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Terminator: Genisys (2015)

| July 4, 2015 | 0 Comments

As the plot for Terminator: Genisys begins to reveals it’s hand – which it does at least a dozen times in 125 minutes – the uneasy feeling sinks in that the overriding message of this fourth Terminator sequel is that we need to fear the technology that we’re putting in motion. That’s nothing new, this series is riddled with tech-paranoia, but in this case it becomes clear that the screenwriters want us specifically to fear The Cloud.

Of course, it’s not called The Cloud – it’s called Genisys, a next generation operating system that will act as a sort of Trojan Horse that will infiltrate any and all manner of technological devices leading to a war that will put man on the endangered species list. We’re told that Genisys will go live in 2017 and there’s a helpful clock ticking away the time until it goes live. At one point, the faint outline of a child steps forward to greet the mass population of eager users – it’s a sight scarier than anything else in the film.

The inspiration in this fourth sequel is that it melds the old familiar Terminator story with our rather disturbing dependence of our cell phones, iPads, laptops and our eagerness to embrace new technologies we haven’t even had the chance to test drive yet. Yet, it’s a new idea wrapped around a story that now feels, admittedly, a bit shopworn.

Through five feature films and a snooze-fest of a T.V. show, The Terminator series has a nasty habit of telling and retelling its origin story to the point of madness. We get it: Skynet took over the earth. Mankind went to war. The world went to Hell. John Connor started a resistance. Skynet sent a machine back through time to kill his mother. Connor sent Kyle Reese to stop The Terminator. And if you think you’ve missed anything, don’t worry, the first half hour of Terminator: Genisys will act it out for you.

The story in Terminator: Genisys is a brain-twister, taking the plot of the original and bending it like a pretzel. As Reese (Jai Courtney) moves through 1984 L.A. looking for Sarah Connor (Emilia Clark), scenes from the original are either reused or reshot – it’s a little jarring. The timeline, however, has been compromised and Reese finds that he’s not the salvation of Sarah Connor – she has to keep him alive. It’s a twisty little nugget that isn’t quite as clever as it might sound. In 1984, Sarah is already a warrior and has been carrying around her own Terminator (guess who) for quite some time. Their job is to stop The Cloud, excuse me, Genisys from going live.

More of the plot I could not reveal if I wanted to. The plot of this movie is so clunky that giving a play by play may be next to impossible. I won’t give spoilers, but let’s just say if you’ve seen the trailer, the studio has already done that for you. The film’s biggest twist is in the trailer, leaving the film lacking in potential surprises. It isn’t very original, yet it is entertaining. You get your money’s worth even while you get the feeling that you’ve been over this same ground before several times. The action scenes work but any attempts to deal with human drama falls flat.

What works best, I think, is Arnold. Ever since he returned to the screen two years ago, he has proven time and again that his particular screen magic hasn’t left him even as he approaches his 70s. The biggest surprise in Terminator: Genisys is how well he slips back into the character. When he enters the picture, you get the feeling that he’s so comfortable in the role that he never seems to have left it. His Terminator is suffering the ravages of age and he carries a mantra – “old, not obsolete.”

I wish I could say the same about the other actors. Emilia Clark from “Game of Thrones” slips into the role of Sarah Connor with a nice tough girl presence, but she’s missing the weary sadness that Linda Hamilton brought to the role. The same goes for Jai Courtney who occupies Kyle Reese, not as a doomed avenging hero but as a guy who just seems frustrated and impatient all the time. And as John Connor, I never really know what to make of Jason Clark. He has such an unusual look that I have as much trouble connecting with him here as I did in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.

I guess I kind of recommend the film on the basis that I think it is a solid action picture. It is directed by Alan Taylor, a television director whose other feature film credit was Thor: The Dark World. He’s competent but I think he’s inherited a product that has passed its sell-by date. I give him credit for trying to revitalize this series and he does a good job twisting and bending the timeline. But the narrative here is clunky and, at times, confusing – not to mention about a half an hour too long.

This is the third Terminator film to be made without James Cameron’s involvement. It’s entertaining enough, but what’s missing is Cameron’s streamlined storytelling. His narratives moved with a degree of efficiency. This one moves well in the action scenes but comes off clunky and flat when it tries to deal with human drama. It’s a hard movie to recommend because for everything you like, there’s something you don’t like – so my rating will reflect it. It sounds strange to say, but this is a flawed film that is still worth your time. If you go in for a solid bang-up action picture you’re going to be entertained, but if you look for any human dimension you’ll find many glitches in the system.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(2015) View IMDB Filed in: Action, Recent