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Overall Rating

Awesome: 12%
Worth A Look: 0%
Average: 24%
Pretty Bad32%
Total Crap32%

2 reviews, 13 user ratings

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Terminator Genisys
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by Brett Gallman

"I know now why you cry."
2 stars

Considering we’re dealing with a franchise is built on paradoxes, it’s appropriate to open with one here: while it’s one of the most impressive sequels ever, “Terminator 2” was the worst thing that could have happened to “The Terminator”. It proved that a follow-up could be viable, but only with what was already a gimmicky, script-flipping twist—and it took James Cameron to pull that one off at that. Without him at the helm, you end up with something like “Terminator: Genisys,” a fourth sequel that goes through what are now very tired motions: what was once a clever hook has degenerated into the stuff of over-caffeinated teenage fan-fiction, where the guiding principle always involves the phrase “wouldn’t it be cool if…?”

In this case, the treatment must have been peppered with the phrase. Right off the hop, it follows some of Hollywood’s worst instincts with a sequence that asks "wouldn’t it be cool if we saw John Connor (Jason Clarke, assuming a well-worn mantle) send his naked father (Jai Courtney, assuming Michael Biehn’s role with the forcefulness of a gnat in a tsunami) back in time to 1984? And, once he got there, wouldn’t it be cool if time had already been altered and Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke) was already a badass waiting to save him? What if we tossed a T-1000 into 1984 and had Arnold Schwarzenegger fight a younger, CGI version of himself that looks suspiciously like a wax figure?"

I doubt anyone had that very last bit in mind, but the rest doesn’t seem too far off. “Terminator: Genisys” continues to pile up twists, inversions, and variations on old themes that were better the first time around, with its biggest (“wouldn’t it be cool if John were a Terminator?”) having already been spoiled by marketing. With the franchise timeline having gone haywire, this one jumbles up the Greatest Hits but delivers them via lounge singers as Reese, Connor, and the latter’s protective T-800 (dubbed “Pops,” as he’s practically raised her after Skynet’s attempt to kill her as a child) cross time to prevent Judgment Day from ever occurring.

All this trouble to essentially karaoke “Terminator 2” before thoroughly obliterating it—and all of the other previous films—from continuity for good measure. Where “Star Trek” found a respectful way to preserve and reinvigorate its canon through time travel, this film boldly invites comparison to its superiors before terminating them and replacing them with a soulless imitator. Few films have such an ironic and unintended metaphor of its own existence, as a scene where the original T-800 (replicated, again, via brutal CGI) has its heart shot out, leaving it a lifeless piece of junk unable to move forward.

“Genisys” gives the impression of motion, and, if anything, its ability to hurtle along at a reasonable clip and excuse itself from your life is almost praise-worthy. Once it finishes plodding through a backstory that was already masterfully delivered in Cameron’s original, it speeds ahead with the breathless energy of a dumb movie that doesn’t want you to pick apart its unsound logic (for example, when given the chance to stop Skynet before it stops, our heroes travel ahead to the day before it achieves self-awareness rather than give themselves ample time to dismantle it).

There are times when “Genisys” almost feels entertaining, even, because it’s full of action beats meant to reduce your mental capacity to simply gawking at digital mayhem, much in the same way a child’s loud toy is meant to distract them. Watching this orgy of pixels grows boring quickly, as the film misses both Cameron’s practicality and his ability to ground an absurd premise in the human condition, whether it be a love story spanning time or a mother’s desperation to protect her son. “Genisys” is “The Terminator” stretched to a comic-book extreme, where the characters carry familiar names but have become nothing more than digital avatars in the service of a plot that’s grown akin to a snake eating its own tail, only it’s somehow shoved itself up its own asshole in the process.

Compounding the problem are Courtney and Emilia Clarke, two misguided casting decisions that doomed this film before production. This is the latest attempt to make Lead Actor Jai Courtney happen, and it may be the most wrongheaded yet since he’s ill-suited to take on the role of Reese, a grizzled, feral time-travelling soldier with a sensitive, vulnerable soul. Courtney feels too cocky and is done no favors by a script that mostly saddles him with dumb one-liners and eye-rolling banter with his co-stars. Thirty years ago, Schwarzenegger read for this role until someone decided his robotic presence was more suited for The Terminator; perhaps the same decision should have been made here with Courtney, in competition here with Jason Clarke to determine who the film’s biggest non-entity is.

