The rules are simple. The good get spared. The bad get spoiled.
Terminator: Genisys (Paramount Pictures)
Directed by Alan Taylor
I have to be honest. The first two Terminator movies are among my top twenty films of all-time. I loved the Sarah Connor Chronicles TV show and wished Fox had had more faith in it. But having said that, I’ve hated every other Terminator movie. T3, Salvation… garbage. So when I read that this film would be ignoring those others and going back to the original timeline, I was stoked. My excitement was misguided. Terminator: Genisys is a re-write of the Terminator storyline using convoluted time paradoxes and clever call-backs to those first two films. However, Emilia Clarke is not Linda Hamilton (nor Lena Headey). She is awful. The very clever nods to the original film only serve to point out that Alan Taylor is no James Cameron. And for some reason they think they have to stop the action every few minutes to explain the next new time paradox to us. The pacing and direction is horrible. The writing is decent but the performances are so hackneyed they make the dialogue seem stupid. It’s Sci-Fi. You’ve gotta sell it. But then there’s Arnold. Arnold Schwarzenegger. He’s back. And he is fucking amazing in this movie. The best part of Terminator: Genisys is Mr. Schwarzenegger. Hands down (put your hands down). But it is not enough to save this bland and boring, over-written, action sequel.
Verdict: SPOILED but wait. Don’t go yet. I’m not going to spoil this one. The plot is so convoluted, you wouldn’t believe me anyway. So I’m introducing a third category for bad movies that I don’t actually want to spoil and I’m calling it… UNSPOILED.
UNSPOILER ALERT <<<<< this means nothing by the way
I wanted so much to like this movie. I really did. Can we talk about Emilia Clarke though? I love my Khaleesi. The woman is gorgeous. And although she makes a rather tiny Sarah Connor, I was hoping she would fill those shoes. Those kick-ass female action star shoes. She does not. She is whiny and she over-acts with her eyebrows. Her performance is clunky and it made me miss Linda and Lena a lot.
Can we talk about the director though? Alan Taylor is a television director who, after working on several successful TV shows (including Game of Thrones), directed Thor: The Dark World. He does not have big theater pacing. He has television pacing. And that’s fine for… television. The early call-backs to the original Terminator film brought a huge smile to my face. “Wash day tomorrow. Nothing clean right?” “What day is it? What year?” I was ready for a respectful return to the early glory days of the series. But the best scenes in Genisys are the ones stolen directly from the original movie (shot for shot). James Cameron’s expert action movie pacing and editing is nowhere to be found rest of the way.
Can we talk about the music though? Seriously. The music is awful. Boring. Filled with tension when there is none on the screen. Needle drops of songs that are far too on-the-nose or worse, completely pointless. And creepy orchestral pieces that belong in a cheesy horror movie and not a sci-fi action adventure. More evidence that this director was not ready for this assignment. They keep giving him big-budget blockbusters. After two lackluster outings, he still isn’t ready.
Can we talk about the plot though? Time travel creates problems and there will always be plot-holes. It wouldn’t be time travel without plot-holes. But stop explaining to us how paradox works. At one point John Connor states that the principal characters (him, his mom, his dad, the original terminator) are outside of time and unable to change the future. It is the smartest line of dialogue in the movie but his theory is dismissed quickly. Characters from a future that didn’t happen running around in the past trying to effect change and feeling that very change personally (in real-time) is the biggest plot-hole in the history of time travel. Did you learn nothing from Back to the Future. I get that time travel is hard to write but c’mon you can’t have it both ways. The way they rewrite the Terminator story in Genisys destroys the story, its history and its characters. And they stop to explain Time Travel so often that the movie even ends on a convoluted and unnecessary explanation of Time Travel. “Can you send this message to the me that won’t exist in your future… K. Thanks. Bye.” (not actual dialogue from the movie)
Can we talk about Arnold Schwarzenegger though? Arnold really shines in this film. It’s the role that made him a huge action star. It’s good to see him back at it and he returns to it with fervor and gusto. Humor and heart. He is really impressive. He is amazing. Also J.K. Simmons does a great job as that cop who encounters our heroes in the 80’s and then again in 2017. The two best things about the film are Simmons and Schwarzenegger. But they are not enough to save it from the other bad actors on the screen.
Terminator: Genisys is not enjoyable. Actually it’s rather boring. And it reminded me a lot of the other big sequel this summer, Jurassic World. It’s a nice bit of nostalgia. Familiar monsters in familiar situations doing familiar things… but in a pretty terribly made and shitty movie. Sorry. I really wanted to like this one. I didn’t.
Happy July 4th Americans (and you Brits as well but for much different reasons)
Until next time,