Terminator: Genisys - Review

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He's back. With Terminator: Genisys, the fifth installment in the Terminator franchise, the trend of resurrecting (and rebooting) long dormant classic franchises is continued.
After the horrendous Terminator: Salvation, Genisys is somewhat of a back to the roots approach for the franchise. While it first seems like a simple rehash or remake, Genisys introduces new tweaks and turns to the original's storyline: Kyle Reese teaming up with an already skilled Sarah Connor, fending off against a T-1000 in 1984, and John Connor himself having been turned into a Terminator. Genisys sure doesn't seem to be short of ideas.
But are those enough to bring the franchise back to its former glory or at least make the entire franchise relevant again after the two disappointing sequels that were Terminator 3 and Salvation?
Let's see how "resetting the future" worked out for Terminator: Genisys...

 



The plot:
When John Connor (Jason Clarke), leader of the human resistance, sends Sgt. Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) back to 1984 to protect Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke) and safeguard the future, an unexpected turn of events creates a fractured timeline. Now, Sgt. Reese finds himself in a new and unfamiliar version of the past, where he is faced with unlikely allies, including the Guardian (Arnold Schwarzenegger), dangerous new enemies, and an unexpected new mission: To reset the future.
Source: IMDb



Terminator Genisys is more of the same, but not quite. After picking up the same premise from the first movie that sent future human soldier Kyle Reese back to the year 1984 to protect Sarah Connor from the Terminator, Genisys introduces a big variety of new twists, turns and changes to the original storyline. While it's pretty hard to call Genisys a true sequel or a prequel, the term reboot is probably the best to describe the franchise's new direction it's taking.
Sure enough, at least Genisys isn't too shy of changing things up which make a lot of its story instantly more interesting to watch than for example Terminator 3's rehash of the Terminator 2 plot. And while this sure deserves to be praised, it doesn't help that Terminator Genisys slight over-reliance on tributing the original two movies and introducing ideas that are simply dumb and create numerous huge plot holes, don't elevate the franchise as a whole back to its former glory. Therefore, it often just feels like Genisys is trying a bit too hard to be different without having a clearly thought through vision beforehand. The result is an entertaining yet narratively very messy movie.

It's a prequel, sequel...reboot...thing.

As already said, much like in a parallel universe kind of scenario, everything in Genisys seems similar but different. Kyle Reese traveling back to 1984 and many other key scenes from the original are back, yet tweaked in certain ways to make them unpredictable again. This change sure makes for a lot of cool ideas and scenes in Genisys like Kyle Reese being chased by a T-1000 upon his arrival in 1984 as well as a very cool fight between old Arnold and young Arnold (the original T-800 from the first Terminator movie). Visually speaking and from a simple entertainment value perspective, these are all nicely put together scenes, yet from a narrative standpoint they create a whole lot of trouble for Genisys' storyline. With that said, while the scenes and many of the other ideas and changes that tweak the Terminator lore around sound cool on paper and actually are fun to watch, most of the time, those ideas seem to have been included soley for the coolness-factor yet without any real thought put into it. This causes a wide variety of numerous plot holes in Genisys' story like: Who sent the T-1000 back to 1984? Why the travel all the way directly to the day of Judgment Day and not a couple days before it happens? and many more. The worst part about it, is that these mistakes and plot holes are no simple nitpicks but obvious logical errors in Genisys' story that more than once will make viewers putting any thought into what's happening scratching their heads in confusion.
Especially in comparison to the very well constructed and thought through original two movies, Genisys indeed feels creative but also very messy.

Old Arnie vs. young Arnie? Hell Yeah!