As Sarah, Emilia Clarke fares marginally better, if only because she at least has some kind of presence about her, even if that presence is not conducive to this version of Sarah Connor, the hardened warrior woman made iconic by Linda Hamilton in “T2.” Clarke struggles throughout to be convincing in this mode, as she especially lacks the smoldering intensity of a woman who has spent a decade preparing for homicidal cyborgs and nuclear oblivion. Between her and Courtney, you can’t shake the feeling that you’re watching “Terminator: Babies” since both skew so much younger than their counterparts (despite both being more or less the same age, remarkably).

But, again, neither is exactly helped by a script that has them bickering back and forth like a couple of teenagers in the latest CW drama. Once you realize Schwarzenegger—who is doing fine work when the screenplay isn’t pulling a drawstring to make him spout his familiar franchise catch-phrases—is ostensibly playing Sarah’s disapproving dad, it especially feels like a bad sitcom or a cornball reboot of “The Sarah Connor Chronicles.” At the very least, Arnold makes all of this watchable because his (and a criminally underused J.K. Simmons’s) comedic bits are the only ones that land. Among those that don’t: a montage where someone wondered “wouldn’t it be cool if the Terminator were arrested and we played ‘Bad Boys’ over his mugshot?”. Honestly, though, did you ever think you’d live to see the day where Schwarzenegger was too good for “The Terminator?” Given the career-best performances he’s turned in his return to acting, this is grunt work.

To his credit, he’s not acting like it is, which is more than can be said for much of “Terminator: Genisys,” a film that—like so many other blockbusters—feels prefabricated at the pre-viz stage, with familiar characters cut and pasted into mechanical action sequences guided by little motivation other than empty spectacle. When you see Schwarzenegger’s T-800 leap from one helicopter to another like a heat-seeking missile, it’s not awe-inspiring so much as it’s a reminder that this franchise has completely forgotten its grounded, human stakes. Its motivation to xerox “Terminator 2” only extends as far as its basic plot, as its coup de grace here is to replicate that film’s climax but ask “wouldn’t it be cool if it had a mega happy ending?” “Terminator: Genisys” isn’t a movie—it’s a pilot for an unchallenging sitcom looking to pander to the worst instincts of fan service.

Along with “Jurassic World,” “Genisys” is a poster child for exhausted franchises running on the fumes of nostalgia, where the strains of familiar scores mask the nagging suspicion that these films exist only to prolong a franchise’s lifespan. They offer very little in the way of new, interesting ideas (here, the biggest idea is, you guessed it, a new model of Terminators) and practically embed the marketing for the next entry within the events of a film that leaves questions dangling for the next films in what will likely be a phantom trilogy to answer.

Here, a mid-credits tease also keeps the franchise on life support and threatens to unravel the events of this film, rendering them pointless—well, more pointless than they already are. Wouldn’t it be cool if they just pulled the plug instead?

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originally posted: 07/02/15 06:54:03
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User Comments

2/13/17 morris campbell tired end it already 1 stars
1/25/17 danR meh... That's all; have a nice day. 3 stars
3/30/16 Aj wales Where is it going. Really. Arnie is just to old at this point. 3 stars
9/30/15 Loopy Flawed but had enough interesting moments to keep my eyes open 3 stars
8/27/15 Laura Sometimes, there are movies better left as they were and move on. 3 stars
7/14/15 mr.mike Been there, done that. Ahnold and Simmons good. 3 stars
7/10/15 henry best one yet----arnold still got it 5 stars
7/09/15 Luke C It's time to travel back and kill this franchise before it can do anymore damage 2 stars
7/07/15 Jack Insulting, Idiotic and worst of all...BORING. 1 stars
7/07/15 Bents Arnold is excellent...he's the only thing that makes this move watchable. 3 stars
7/06/15 Martin Tired franchise, looking for a new life - so it was back to its future. 2 stars
7/06/15 KingNeutron This is the Arnie we all know and love, he nails it again here. Clarke was great too 5 stars
7/04/15 Bob Dog A solid update of the franchise - heaps of good Terminator fun!!! 5 stars
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  01-Jul-2015 (PG-13)
  DVD: 13-Oct-2015

  02-Jul-2015 (12A)

  01-Jul-2015 (M)
  DVD: 13-Oct-2015

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