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Terminator Genisys

Platform(s): Movie
Genre: Action
Publisher: Paramount
Release Date: July 1, 2015


Movie Review - 'Terminator Genisys'

by Adam Pavlacka on July 3, 2015 @ 2:00 a.m. PDT

When John Connor, leader of the human resistance, sends Sgt. Kyle Reese back to 1984 to protect Sarah Connor and safeguard the future, an unexpected turn of events creates a fractured timeline.

This summer has seen the return of two major film franchises from the '90s. One, "Jurassic World," did a solid job of updating the "Jurassic Park" formula and presenting an enjoyable, if slightly predictable, ride. The other, "Terminator Genisys," swung for the fences and whiffed. While it manages to re-create the world of Skynet, "Terminator Genisys" fails to capture the feel of unrelenting dread that the first two films so convincingly conveyed.

What made James Cameron's "The Terminator" and "Terminator 2: Judgment Day" so special was the simple fact that, for each of the films, the antagonist was nearly unstoppable. It didn't matter that the first film was a low-budget thriller and the second a big-budget action flick. The styles were different, but the underlying theme was the same: Humanity's hubris had created an unstoppable weapon, and in order to survive, the protagonists were going to have to go above and beyond.

Performances by Michael Biehn (as Kyle Reese), Linda Hamilton (as Sarah Connor) and Arnold Schwarzenegger (as the T-800) in "The Terminator" were all gritty and realistic. Reese was a man out of his time, yet one that would stop at nothing to ensure his job was done. Connor was a young woman just struggling to get by, who somehow had to deal with the fact that the fate of humanity was on her shoulders. And the T-800 was a killing machine without a soul.

In "Terminator 2," Schwarzenegger become the protector opposite Robert Patrick's role as a more advanced, shape-shifting T-1000. A major theme of the film involved watching the T-800 attempt to learn what it was like to be human in an attempt to fit in. Sarah Connor's acceptance of the T-800 was a complementary theme, as it went against everything she knew. Although its hook was the action, "Terminator 2" didn't shy away from hard questions, such as "Is it moral to kill someone who hasn't yet done anything wrong?"

With all of that as a foundation, "Terminator Genisys" starts off strong. The opening sequence occurs during the future war, and aside from the absurdity of a T-800 endoskeleton driving a truck (why wouldn't Skynet have self-driving vehicles?), it matches the theme of what we saw in the past films. The human resistance is making its desperate last stand, and Skynet sends a T-800 back in time to kill Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke). John Connor (Jason Clarke) sends Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) back to protect his mother, as was done in the original film, but here, "Terminator Genisys" diverges from what we know. For reasons unexplained, a new timeline is created, additional Terminators were sent back even earlier and Skynet's creation was delayed.

The alternate timeline could be forgiven if it was just a plot device to set up a new series of films (like 2009's "Star Trek" reboot), but sadly, the rest of the film doesn't hold up. Instead of feeling like a new entry in the "Terminator" franchise, "Terminator Genisys" feels like a fan film that features all the major characters but ultimately misses the point.

Clarke looks as though she could pass for a young Hamilton, but that's about the only similarity in the way the two women portrayed Sarah Connor. Clarke's version says the lines, but she doesn't have the confidence that Hamilton had. In the earlier films, you could see the desperation in Hamilton's eyes and hear it in her voice. Clarke plays the role more generically, as though there's something she needs to get done, but it never seems like she's truly worried. There's no real threat.

Courtney's version of Kyle Reese is even worse. He's supposed to be an experienced warrior, but when it comes to actual combat, Reese seems woefully unprepared. He's also well fed for someone who should be barely surviving in the desolate future. Much like Clarke, Courtney seems like he's "playing a role" rather than actually becoming the character.

Schwarzenegger's reprisal of the T-800 as a protector is the highlight of the film, as he hits both the serious moments and the comedic beats with ease. It's obvious that Schwarzenegger never forgot what made the first two films tick, as his performance here wouldn't be out of place with any of the older films. He nails it in pretty much every scene.

Even with the rough acting, "Terminator Genisys" could have been a solid film if the plot had stuck to the dystopian themes that the franchise was founded on. Instead, it's as though the writers decided that they wanted to update "Terminator 2" for a new generation. The script reuses many of the same story threads but never hits the right tone. It's like hearing a favorite song played on a guitar that's out of tune.

The biggest offenders are the ease with which some of the antagonists are eliminated, which completely removes the feeling of an "unstoppable threat" as well as sequences that play up comedy for no reason. That's not to say comedy shouldn't be here, but when you have a police booking montage set to the "Bad Boys" theme, it's more "Guardians of the Galaxy" than "Terminator." If the tone isn't right, it just sticks out like a sore thumb. Even the ending of "Terminator Genisys" feels off, having more in common with the "future park" alternate ending of "Terminator 2" than the ending that was actually used.

If "Terminator Genisys" were a generic action film, the best one could say about it is that it offers up car chases, explosions and general mayhem, but nothing here is very memorable. As a "Terminator" film, it exploits the nostalgia of the franchise but doesn't bring anything new to the series. "Terminator Salvation" had its issues, but at least that film attempted to go somewhere new. "Terminator Genisys" is nothing more than an average retread that doesn't live up to the hype. Wait for home video on this one.

Score: 6.0/10

"Terminator Genisys" is rated PG-13 and has a running time of 2 hours and 6 minutes. It is showing in 2-D, 3-D and IMAX 3-D.

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