And with Arnold's big return to the role that launched his stardom, fans were eager to know what foe he would have to fight in the new Terminator movie. And while there are some side-foes like the T-800 from the first Terminator movie and a T-1000 for a short period of scenes in 1984 that Arnie, Sarah and Kyle have to fight off, the new main enemy is the T-3000.
And in what has to be one of the stupidest marketing moves in recent memory, one of Genisys' biggest and most impactful twists to its story has shamefully been already completely spoiled in the released trailers: John Connor himself is the movie's antagonist since he has been turned into a Terminator, the T-3000.
This big reveal could've given Genisys the gut-punch of a twist that the franchise needed for a reboot, which makes it only all the more puzzling why this was already spoiled for viewers in the trailers.
The T-3000 sure enough is very cool looking and does a solid job of sticking out in the Terminator franchise, yet not necessarily for all the right reasons. While he does a servicable job of being an unstoppable killer machine consisting out of metal dust-like nanobots, he doesn't really feel like that much of a big leap or improved successor to the T-1000. Looking at the T-3000's abilities, he more or less is the same as the T-1000 but made out of metal dust rather than liquid metal. It's all cool and all but the T-3000 himself is definitely more of a tribute or throwback than a truely new idea for a Terminator. What indeed makes the T-3000 stick out though, is the fact that he is somewhat part human part machine, leading to him behaving pretty much like a human being with a wide variety of emotions. While this is a nice change pace for the usually cold machine antagonists in the franchise, especially the transformation of John Connor into a Terminator (or the transformation of a human into a machine in general) causes yet again a lot of logical problems and unexplained events in the movie, whose explanations feel like they have been shoved aside to be eventually tackled in upcoming sequels.

He certainly looks badass but is he really that much better than the T-1000?

But the big star of the flick is Arnold Schwarzenegger who is now back as "The Guardian". And to be honest, even with the fitting very monotone line delivery and performance Arnie is giving here, he immediately feels like he is right at home with this role. Arnie obviously had a lot of fun doing this new Terminator movie even despite its flawed concept. And simply watching Arnold kick some Terminator ass again is worth watching Genisys for alone. And while nowhere near as good as his best performances in his glory days, Genisys definitely features one of the best Arnold comeback performances yet. The only thing that might annoy fans though is the bigger emphasis on comedic lines from Arnold caused by the PG-13 rating to appeal to more youngsters. This definitely could've been cranked down a whole lot more - especially the smiling moments (there is a good reason James Cameron cut the smiling-scene from Terminator 2).

He's back!

On the other hand, we got Emilia Clarke as female lead Sarah Connor. Emilia Clarke sure is a talented actress yet terribly miscast in this movie. While some may beg the differ, most people will agree that her performance in Genisys is indeed servicable but feels like a completely different character when looking back at Linda Hamilton's portrayal of Sarah Connor who developed from a frightened and innocent young woman to a badass heroine in Terminator 2.
This transformation is completely skipped in Genisys since we are introduced to a Sarah Connor that has already been trained by Arnold for many years (even leading to her seeing him as a father figure and calling him "Pops"...which is somewhat unfitting and weird). What clearly doesn't work here are two things: Emilia's appearance and this exact lack of character development. Emilia is simply a too feminine and too fragile looking person to make for a good Sarah Connor. The miscasting becomes even more obvious during many of Emilia's lines in which it becomes excrushiatingly obvious that she forcefully tries to sound and come off as badass ("Come with me, if you want to live. Now, soldier!"). This sadly backfires and rather comes off more desperate than anything else.
Sure enough, director Alan Taylor should've taken more time to look for a fitting actress to play such an important role and not simply cast an actress from a certain TV-show that happens to be totally popular right now.

Khaleesi!? What are you doing here?

Next we got another very miscast actor in a very important role. Jai Courtney as Kyle Reese.
Yet different from the problem of Emilia Clarke as Sarah Connor, this miscasting has nothing to do with Jai Courtney not looking the part or lacking the necessary time for character development, but rather with the simple fact that Jai Courtney is pretty much one of Hollywood's most boring and characterless actors right now.
Not only does Jai completely lack any sort of necessary charisma and personality to portray Kyle Reese, the love interest of Sarah, but Jai Courtney himself is basically box office poison. Having starred in flop after flop and even putting the Die Hard franchise to shame with A Good Day to Die Hard, it's a sheer mystery how this casting choice came to be and how he even still gets roles in big blockbuster movies.
To leave this with a positive note though, it is actually quite fun to see Kyle having to work together with a Terminator for the first time. One just would've wished that Alan Taylor would've cast an actor that didn't happen to sound and come off as more robotic than Arnold as the Terminator.

