy diatribe of over explanation surrounding a theoretical concept.
The Terminator franchise has done well to wind itself into one tightly constructed mash of story. Coming into the fifth installment Director Alan Taylor and his writing team had their work cut out for them trying to undo the various plot threads that have tangled the series into giant knots. The solution to the problem is an obvious one, the use of time travel was just recently used to right all the wrongs in the X-Men franchise so it’s seems the likely decision to utilize it here in an effort to do the same. The problem is that time travel is a fickle mistress and can be quite temperamental in the wrong hands. Terminator: Genisys is all about trying to reconnect to the audiences that have long given up on it due to lackluster entries like Rise of The Machines and Salvation. Bringing back everyone’s favorite robot in not only one, but two different forms reeks of desperation. Arnold, in an effort to reclaim his former glory, dawns the leather jacket and the same old catch phrases hoping to catch the starry eyed nostalgic crowd’s attention so that he can feel important again. Hoping to develop a film that can satisfy the fan of the originals while also washing the bad taste of the last two sequels out of their mouths, what we get is a film that without the Terminator name attached may have been alright as a stand alone action film, but once you slap that title one there it raises expectations that prove to be too heavy for Genisys to carry.
Hats off to Taylor for the action sequencing and choreography, if Genisys does anything right it’s the action. Allowing us to relive some of the classic scenes from Terminator’s past, the time travel element is seemingly only worth the nostalgia it’s able to drum up. From start to finish the action is cinematic, well shot, and straight to the point. Take or leave the rest of the story, the action will most assuredly please, and leave a bulk of the viewing community at ease. Genisys is quite large in scale and it’s clear every penny of it’s budget is up on the screen to be marveled. The film is consequentially shallow and rotten with plot holes that will shake even the most die hard of fan boys into frenzy. Resting it’s laurels on the action, the plus is that there is the option to check your brain at the door and just sit back and enjoy the carnage and beautiful chaos that is unfolding before us.
Arnold is back and is a joy to watch on screen. What Salvation was missing, other than a coherent plot, was the Terminator himself. Arnold makes his way back to the franchise after a failed detour of horrendous action movies that fell flat with domestic audiences. While the role of the T-800 is not exactly complex, and doesn’t require upper echelon talent, Arnold is charismatic as he’s ever been and steals each scene with the classic Arnold action star quips. The problem here is that Arnold is the best part of the movie, and if Arnold is the best actor in your film then you got big problems. Jai Courtney is added as Kyle Reese, the son like figure to Jason Clarke’s John Connor. Oh and Reese is also John Connor’s father, due to time travel, yes it’s quite confusing. Jai Courtney is about as wooden and hollow as they come and turns in another terrible performance in a slew of terrible performances that have lined his career. Difficult to discern is what is worse, Courtney or the dialogue he if forced to regurgitate. The same dialogue that made it impossible to follow the story and that eliminated all hope of a decent performance from Jason Clarke, the film’s most proven talent. Entering the mix as the new Sarah Connor is Emilia Clarke of Game of Thrones fame. Emilia is not your fathers Sarah Connor, and yes thats an insult. Linda Hamilton will forever be the true Sarah Connor, so unfortunately for Emilia she is started off at a disadvantage, and the script prevents her from making the character her own in any way. Ultimately Genisys is hindered mightily by it’s laughable dialogue and unfortunate performances.
Circling back around to the unabashed debauchery that is the conceptual misexecution of the time travel plot device, there was never any hope for an intelligible story. At one point in the film Jai Courtney actually says “This time travel stuff makes my head hurt.” Genisys thinks it can get away with the confusion by making stingy self aware comments like that, but instead it just makes the film hokey and incomprehensibly oblique. The biggest issue with this take on time travel is the amount of time portioned for explanation. They go back in time then there is ten minute exposition of dialogue explaining it. The timeline is altered allowing for dual memories to different pasts, then we get another ten minutes of explanation. Some one else goes back in time to alter the now altered alternate reality, then we get another ten minute theoretical lecture. There is so much over explanation that the story is never given a chance to unfold on it’s own. The filmmaker’s give the audience zero credit, instead pandering and condescending to them parading itself as a smart self aware scifi education, and instead becoming a dilapidated grossly convoluted mess.
Terminator: Genisys is not on the level of the original and no where near Judgment Day, but it’s also a step in the right direction from Rise of The Machines and Salvation. In 1984 James Cameron developed a unique story that makes good use of time travel and artificial intelligence in a world void of both of those things. Now that we’re in 2015 the gimmick has been stretched with in an inch of it’s life. We now live in a world where a villain made of liquidmetal, time travel, and AI robots covered in human skin has lost it’s luster and become, dare we say, monotonous? The trick here is for the film to be self aware enough to know it’s ideals aren’t novel and to find a unique point of view. What Genisys does is give us a supremely ordinary view, providing nothing unique other than it’s terribly misspelled title. What it succeeds in, is making for a fun popcorn flick that, if the audience can ignore its many pitfalls, can actually do provide quite a spectacle. Terminator: Genisys is to Judgment Day what Jurassic World is to Jurassic Park. It allows the die hards to re live some of the glory the original provides, but ultimately it’s a shallow entry to a decaying franchise.
2.2/5 Do Better Bro