Directed by Alan Taylor
June 22, 2015 (Berlin) / July 1, 2015 (United States)
Kyle Reese is sent back in time to protect Sarah Connor and finds things are not as expected and that Skynet has a new plan.
Emilia Clarke and Michael Jai Courtney or Jai Courtney or whatever he is going by at this point take over the roles of Sarah Connor and Kyle Reese respectively. These are two of the three central figures to the Terminator Mythology. These two particular characters are to have this attraction and this great love story that lasted very briefly. Theirs is to be a tragic love story carried by a strong bond. That went bye-bye here.
Michael Biehn and Linda Hamilton had screen chemistry. They just clicked from beginning to end. They were believable as an average woman and a soldier from the future and as a couple. You could see these two hooking up and connecting. There is virtually no chemistry between Emilia Clarke and Courtney. They cast two good looking people and expected chemistry just because. They expected the audience’s knowledge of the previous film and what happened to overcome the actors being unable to make a possible romance believable.
In the first film Michael Biehn looked like he had come from an apocalyptic future. He was believable looking as an individual that had been scrounging for his existence and fighting hard. Courtney looks like he lived a pretty comfortable life. He is well-groomed. He is in great shape. He does not look like he came from a desperate struggle. He looks like he is anticipating leg day at the gym.
Emilia Clarke looks the part of the matron of humanity. Unfortunately there is no character growth unlike in the first two films. She is just presented as a bad ass soldier who is carrying all this guilt for people dying around her. That is how she starts off and ends but can deal with it because she now has a boyfriend that in this context was chosen for her. How empowering for the character.
There is no evolution in the film for Sarah Connor. There is no character arc. Linda Hamilton at least got one through two films. She got two separate character arcs in two separate films. She went from nothing special to being someone that was preparing to give birth to the savior of humanity. She went from a fragile individual to a tough person in the first film. In T2 she went from hyper paranoid and borderline obsessive to realizing she was doing more harm than good by putting all this weight and responsibility on a child immediately. She went from cold and doing her job to being a mother.
It is obligatory that Arnold Schwarzenegger returns for a Terminator film. I think it is in the fine print of the contract he signed with the Devil to become famous. Do not get me wrong. The nostalgia factor makes it worth seeing him. Unfortunately they find they have to come up with a way why he looks older. Terminators age? That implies they expect to be able to use these things for years but the implication has always been they were sent in to just simply sneak in and slaughter everybody. Schwarzenegger’s character of Pops was too jokey. He was more comic relief than he was a protector.
I am always happy when there is a time travel movie out with an adequate budget or when a new Terminator film hits the screens. I like them. Unfortunately this film makes the Terminator timeline extremely convoluted. It uses alternate timelines which are mentioned in a very casual manner to explain all these changes. Fine. But there seems to be no logic to it. If you are going to use time travel and alternate timelines and so forth you need to establish some kind of logic and they don’t seem to do that here. They write themselves into a corner and then go all halfhearted with the explanation.
My biggest issue is that this movie starts off running and builds up to…nothing. Everything is laid out in the beginning and the story has nowhere left to go. We start with a big chase and a knockout drag out fight with two terminators. The one from the original film going to do what he was supposed to do and the liquid metal one sent to kill John Connor. How many liquid metal terminators did Skynet have laying around? And this seems a little more advanced than the T 1000. The T 1000 could have parts broken off that would re-bond. This T 1000 can separate bits and pieces of itself for tracking purposes apparently because if you remember a portion of its body mimicked a hinge on the truck that Sarah and Pops had. This was eventually shot off by Pops and then it re-bonded with the Terminator. That seems like a bit of a technical advance from the last model we saw. Then this development is no longer a factor in the story.
The revelation that John Connor (Jason Clarke) had been converted into a new kind of Terminator was an intriguing idea, but it was all laid out before the movie ever got released IN THE TRAILER! That is a huge reveal in this story that was given away in the trailer. Did the producers not know the character’s importance? And as I said before everything was laid out in the beginning of this film as was this revelation. We knew it very early in the film. If it had been placed later in the story it might have still been shocking and been a bit of a payoff even with the leak in the trailer.
JK Simmons was a welcome addition as O’Brien but as an actor he was woefully underused. He was there to get Kyle and Sarah away from the hospital and that was it. He completely disappears from the narrative after that point. I understand this film was to be part of a new set of films, but he was completely unimportant to this movie’s narrative and showed no indication of being anything more than a one off character.
Matt Smith as Genisys/Skynet was a highlight during his brief moments but as I said those moments were brief. Having spent time as the titular Doctor Who, he is a genre icon, but he is wasted here. Any actor really could have done the part because it was nothing special.
The action scenes are great. They are kinetic and well-choreographed but the older model Terminators cannot take the level of damage that this terminator is taking. While not stated in dialogue, it has been clearly demonstrated by what has previously made it to the screen. Hear me out. There were physical limits to how much damage the Terminator could take. That was fairly well established and held more or less steady in the earlier films. They had a level of durability, but Pops survives crashes and all sorts of bullets and battles. The battles were more like a superhero film than a Terminator film.
We get the knowledge dropped early on that Pops was sent back by some mysterious future figure that deleted the name from his memories for never even hinted at reasons. But that point gets mentioned maybe twice and factors into nothing at all going on here. It is not even teased as something that might be revealed later. By the finale you are hard-pressed if you recall it at all. My personal theory on that is that this mysterious figure was Pops himself. After all it is clear they were going to keep Schwarzenegger for however many other movies they were planning.
I understand that they were attempting to do a reboot of the Terminator universe, but the story just felt weak. I appreciate that they embraced what came before and try to twist it by altering the timeline, but it just did not feel shocking or surprising. It was just okay. And barely that.
The film looks amazing. A definite high point is the future battle. The Skynet complex and the larger Terminators are just amazing. I really enjoyed seeing the final battle. It is one of those things that was often talked about in the films but never seen until now. We saw once or twice the moments briefly of John Connor at some point after the final battle but seeing it here was just really cool but that doesn’t make up for a weak film. And this film is weak. It lacks an engaging story or interesting characters. And it tries to make up for all that with massive amounts of spectacle. There are no big or intriguing ideas here. They parrot stuff that was said before but that does not translate to including big ideas into the film.
Terminator Genisys is a visually but ultimately empty film. If you wanna see another Terminator story go for it but otherwise skip it!