By Gary Murray
Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jai Courtney, Jason Clark and J. K. Simmons
Written by Laeta Kalogridis and Patrick Lussier
Directed by Alan Taylor
Running time 126 min
MPAA Rating PG-13
Selig Film Rating Cable
The Terminator franchise has been around for decades, generating loads of cash and merchandise for the studio. It is a series that promises much in the trailer but delivers a mixed bag when it finally comes to the screen. The first two Terminator films were James Cameron’s babies and some of the best films that came out that year. The other two were not so much. With Terminator Genisys, we have a fifth or maybe a third installment of the franchise, depending on how one looks at it.
The preamble tells of a world after Skynet decides that mankind is to blame and destroys the world. Reese (Jai Courtney) is sent back by John Conner (Jason Clark) to the past to defeat the enemy. He must do so by saving the unsuspecting Sarah Conner, John’s future mother. He also has a fading memory of him as a child, telling himself that Skynet is Genisys.
Reese goes back to 1984 to save Sarah Conner (Emilia Clarke) from the Terminator. When he gets there, Reese finds that she needs no help and has been preparing for this moment since she was nine. To her aide was sent a T-200 (Arnold Schwarzenegger) whom she has been calling Pops. Pops has been her protector and trainer all of these years. One of the opening scenes links to the original film.
While the explanations of all the time lines and time machines, I kept going back to an Elton John song. “And all the science/I don’t understand/it’s just my job/Five days a week”. The writing team of Laeta Kalogridis and Patrick Lussier do their best to tie-in all the different story lines from the past films. But it is best not to think about alternative time lines and wallow in the spectacle.
We also find that as Reese was being transported, he sees something happening to John Conner. Sarah and Reese jump into the future from 1984 to 2017 and the enacting of Genisys. Reese believes that is the moment to stop the destruction of the earth. They also find that John Conner has become a cyborg and wants the couple to join them. J.K. Simmons is the cop who has been chasing after all the robots for 30 years.
To be honest, no one goes to these types of film expecting Shakespeare; one goes into these films expecting explosions and action sequences. One that basic level, Terminator Genisys delivers with stunts and action. There is a chase on the Golden Gate Bridge with a bus tumbling up and over that is amazing. The explosions are epic, with entire buildings going down. On an id level, this is a film of destruction.
Arnold is looking much more shop-worn as a Terminator cyborg. Time and time again there are references to his failing mechanical body. One begins to wonder that if the two leads from the first two films were re-cast, why can’t there be a re-casting of the lead?
The two new lead actors are Jai Courtney and Emilia Clarke. Both give it the college try but that’s the problem. It feels more like two college students trying to perform dialogue in a class than actual movie stars. Either the two should have worked on the material more or the material needed to be polished.
The other point that bothered was that for the first half of the film, it is murky. One wonders if it was to match film stocks or hide aged actors, either way the beginning of the film felt as if it were 20,000 leagues under the sea. Meaning it was not very clear. Once the film gets going, the day moves along and the movie begins to lighten. .
After so many Terminator films, one becomes awash of the entire process. What started out as a cool original flick and a sequel that was one of the best films of that decade, it becomes very hard to top. Terminator Genisys is a valiant effort to save the series and breathe new life into a dinosaur. Unfortunately the Fox series did a much better job with the concept. But much like the dinosaur, its time has run out. A much wiser solution would be to re-cast all the roles. There is a tag at the end that sets-up the next installment of the franchise.