Terminator Genisys


Why am I watching this movie?

No offense to anyone who likes it, or who finds it a perfectly acceptable summer action flick. But Terminator comes from one of the most respected cinematic lineages around. It launched James Cameron and T2 is pretty much the Mitochondrial Eve of every summer blockbuster made these days. So why do the repeated attempts at a Terminator franchise seem so pointless?

Maybe because James Cameron did his job too well. The first two Terminators are not only iconic. They also tell a story that honestly feels done when Arnold descends into the molten metal while young John Connor cries. If you want to keep it going after that, you have to find a rai·son d'ê·tre, and they haven’t. Terminator 3 is just a rehash whose only purpose is to set up Judgement Day again so they can do a franchise about the actual war against the machines. But they flubbed that in Terminator Salvation, a visually dreary mess that doesn’t even know who its main character is. So what do you do now?

Do the first two movies over again? Really?

With a 67-year-old Arnold?

I’ll partially apologize for that Arnold question because he’s the best part of Genisys. The story may have been compromised to include him in it, but he still brings a physical presence and humor none of the other participants can match. He makes me wish I cared about this movie for old time’s sake. But I don’t.

You probably know the details by now. In the future John Conner is still winning that war. Go humanity! They find the time machine mentioned in the original Terminator and Kyle Reese is sent back in time to save Sarah Connor as he should be. Only as that’s happening, Conner is grabbed by Matt Smith, the former Dr. Who. Then it’s back to 1984.

First problem. Jai Courtney simply does not work as Kyle Reese. Michael Biehn in the original was a taut, wiry guy gone half feral who you believed had been living among ruins. Jai Courtney looks like he’s been sunning, surfing and playing quarterback for a post-Apocalyptic USC. He also has the emotional presence of a coffee cup.

Anyway, someone apparently sent another Arnold Terminator back to protect Sarah Connor when she was a child. He’s been looking after her while teaching her to be a great warrior, so now she’s rescuing Kyle in 1984 from the liquid metal terminator who originally showed up in T2. They try to get some emotional resonance out of that, but like with Courtney they’re missing the point. In T2, we saw the bond between John and his Terminator developing. Here we’re just told that it happened.

The original Arnold Terminator from the first film is dispatched by “Pops” Terminator with relative ease. The liquid metal Terminator gets offed pretty easily, too. That’s when we wig out. Sarah and Kyle need to get to 2017 to stop Skynet from launching itself as a killer app. Fortunately, “Pops” has built a prototype time machine, because why not? In 2017, Sarah and Kyle confront John Connor, who Matt Smith turned into a nanomachine Terminator who chases them around a lot. You’d think they’d do something with that, like maybe have a conflicted John Connor struggling with his programming. But nope—simply making John a Terminator is all the twist they want. The rest of the movie is more or less him chasing them around until our heroes destroy the killer app, which is still alive in a post credits scene to set up a sequel.

Whatever. For all of its relentless time travel thrashing about, Genisys never really becomes a meaningful story. It’s just here to try and cash in on memories. It would seem that the movie itself has become a soulless Terminator, one pitilessly hunting down your summer dollars.

With apologies to Arnold. He tried.