The hardest part of being a pro is knowing when to hang up the cleats, and I’d like to think this is the last time the Terminator franchise comes out of retirement. Terminator: Genisys, likely the first installment in a series of reboots, failed to draw me in to its own story, and almost completely lived through the glory of the original franchise. The biggest flaw in Genisys was its inability to bring anything new to the table. It had the same old moves that we got in the first four movies without even a marginal attempt to build something of its own identity.
A perfect example of this reliance on old films was the way in which Genisys structured its antagonist. In each of the Terminator films it seems that the villain will be one small step ahead of their predecessor, which results in inexplicable technology and outlandish combat sequences. How much more powerful can these robots get from one movie to the next? At some point does it become impossible to make the bad guy terminator any more menacing than he was in the last go-around?
In theory, this could have been a good film. I don’t think it could stack up against The Terminator or Judgment Day, but I think the idea of reworking the franchise through a new timeline could have gone over well enough to interest fans of the original trilogy. Structurally, the film works as an alternative story to the The Terminator, where Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) is sent back in time by John Connor (Jason Clarke) to protect Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke) from Skynet’s secret weapon, which happens to be a very animated version of Arnold Schwarzenegger. It’s essentially the same plot as The Terminator, until Reese gets to 1984 and finds Sarah Connor and the original Terminator – an aged, friendly Schwarzenegger sans CGI – waiting to enlist his help. It works like any time travel movie where points in history and timelines interact and we accept it because we simply can’t understand whether it makes sense or not.
Unfortunately, the plot was too concerned with time travel and the events of the other films, which made me overly confused and, frankly, bored at times. Playing with time travel can often get very convoluted very quickly. One moment we find ourselves at one point in history and then a character is killed off and nothing really makes sense anymore. If a key character from the future dies, wouldn’t that change all of the events that brought everyone back in time in the first place? I’m no expert on the space time continuum but I certainly think ripples would take effect at a certain point.
Beyond the far fetched plot, there were minor bright sides of the film. Don’t expect to be disappointed by the action sequences and first-rate CGI, because both were pulled off excellently. Also, seeing Arnold back in the role he was born to play definitely gave me something to look forward to from one scene to the next. However, for those who want to see something that not only pays homage to its origins but also reaps the benefits of a decade void of Arnold Schwarzenegger, you might not get what you pay for.
I was also greatly disappointed by the lack of seriousness that the film gave us. Comic relief can be done much more effectively when done subtly. We get it: the Terminator is a hulking metal abyss of emotions who can’t relate to normal people; but you don’t need to hammer it down on us every time you think the theater might be getting more interested in the little screen in their pocket than the big screen on the wall. One glaring example would be a sequence where Reese, Connor and The Terminator are arrested for wreaking havoc on the Golden Gate Bridge (not the most original of locations for a car chase if you ask me) and while their mug shots are being taken we can hear the theme from “Cops” in the background. Sure, it might be funny, but it would never have happened in any films of the first trilogy. These films deal with very heavy material – mostly, the destruction of mankind by nuclear fallout – and i think we would all be better off if the creators chose to keep some consistency with the tone of the films. Besides the cheesey jokes, the dialogue was cheap at best. I almost felt bad for Emilia Clarke, who was forced to play a Sarah Connor that spoke more like a ditsy tween than the bad-ass Linda Hamilton from the first two films.
Obviously, the plot was driven off of the The Terminator, but there still could have been more of an effort to build a unique story around the characters without relying so much on the presence of the Governator. At this point it’s hard to say where Genisys might close out at the box office, but I don’t see an early – late? – retirement from this franchise anytime soon.