Movie Review - Terminator: Genysis
By Matthew Huntley
July 6, 2015
The narrative alterations introduced to the longstanding Terminator saga in Terminator: Genisys aren’t so much a sign of creativity and cleverness as they are desperation - desperation by the filmmakers and studio to try anything and everything to keep this franchise alive. But, to play on the title character a bit, this is one series whose battery power should simply be allowed to die out. Many would agree it’s already gone two movies too long and despite Arnold Schwarzenegger’s return in this fourth sequel, and his repeated line throughout it, “I’m old, but not obsolete,” it’s become of little use to us as moviegoers.
Of course, the classic man vs. machine story behind The Terminator series is about how Skynet, the self-aware and omnipotent artificial intelligence system, sent a killer cyborg back through time to assassinate Sarah Connor, mother of John Connor, who would eventually lead the human resistance against Skynet and save humanity, before John was born. In response, John, in the future, sent his own warrior soldier back through time to protect her.
Most of us already know this story by heart, but Genisys begins by showing us the future - Los Angeles, 2029 - when both sides actually use the time portal to send their respective fighters back to 1984 (this is something we’ve never seen before, and although it was kind of neat and nostalgic to watch, it wasn’t exactly necessary). The movie then partially recreates the opening scenes from James Cameron’s original Terminator (1984), complete with a computer-generated, younger version of Arnie, before skewing into its own - but far from stimulating - narrative tangent.
It was probably at this point when the makers of Genisys started to think they were putting a crafty spin on the classic story as we know it, but they were unfortunately mistaken. All they do, really, is recycle familiar concepts, scenes and characters from the first two films, including our liquid metal friend, the T-1000, perhaps in hopes that fans might recall their favorite Terminator moments and invariably link them to this installment, thus giving it a pass and making us think it’s better and more relevant than it really is. But all their strategy and the resultant movie do is underline the idea that Genisys isn’t as assured or competent in its narrative execution as its predecessors and it quickly falls flat.
I guess that’s both the strength and weakness of allowing time travel into any story. On the one hand, storytellers can change just about anything and justify it with the characters traveling through time, thus giving rise to new events. On the other, storytellers can change just about anything and justify it with the characters traveling through time, thus giving rise to new events. They need not follow logic and are often free to ignore paradoxes, inconsistencies, outstanding questions, etc., which leaves us asking, “Then what’s the point?” How can we really invest in the saga as a whole when things can change so suddenly and easily whenever the studio feels the need to churn out another sequel? The problem is we can’t, or in this case, don’t.