There. You see that truly sucky play on words that I employed in the headline for this blog post? That should give you a sense of the quality of this film’s script. I’m serious. When one character expresses their desire to rule the world, another character shouts “Rule THIS!” before blasting the former with a laser. Because the future is a long, looooong way from Tennessee Williams, Baby.
But hold up. Believe it or not, this will actually be a positive review of “Terminator Genisys” (2015). I’d reluctantly give it an 8 out of 10, because it was a fun summer popcorn movie, despite its flaws.
And there are flaws. It isn’t high art, and it can’t even approach the pathos, drama, characters, rich themes and great old fashioned movie thrills of the true terminator classics: the 1984 original and James Cameron’s astonishingly superior sequel in 1991.
The dialogue for “Terminator Genisys” is terrible in many places. The story’s most important character, Sarah Connor, falls flat. She’s scripted as a chipper, upbeat, 20’ish “It Girl” who utterly fails to win viewer loyalty, as Linda Hamilton’s traumatized crusader did so beautifully in 1991. I also humbly opine that Emilia Clarke did poorly with the role. This is the first time I’ve ever seen her perform — I’ve heard that she’s actually considered a very good actress playing a queen on … that TV show. “Game of Bones?” “Crones?” Or something? People like that show, right?
A lackluster Sarah Connor might be a serious transgression in the fan community. For a kid who learned to love science fiction movies in the 80’s and 90’s, Ellen Ripley will always be the paradigmatic heroine, but Sarah Connor was second. No, no one can equal Hamilton’s performance, but others can still perform the role quite well when it is competently scripted. Just see Lena Heady’s inspired turn in television’s “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles” (2008).
The “timey-wimey” stuff lost me early on. Seriously — the time travel story elements confused and annoyed me as soon as Kyle Reese (Jesus, I almost wrote Corporal Hicks) entered the time machine and began having inexplicable memories of another timestream.
Who is sending multiple terminators on multiple missions? Are they from various timelines and various iterations of Skynet, or are they from a single future? Our heroes have an unknown benefactor with access to time machines? A T-1000 attacks people on a rowboat? Does it … float, then? Walk on water? It seems to me that hopping on a boat would be a rather ingenius way of escaping an unstoppable robot, unless he commandeers his own vehicle … Hell, it’s something I’d never thought of, and I am precisely the sort of weirdo who thinks about things like that. (Is it any worse than when other people have zombie contingency plans?)
I’m not even sure I understand the motives of the story’s antagonist who we see the most. Is this character on nobody’s side, exactly? If this character is a superior model composed of nanobots, shouldn’t Skynet be manufacturing and deploying dozens, instead of just one? For that matter … why do individual terminators each have an individual consciousness and point of view? Can Skynet simply download its own single collective consciousness to every unit?
I felt a little embarrassed at first, but the Internet reassures me that most, if not all viewers, are puzzled about these things. The wonderful io9.com, for example, has an excellent tongue-in-cheek “FAQ” pointing out this movie’s surprising multitude of unanswered questions. Warning: SPOILERS.
Also … I really disliked this movie’s central plot twist.
Still, I have to give this movie a free pass. I simply can’t give a negative review to a film during which I laughed and smiled throughout. This is a fun summer event-movie. It’s a fast-paced, sci-fi actioner with fantastic special effects, the return of Arnold Schwarzenegger, and tons of fan service and Easter eggs. (Recreating the 1984 film’s sequences shot-for-shot? C’mon! That was just cool and fun.)
We’ve got nanobaddies, liquid metal terminators (made of mimetic polyalloy, to those of us in the know), aging T-800’s with stiff joints, time machines, terminators arriving in multiple decades, Bot-on-Bot violence, a schoolbus flipping over on the Golden Gate Bridge and … somebody does something totally sweet with an oxygen tank. They really threw in everything but the kitchen sink for this movie. The result is only kid stuff, but it’s still a good time. If you see this movie, and you don’t smile when a T-1000 emerges from a police car windshield, then you have never been a 10-year-old boy.
This year’s “Jurassic World” had none of the earmarks of a great film, but it still entertained. I gave that a positive review, so I’m going to go head and recommend this as well.