Terminator Genisys is the fifth movie in a series that features a roller coaster of varying quality, and a grossly underrated television series.
The original Terminator is a sci-fi landmark, and its first sequel (T2: Judgement Day) is often talked about among the greatest follow ups ever made. From there though we got a terrible third movie, and a rather forgettable fourth one (the focus of which was a questionable decision at best). The TV show did it’s best to write Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines out of the timeline continuity, but was never accepted as canon by most. That brings us to this fifth installment, which essentially ignores all but the two original installments.
Regrettably this newest chapter, while not bad, is sure to prove forgettable. The dialogue was often predictable and forced, while the pacing seemed rushed at the wrong parts, and lethargic through the others. Add in the fact that the film’s second trailer provided a major plot spoiler and this experience just wasn’t what it could have been. Like watching a cover band that dresses like their predecessors, but seems to be missing whatever made that original band worth covering.
Then there is the cast; the same casting announcements that seemed so promising early on all felt a little flat, aside from Arnold who was actually pretty good.
Emilia Clarke, who has shown herself a capable actress time and again on Game of Thrones was either miscast as Sarah (to my shock), or simply given nothing to really work with. She failed to conjur up any of the emotion that made Linda Hamilton’s portrayal believable. She probably should have gotten notes from GoT cast-mate Lena Headey, who successfully played Sarah on the show. Then Jason Clarke (The Chicago Code), another actor whom I really like, gave us a John Conner totally devoid of the charisma it would take to be a war-time leader. And while he was more convincing than his mother, it often still felt like he was just going through the motions. And then Jai Courtney’s Kyle Reese makes me think maybe he deserved to be in that pile of shit A Good Day to Die Hard. I longed for the days of Michael Biehn, who gave us as believable a portrayal in 1984 as anyone could ask for. Why is this new Resse so buff? Where is he getting his protein shakes? As for the supporting cast, Byung-hun Lee and Matt Smith were both decent in limited roles, but felt a bit wasted here. This is a case of a good cast being poorly used or directed, and it being evident on-screen.
Also this time around, much like with the third film, they tried too many times to be cute and throw in jokes that totally undermine the tone of the film. The danger in the film never feels threatening or makes the viewer uneasy like in the original two films. Example, the addition of (recent Oscar winner) JK Simmons’ character. He could have been a really nice fit to the story, but was written in such a wasteful manner, more of a joke than he needed to be, and therefore un-impactful.
This movie, like the last couple, though featuring time travel and robots, actually feels more like a throw away action flick than a traditional sci-fi movie.
All of that said, it’s worth a watch. There were a lot of nice throw backs to the earlier films, like Kyle Reese’s Nike Vandals (I still want a pair of these), and there is a flashback that predates 1984 that I loved, even if they never really explain it. The film features several legitimately cool sequences, but unfortunately seems to lack the soul and gravity of the first two films. I guess that really says something about those movies, telling a story about A.I. and killer robots and having some soul to it…
Images: Paramount Pictures