Terminator: Genisys

As I saw Terminator: Genisys over the weekend I thought I'd give it review. I'm done with the huge synopsis so this will just be my thoughts about the movie. There will be spoilers!

To sum up I found it better than the last two Terminator outings but not to the same calibre as The Terminator and Terminator 2: Judgement Day. It wasn't awful and I was mostly entertained but it lacks that spark. Something I find common in reboots. The first act of the movie is great but it starts to fall apart after they leave 1984.

The casting is the film's Achilles heal. Emilia Clarke is as annoying in this as she is in Game of Thrones. I'm starting to think it's not the characters. They picked her over Tatiana Maslany? Really? Instead of Linda Hamilton's average woman facing extraordinary odds or her later cold, uncompromising, terminator-esque persona we got a female version of John Connor from Terminator 3.

Kyle Reese is seemingly no longer hardened soldier from the future suffering from PTSD and culture shock. Jai Courtney's portrayal is that of a confused and has abandonment issues. And the character is, despite the shoe-horned subplot, almost completely superfluous to the film. Plus I'm pretty sure Jai could be replaced by CGI and nobody would notice.

In fact both the primary characters have beem transformed from adults with realistic behavior and motivation to acting like sulky, petulant teenagers. It's so funny when, totally having the hots for each other, they have to go naked together into the time machine. It's all like uncomfortable and stuff.

Skynet tactics have changed up too. It sent a Terminator back to kill Sarah while she was a child (I guess it must have found a cache of files that were previously lost during the war). Another is sent back to defend her and after her parents are killed he takes over as her care giver. They live off the grid and have guns aplenty, naturally.

This leads me to my biggest problem with the film. It is a suitably nerdy one. They've broken the franchises time travel concept by stuffing some Timey-Wimey, Doctor Who crap into it. Ironic because Matt Smith is woefully underused in the film. If Skynet has a new plan then why did it still send the T-800 to 1984? Was it just because this act spawns John Connor and it's now decided John is the way to go now?

As horribly flawed as the other films were they were at least largely consistent with their time travel.

The essential twist of the film has been spoiled by the marketing and trailers. Having Skynet realise that John Connor always wins so converting him into a Terminator is actually a clever idea and something an AI might consider. It kinda gets robbed of it's value when even the film's poster spoils it though. The better idea of Skynet escaping it's destruction by moving from a cumbersome warehouse into a Terminator body with shiny new rims is an idea that they could have done more with.

Skynet's origin gets another overhaul. Rather than being an AI to look after the nukes or a AI to hunt and destroy electronic security threats it's a civilian project. One designed to unify all our devices into one huge AI controlled database named Genisys. Which due to some lapse in sanity also includes hooks into military systems. Amusingly all the devices shown that this will use Genisys/Skynet are Windows powered. It's amusing if you've been into computers more than a couple of decades.

Oh, and if you don't like when Arnold does the goofy Terminator bit then you will probably not like this film, at all.

There are plenty of nods to the first two Terminator films which probably helps makes it difficult to hate it. Watching the film keep pass with the original and then slowly fall apart as elements of Terminator 2 creep in is an interesting metaphor. While not as menacing a Robert Patrick the films T-1000 acts far more intelligently than the one in Judgement Day.

The CGI Arnie is surprisingly good. A significant improvement over the one in Salvation. While I found the stills I had seen made it look creepily unreal it looked much better in motion. Still not perfect. I think CGI is now starting to make the arduous climb up the other side of the uncanny valley. Though arguable it's meant to be a robot mimicking a human so perhaps it works in this instance.

The film tries to cover some of the same ideas that "The Sarah Connor Chronicles" used but not as successfully. It also rehashes part of the plot from Terminator 3 but with a more modern take and a happy ending. Well, until the mid-credits scene anyway.

All in all it's a slightly better than average Hollywood action film. It's let down by the usual problems that plague that type of film and I suspect executive interference. The clever nods and nostalgia do pull it back up a bit. The film could be compared to Jurassic Park. Both try to pull off the pseudo-reboot. Jurassic Park succeeds in a way Terminator: Genisys simply doesn't. You can see what they were aiming for but they were off target.

Consider how poorly the box office figures are I think the franchise is pretty much dead. Somebody squash it a machine press just to be sure.


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