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Terminator Genisys

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Stars Arnold Schwarzenegger and Emilia Clarke

If you want to understand modern Hollywood and how it’s evolved over the last 30 years, all you need to do is look at the contrast between 1984’s The Terminator and 2015’s Terminator Genisys. James Cameron’s Terminator was a quirky little sci-fi horror movie; an exploitation film, really. Alan Taylor’s Terminator Genisys is a glossy, enormous blockbuster. Cameron’s movie was rated MA for intense violence and terrifying imagery; Taylor’s is rated M for bloodless action (because that’s the best way to attract the widest and youngest possible audience). Outside of a couple of glimpses of the future, The Terminator featured a single killer robot. Terminator Genisys, in keeping with our “more is more” times, boasts at least four cybernetic main characters (including two different Arnold Schwarzeneggers) plus dozens of other bots in the background. The Terminator told a complete story; Genisys leaves more threads dangling than it should and is obviously the first instalment in a new T-rilogy). The only returning actor is Schwarzenegger, whose Terminator, now gray and weathered, says throughout that he’s “old, not obsolete.” The movie aims to prove the same is true for the Terminator series by revitalizing this moribund property with a new cast and special effects. The story opens in the ruins of Los Angeles circa 2029, depicting heretofore unseen events just prior to the start of the first Terminator. In the waning days of an apocalyptic war with a self-aware computer called Skynet, human resistance leader John Connor (Jason Clarke) sends his right-hand man Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) back in time to protect his mother Sarah (Emilia Clarke) from a Terminator (a young Arnold Schwarzenegger, played by a nifty CGI creation). When Kyle first arrives in 1984, Genisys looks like a straightforward reboot. Scene after scene recreates beats from the first movie then Kyle arriving in an alley next to a bewildered drunk suddenly finds an older Schwarzenegger Terminator intercepting the young one; a liquid metal T-1000 (Lee Byung-hun) who chases Kyle into a sporting goods store. And the Sarah that Kyle was told to expect by her son — young, innocent, scared — is nowhere to be found. In her place is a resourceful, determined warrior, more akin to the Sarah from Terminator 2. So what happened? The most frustrating part about Terminator Genisys is that the movie never answers that question. There are hints of an explanation in the actions of a mysterious new character played by Doctor Who’s Matt Smith, but even after Genisys winds its way through chases, and shootouts it never comes close to solving the riddle of its alternate timeline. The heroes are too busy with their latest attempt to destroy Skynet to slow down and think about the ramifications of this inexplicable new scenario. The star here, in just about every sense of the word, is Schwarzenegger. If there is anything genuine in Terminator Genisys it’s his performance and its emotional core. Even though it’s supposedly a dispassionate hunk of metal and fake skin, the Terminator has evolved from remorseless and unstoppable killing machine to aging superhero. Sarah Connor calls this Terminator “Pops” because it rescued her at a young age and raised her to be a soldier. In one scene Arnold actually gets to fight his younger self and it’s about as powerful an image as one can imagine to summarize a man who’s spent the last few years dealing with the fallout of his terrible past decisions. Genisys also continues Schwarzenegger’s ongoing exploration of the connection between masculinity and mortality (“Old, not obsolete” is a fascinating shift from Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, where Schwarzenegger’s Terminator unambiguously stated “I’m an obsolete design.”). Many critics have been harsh about this movie especially regarding the storyline, but if that’s not your main concern then you will revel in this new franchise which is an exciting 2 hours well worth seeing.

Rated M 7.5 out of 10

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