Skydance Productions/Paramount Pictures
Directed by Alan Taylor
Produced by David Ellison/Dana Goldberg
Written by Laeta Kalogridis/Patrick Lussier
Based on characters created by James Cameron and Gale Anne Hurd.
I’ve got nobody to blame but myself. After the dismal “Terminal Salvation” and the utterly boring television series “The Sarah Connor Chronicles” I swore off any and all “Terminator” movies. After the extraordinarily disappointing “A Good Day To Die Hard” I resolved to never again pay money to see Jai Courtney in another movie. I’m sure he’s a fine gentleman and we’d probably have a great conversation over beers. But to date I’ve never seen the man give a performance I’ve liked. He’s got zero chemistry on screen with everybody I’ve seen him act with.
But the lure of Arnold Schwarzenegger proved to be too strong. And to give him his credit, Arnold is a lot of fun to watch in TERMINATOR GENISYS. I think it’s a testament to his growth as an actor that he makes a robot the most human character in the movie. Arnold’s been doing this for so long that he knows how to make us root for The Terminator and how to use the character to get all the laughs in the movie without turning The Terminator into a buffoon or an object of ridicule. I just wish he’d been able to impart some of his acting experience to his co-stars.
Director Alan Taylor and his writers Laeta Kalogridis and Patrick Lussier appear to have drunk 40 ounce sized bottles of J.J. Abrams brand Kool-Aid since the whole premise of TERMINATOR GENISYS is that an entirely new timeline has been created due to a Terminator having been sent back in time to 1973 to protect Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke) from a T-1000. When Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) arrives in 1984 via time machine he expects to find a Sarah Connor who’s unaware of Terminators or that she’s the mother of mankind’s savior.
Instead, he finds a battle-hardened warrior who is just as proficient with weapons and hand-to-hand combat as he is. She knows all about Judgment Day and the future war with Skynet and its machine army. In addition, her backup is The Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) who has raised Sarah as if she were its daughter. She even affectionately calls The Terminator “Pops”
Pops has built a time machine himself and Sarah intends to use it to go to 1997 and prevent Judgment Day, the day when Skynet attacked humanity. Due to him remembering the timeline that no longer exists, Kyle insists that they have to go to the year 2017 instead. But when they get there they find a new Terminator. The most advanced Terminator yet since this one is based on nanotechnology. But that isn’t even the worst because this Terminator has a very personal tie to both Sarah and Kyle as it’s their son, John Connor. And before you start foaming at the mouth and screaming; “Spoilers!” let me point out that this very important plot twist is spoiled in the trailers for the movie. It’s a plot twist that definitely should have been kept as the biggest secret in the movie. Just like Schwarzenegger’s iconic “I’ll be back” should have been kept out of the trailers. When we hear him say it in the movie, it should have been a stand-up and cheer moment. But since we’ve seen that scene umpteen times in the trailer we’ve been watching since last year, it’s as dead as yesterday’s fried chicken. There’s no heat behind it. No emotion. And movies run on emotion.
I broke down the plot to its simplest elements because if I took time to adequately explain it in detail, this review could easily run somewhere between three and five thousand words. But if you decide to see this movie the characters will explain it to you over and over and over again. It is amusing to see scenes from the first “Terminator” movie replayed in TERMINATOR GENISYS and there’s some laughs to be had when Kyle meets up with a Sarah Connor who knows more than he does but it quickly goes flat as Jai Courtney and Emilia Clarke have no chemistry at all. But as I said earlier, he doesn’t have it with anybody. And it really suffers that the actor playing John Connor (Jason Clarke) also has zero chemistry as well. Given what we know about the relationship between Kyle Reese and John Connor you think that the casting director would have picked a couple of actors who can convince us that they like each other.
Emilia Clarke is no Linda Hamilton, plain and simple. She goes through the movie looking like a little girl playing grown-up and she’s got none of the inner toughness that Linda Hamilton had and was able to project so well. J.K. Simmons shows up late in the movie to provide some much needed humor and it’s too bad that there wasn’t a way his character could have been introduced into the story earlier.
As usual, it’s up to Arnold Schwarzenegger to save the day. He’s become a master at the art of deadpan humor and as such, he supplies most of the funny in the movie. The running gag here is that even after all the time he’s spent taking care of Sarah, he’s still learning how to fit in with humanity. And while he’s been presented as a killing machine in past movies, this Terminator has an IQ that would put Reed Richards to shame. He builds time machines. He formulates elaborate plans in 1984 that won’t come to fruition until 2017. He rattles off quantum mechanics and the theory of mutable timelines as if he invented them. Quite a change from the original “Terminator” where Schwarzenegger only has 100 words. In TERMINATOR GENISYS he talks so much that at one point Kyle asks Sarah if he has an off switch.
And by the time I got to the after credits scene it occurred to me that by now, Skynet is the technological equivalent of Michael Myers and Jason Voohees. No matter how many times it seems like its beaten or defeated, it always manages to find a way to come back in the next movie. Which makes me even less inclined to see the two sequels set in this new timeline.
So should you see TERMINATOR GENISYS? Only if you have nothing else to do and just want to get out of the house for a couple of hours. It’s not that it’s a bad movie. Just a completely unnecessary one and it serves no other purpose than to be chewing gum for your brain. If that’s all you want, go see it with my blessing.