Dan's Review: Terminator Genisys enjoyable - for a knockoff
Emilia Clarke, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jai Courtney in Terminator Genisys - © 2015 Paramount Pictures
Terminator: Genisys (Paramount)
Rated PG - 13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and gunplay throughout, partial nudity and brief strong language.
Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Brett Azar, Aaron V. Williamson, Jason Clarke, Emilia Clarke, Willa Taylor, Jai Courtney, Bryant Prince, Lee Byung-hun, J. K. Simmons, Wayne Bastrup, Matt Smith, Courtney B. Vance, Dayo Okeniyi, Gregory Alan Williams, Sandrine Holt, Michael Gladis, Griff Furst, Nolan Gross.
Written by Laeta Kalogridis and Patrick Lussier, based on characters created by James Cameron and Gale Anne Hurd.
Directed by Alan Taylor.
I became a fan of James Cameron back in the 1980s after he created the blockbuster hit The Terminator, and I followed his success over decades. He eventually dropped his Terminator franchise and moved on to more dubious (albeit wildly successful) cinematic fare, leaving the cyborg stories to other filmmakers. Terminator 3 and Terminator Salvation weren’t terrible movies, but they never captured the imagination of Cameron’s original. Now comes Terminator Genisys, the latest (and perhaps not final) chapter in the franchise. When Arnold Schwarzenegger says he’ll “be back,” he ain’t kidding.
Terminator Genisys again focuses on the exploits of John Conner (played by Jason Clarke this time), the leader of the human resistance against Skynet, the computer system that became self-aware and moved to eradicate the humans from the world. Fighting by Conner’s side is Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney), who is younger than him, but also happens to be his dad (it’s a complicated time-travel conundrum, so I’ll avoid a full explanation in case you’ve been living under a rock and haven’t seen the other Terminator movies by now). At the point when the humans can claim victory, Skynet uses a time machine to transport a T-800 cyborg (using CG and makeup to simulate a young Schwarzenegger) back to 1984 to kill the young Sarah Conner (Emilia Clarke) before she can give birth to John. Conner sends Kyle back to save Sarah, and it seems as though the events of the original movie repeat. That’s when things get even more complicated, as Sarah shows up and saves Kyle with the help of her “Guardian,” an aged T-800 Terminator (played by the real, aged Arnold), who’s been with her since her childhood (yeah, that time travel thingy works for entries before 1984).
Things get even more complicated when Sarah and Kyle transport to 2016 and they encounter another more advanced cyborg (played by a surprise character). Our heroes must go to drastic measures to save the world from yet another Skynet attack.
As mentioned, I used to be a big fan of James Cameron, much like I used to be a fan of any number of musical groups of my youth. Watching Terminator Genisys is like seeing your favorite band from the 1908s on a reunion tour, but there’s only one original member of the band still with the group, and they insist on playing music from their “new album.” I’m not suggesting that the Clarkes (Emilia and Jason), J.K. Simmons (who plays a very unnecessary role as a cop who remembers the 1984 timeline) or Jai Courtney aren’t talented, but they aren’t the real thing, either. Additionally, everything cool about cyborgs and time travel has already played out in the franchise, making Terminator Genisys feel like a cheap knockoff. Director Alan Taylor (who also helmed the Second Thor movie for Marvel Studios) puts forth an adequate, but unoriginal effort. He might not be James Cameron, but neither is Cameron these days, either.
One saving grace is Arnold, whose robotic persona provides a few laughs and plenty of opportunities for the other characters to poke fun at him.
The other positive for Terminator Genisys is Emilia Clarke as Sarah Conner, who seems perfectly cast as younger version of Linda Hamilton.
Even so, these small advantages don’t hide the movie’s biggest flaw, a convoluted story that meanders all over the space-time continuum without purpose or any kind of sense - other than providing an excuse for the display of a few cool special effects.
In the end, Terminator Genisys might not have the same sense of awe and wonder of the original James Cameron version, but it’s okay for a little summer escapism.