When the return of Arnold Schwarzenegger to the role that propelled him to icon status is the highlight of a film intending to re-vitalize a stale franchise, the whole proceeding is in real trouble. ‘Terminator Genisys,’ is the most recent attempt to reboot and spark interest in a property that hasn’t been successful since mastermind James Cameron parted ways with it three sequels ago. The film is a sanitized version of its’ R-rated progenitors, ‘The Terminator’ & ‘T2: Judgment Day,’ even attempting (confusingly and poorly) to recapture the glory of those two perfectly balanced constructs of brute action and sci-fi time travel logic.
The film begins by showcasing the scene that fans of the series have been imagining in their minds for years, the final battle of the war with the machines where the human resistance, led by John Connor (now played stoically yet sleepily by Jason Clarke), must send back right hand lieutenant Kyle Reese (now wincingly played by Jai Courtney, who seems to keep popping up in ‘80’s bids for relevance, see the fifth ‘Die Hard’, or actually . . . don’t . . . ) to protect Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke of ‘Game of Thrones’ fame) from a terminator sent back in time to 1984 to kill her before she can give birth to humanity’s resistance leader. The problems plaguing this initial scene set the unfortunate tone for the rest of the movie – it should be a moment of gravity and relevance, yet here it is, just another lackluster CGI cluster of explosions and shiny metal that fails to evoke any real emotion. When this future was described, and briefly seen, in the original low-budget film, Michael Biehn’s Reese makes the audience believe that he is a burnt-out soldier born of a charred world, shell-shocked and holding onto a shred of hope in humanity, a worn out polaroid of Sarah Connor, who he loves through time based on the stories told by her son, and unbeknownst to him, his son as well. None of this is conveyed in the tone, look, writing, direction, or acting in this new film.
The filmmakers try to be clever by rewriting the intrinsic history of the series, a tactic that worked extremely well for the Star Trek reboot, but falls completely flat here. It is admirable to use familiar scenes and characters, but these recreations have no real wow factor, partly because they were revealed in the marketing leading up to the release of this film, and partly because they are staged irresponsibly and appear rushed. Going into the 2nd Terminator, audiences had no idea that Arnold was actually a good guy, thinking that the sequel was following the rules set up in the first film. In ‘Genisys’ the only rule is there are no rules – when Schwarzenegger shows up as an aged terminator that saved Sarah as a child and raised her, the idea is an intriguing one, and could have been an interesting revelation, but the scene is mishandled in both its’ very matter-of-fact staging, clunky exposition, and reveal in the trailers leading up to the film’s release. Worse is the ‘twist’ surrounding John Connor that again might be an interesting idea on paper but on execution, counteracts every reason for caring about these characters and this situation. One gets the feeling that the studio took a look at this final cut, realized critics and audiences would lambast the inferior writing, direction, and acting, then decided to try to intrigue the public by revealing these twists to get them to come see this steaming turd pile . . . truly wretched . . .
Directed By: Alan Taylor
Written By: Laeta Kalogridis & Patrick Lussier
Running Time: 126 min.
* (out of 4 stars) -or- D