Movie Review - Terminator: Genysis
By Matthew Huntley
July 6, 2015
Screenwriters Laeta Elizabeth Kalogridis and Patrick Lussier disrupt the classic narrative by telling us that Skynet, knowing about its forthcoming defeat, decided to send another T-1000 back through time to off Sarah in 1973 but that she was rescued by the same kind of machine (Schwarzenegger) later meant to kill her in 1984. After her parents are killed, this T-800 model, whom she names “Pops,” becomes sort of her surrogate parent while also informing her of her pre-ordained destiny. So by the time the events in 1984 begin to take place, Sarah (Emilia Clarke) is already privy to them and ahead of the game.
This comes as a surprise to Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney), the soldier whom John (Jason Clarke) sends back from 2029 and who eventually becomes John’s father. Sarah, who’s been prepping herself for Kyle’s arrival and already aware of future events, now plans to travel to the future in 1997 via a new time machine built by Pops and destroy Skynet before it has a chance to attack the human race.
But wait, the writers toss another wrench into the mix. Given the new timeline and its ramifications, Kyle catches a glimpse of different future events altogether in which he, as a child, learns about Genisys, an all-encompassing operating system that eventually evolves into Skynet (this is an obvious nod to modern-day, omnipresent companies such as Google and Facebook, but the screenplay doesn’t really do anything with this correlation except make it, even though a biting social commentary would have been nice). These visions tell him that he and Sarah should actually travel to San Francisco 2017 to dismantle it, and it’s here where they meet up with Pops and do battle with a new Terminator-human hybrid, the T-3000, which seems virtually indestructible.
If you followed all that, great; if not, it doesn’t matter, because Genisys merely slaps its shaky plot together so that it can get to the all-too-standard gun battles; car chases; Terminator vs. Terminator brawls; and the blowing up of the Cyberdyne Corporation, which funds and oversees Skynet. This last scene essentially retreads the climax from Terminator 2: Judgment Day, only it’s not as effective. Plus there’s the inevitable (and now tired) catch-phrases from the other movies: “Come with me if you want to live”; “Get out”; and, of course, “I’ll be back.” We’re also served jokes about Schwarzenegger’s age, which the screenplay works into his character, but we’ve already heard these in other movies like The Expendables and The Last Stand, so they’re not as fresh here.
True: some of movie’s lighter moments and humor deflate its ego and it doesn’t claim to be more important than it really is, but even so, Genisys still feels like a futile exercise in spending an obscene amount of money (it carries a reported price tag north of $150 million) for relatively little payoff. Director Alan Taylor seems too content with simply rehashing what we already we’ve experienced instead of giving us something new and different.
The underlying problem with Genisys, as either a Terminator movie or an action film in general, is that none of it feels original. It merely goes through the motions of its franchise and genre and we end up watching it passively and unenthusiastically. Is it a terrible experience? No, but it’s certainly not an exciting one. There was a time when a Terminator sequel was a big deal, but such a time has passed, or at least it would seem so with this latest incarnation. Genisys suggests we’ve now entered an era when a Terminator movie can just be boring.