Jai Courtney is the best robot in the movie...and in every other one he is in.

Last but not least we got upcoming Hollywood actor Jason Clarke as John Connor alias the T-3000.
Actually there is not even too much to be said here since Clarke does a respectable job in portraying both characters well enough to make for a convincing character. 
Again, one just would've wished that the big twist surrounding John Connor's transformation into a Terminator himself would've been kept secret, but anyway.
What makes him stand out as an antagonist in the franchise is, aside from the big twist itself, the fact that the T-3000 is the first antagonist with a wider range of emotions and even means to convince Sarah and Kyle to join forces with him. Clearly this elevates the threat of the machines to a new level of some sorts, but it creates a whole lot of muddled characterizations at the same time. The T-3000 therefore never really feels like a human but also not like a machine either, making it somewhat hard to put a finger on him as a character. Surely it's refreshing to once have an antagonist that happens to be quite more talky than in the Terminator movies before, but at the same time, the cold, rational and unstoppable feel of a machine hunting our heroes gets somewhat lost in the process.
Oh, and let's hope we get some more answers in the upcoming sequels how a transformation of a human into a metal dust Terminator is even possible.
  
John Connor aka Scarface.

Actionwise, Genisys knows how to entertain. Even though they clearly lack the finesse and impact of the original movies and even T3, Genisys sets its action scenes up quite well. Sure enough it suffers from an overuse of CGI in its action in general that make many moments in the movie feel too over-the-top, even for a Terminator movie: from CGI heavy helicopter chases or a bus doing a full flip in the air, it all often seems a bit goofy somehow despite it admittedly being entertaining.
The CGI in Genisys overall looks pretty decent though and seemingly nowhere near as bad as it might've looked in the trailers. Especially the completely CGI rendered young Arnold comes off as the most convincing fully CGI-made human that we've seen yet, putting the young CGI Arnie from Terminator Salvation to shame.
Also it is easily said, that the T-1000 liquid metal effects in Genisys pretty much have the exact same quality as the ones from the original Terminator 2, which only shows how well Terminator 2 from 1991 holds up even today.

Terminator movies are known get crazy but there has to be a line somewhere.

All in all, Terminator Genisys uses a lot of creative twists and tweaks on the Terminator lore to make this reboot of the franchise stand out. And while this at least makes it way more creative than the last two predecessors in the series and indeed makes it a watchable and actually entertaining movie, it quickly becomes very obvious that Genisys goes somewhat of a style-over-substance route.
With that said, Terminator Genisys is a reboot with a good share of new ideas that don't seem entirely thought through or given enough care in the script to avoid its sadly numerous logical plot holes. On top of that, some of the casting choices like Emilia Clarke as Sarah Connor and Jai Courtney as Kyle Reese simply feel unfitting, which leads to performances by these actors that fail to recapture the personalities of these characters from the original movies.
Yet still, at least we got Arnold Schwarzenegger back as the protective T-800 - and Arnie sure feels right at home in that role. Schwarzenegger is obviously having quite some fun being back in his role and kicking metal ass, making Genisys feature one of his best comeback performances yet - even though the PG-13 rating and resulting comedic relief makes Genisys often come off sillier than it needed to be.

Much like Jurassic World, your enjoyment of Genisys is heavily depending on how much you can seperate this movie from the unbeatable and classic two originals, Terminator and Terminator 2. Genisys is nowhere near as good as those two, just like Jurassic World was never able to beat the classic Jurassic Park.
Therefore, if you are interested in Genisys but also a fan of the originals, you are best advised to watch Genisys as its own standalone movie, since it already feels a lot like fun but also quite dumb Terminator fan fiction.
Terminator Genisys sure is a narrative mess and honestly a quite forgettable movie overall, but at least it knows how to entertain for the short while of its 2-hour running time with Arnie's return, some logically flawed but creative ideas and a nice share of over-the-top action scenes.



Final Verdict: 4 out of 10

 

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