Arnold Schwarzenegger, Byung-hun Lee, Courtney B. Vance, Dayo Okeniyi, J.K. Simmons, Emilia Clarke, Jai Courtney, Jason Clarke, and Matt Smith
Gale Anne Hurd (Characters), James Cameron (Characters), Laeta Kalogridis (Screenplay), Patrick Lussier (Screenplay)
Terminator Genisys is trying harder than hell to be something special.
Terminator Genisys fails.
Terminator Genisys is the kind of film that many fanboys will love precisely because director Alan Taylor is a mostly unsatisfying mishmash of old and new meets completely unnecessary. Fanboys will be able to point out where Terminator Genisys meets up with James Cameron's original creations and where it even gives a nod or two to the third and fourth incarnations. Fanboys will be able to point out exactly where Hunter's frequent twists and turns intersect with Terminator's past no matter how completely unnecessary those intersections actually are anyway.
In short, Terminator fanboys can spend their time feeling like superior moviegoers while the rest of us will simply be watching Terminator Genisys shaking our heads and thinking "Why?"
Terminator Genisys kicks off with the event that actually initiated Cameron's 1984 original, though audiences never actually experienced it - the humans, under rebel leader John Connor (Jason Clarke), have finally defeated the machines that have nearly exterminated humanity. The machines, not ones to give up easily, opt for one last major move by sending in a robot, in the form of Arnold Schwarzenegger, to go back in time and kill Sarah Connor (here played by Emilia Clarke). The humans get their hands on the time machine and send John's buddy Kyle (now played by Jai Courtney) back into time to save Sarah and get her pregnant (with John).
Yeah, it doesn't really make sense to me either. But hey, it's filmed with conviction.
Co-writers Laeta Kalogridis and Patrick Lussier keep building upon this already convoluted premise with twists and turns that protect the past and potentially alter the future. Roles are changed, previously known facts about previously existing characters aren't what we've always known them to be. There are a few twists with Sarah that could have been played out so much more cleverly than they are, while the film's potential for intelligent satire is replaced by CGI-laden crashes and terminators that defy the laws of physics.
The film's casting is incredibly hit-and-miss. While Arnold is most certainly back, there's no denying that this older and grizzled Arnold is much less interesting than he was way back when all of this began. Emilia Clarke, whom most will recognize from Game of Thrones, is certainly no Linda Hunt and we certainly feel Hunt's absence. Jai Courtney's Kyle makes us long for the sweeter, warmer presence of Michael Biehn, while Jason Clarke's speechifying is irritating in the film's trailer and doesn't get much better.
Terminator Genisys did, somewhat surprisingly, get the Cameron seal of approval, though that's likely having as much to do with the film's tone than it is having anything to do with the actual filmmaking. Terminator Genisys at least feels like it's related to Cameron's first two films in the series, something that couldn't be said for films three and four. Yet, there's little denying that being a distant cinematic cousin doesn't earn you bragging rights and as the film's closing credits rolled by I found myself mumbling "I hope he won't be back again."
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic