After the lows of Rise of the Machines and Salvation (winner of the most ironic subtitle for a movie award 2009), can Terminator Genisys bring some credibility back to the franchise?
The very short internet friendly answer is no, not really, but the longer explanation might just surprise you as Terminator 5 is NOT the dreadful mess you’ve been told it is. That’s right, I kind of liked it, sure it’s fairly terrible but please let me explain why.
Unlike the nostalgia-fuelled success of Jurassic World, Terminator is a franchise that has taken a sizeable beating over the years. Two poorly received sequels and a so-so TV series diluted the brand, the rights for the franchise kept changing hands, and the current owners only have until 2019 to make their sequels.
Once Genisys gets finished revisiting the first two Terminator movies, the plot takes a massive left turn and runs wild with its insane story. The recreations of some of the classic scenes are a mixed bag, unable to use the original footage all the bits for this were reshoot. The digital effects to make Arnie young again are creepy and quite impressive, why they had to pick such awful wigs for the gang in that scene remains a mystery. In fact, that’s just one of hundreds of odd creative choices this movie makes including the maddening decision to self spoil a major twist in its own freaking trailer.
The second trailer successfully ruined what could have been a jaw-dropping moment in the movie. John Connor has been transformed into a hybrid Terminator by the living embodiment of Skynet (played by Matt, sorry Matthew Smith). I understand that they have to give people a reason to go see it, but did the marketing team need to drop that bombshell on us in the promos? If that wasn’t bad enough, the poster campaign put cyber-John in the middle of it. The confusing spelling of Genisys isn’t explained, it turns out that Skynet built in a back door launch in the form of an app that links all our connective devices together.
Since he has returned to ‘acting’, Arnie has struggled to have a hit outside of his Expendables appearances. The Last Stand was fun, but Escape Plan and Sabotage were just plain bad. As he says (frequently) in the movie, he might be old but he’s not obsolete and Arnie manages to be a genuine saving grace in the movie. In fact, he can radiate more warmth, charisma and personality than Jai Courtney’s Kyle, a character given little to do with an actor who does very little with it. To be fair, Courtney’s one line of dialogue in the Suicide Squad trailer is better than anything he does here.
Emilia Clarke is a solid choice for Sarah Connor, she may hold her own in the action, but she’s not given any depth from the writers. Alan Taylor is a serviceable director; he did some exceptional work on Game of Thrones but Thor The Dark World lacked any real filmmaker’s stamp. Admittedly, making a superhero movie distinctly your own is a difficult task, but Joss Whedon managed it (twice). The failings of Genisys are not all on Taylor’s shoulders, the script actively makes the decision to not make sense and just go with it, and this is what I appreciated about Genisys.
I didn’t have a problem with the ageing Guardian; I even liked the fact she called him Pops. There is a heap of unexplained threads, I’m assuming the producers plan to explain this in the sequels, but it comes across like they forgot. I would have loved to have seen more of The Guardian/young Sarah Connor story, in some ways that on its own could have made a more interesting sequel.
The last minute attempt to shoehorn in the set up for the next instalment is a bit of a leap even for this movie’s logic. The again, if you’ve gone this far with the barmy story then why the fuck not create a liquid metal infused T-800 (T-101). The emotional impact of The Guardian’s sacrifice for ‘his Sarah’ is immediately overwritten by this change. Well done.
The original two movies told of a dark future where technology runs our lives leading to our demise. As this has now become a reality in part, Genisys’ message of the dangers of technology are lost in the glossy action. Since Judgement Day effectively closed the loop, the subsequent sequels have continued to find new ways to muddle the timeline. Genisys rewrites the established events, and there is some fun to be had from it, by no means a great (or even at times coherent) movie, but I enjoyed it for what it was. A shameless cash grab that if you take with ALL the salt, it is often surprisingly entertaining, relentlessly dumb, but fun.