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New Release Review - TERMINATOR: GENISYS

A soldier is sent back to 1984 LA to save the mother of the leader of a...oh, you know, you know.


Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Alan Taylor

Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Emilia Clarke, Jai Courtney, Jason Clarke, JK Simmons, Matt Smith, Sandrine Holt, Byung-hun Lee



"At this point Cameron's original movies seem like self-fulfilling prophecies. The machines may not have taken over yet, but on the evidence of Terminator Genisys they've sure got a foothold in Hollywood."



So a fifth Terminator movie eh? Is it a remake? A reboot? A sequel? A prequel? A 'side'quel? Well it attempts to be all of the above, and the alternate timeline device means it should be able to pull this off. But, alas, it doesn't. If you're after some '80s nostalgia, you'll be well catered for here, if by '80s nostalgia you mean Golan and Globus levels of shoddiness and cynicism. Congrats kids; your generation just got its own Superman IV.
The movie opens with a voiceover from Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) - an early warning of the storytelling issues to come - in which the backstory we're all familiar with is filled in. This is the first bit of retroactive exposition, but its certainly not the last. Most of the film consists of characters recounting the plot of the first two movies, and also several times the plot of this very movie; it's practically a filmed audiobook.
We're then introduced to a 13-year-old post-apocalypse Reese, saved by none other than resistance leader John Connor (Jason Clarke, who, unlike Courtney, manages to hide his Aussie accent), who takes him under his wing. Cut to 10 years later and Skynet has finally been defeated, or at least that's what the resistance believe until they uncover the time machine and realise a youthful Arnie has been sent back to take out John Connor's mother Sarah. (You would think by now Skynet would have figured out it might be easier to travel back a little further and terminate Sarah's own mother before her birth, but apparently not.) Reese volunteers to head back and finds himself in a shot by shot recreation of the opening scene of James Cameron's original, but this being an alternate timeline, things don't quite turn out how he imagined them.
When I was a teen, I wrote and directed a sequel/reboot to John Carpenter's Halloween, which I titled Halloween: The Second Coming. It was every bit as bad as the title suggests. The biggest problem was that I was so hung up on making it all tie into the original that I ended up making a respectful snoozefest. But who cares? Nobody saw it except my friends. The people behind Terminator Genisys have no such excuse, yet their movie spends so much time attempting to tie into the original that, like my own slasher opus, it completely fails to work as a standalone story. At the same time, it seems to presume we haven't seen the first movie, constantly regurgitating its plot through dialogue of such a poor standard it makes James Cameron's words resemble those of David Mamet.
Much of this problem stems from the film's kiddie friendly PG rating. As the original film carried an adult rating, the assumption is made that the target audience won't have seen that movie (yes, yes, I know, stop sniggering at the back). But you really can't watch Genisys without some prior experience of the franchise. Sadly, the more familiar you are with Cameron's film, the more this cynical marketing ploy will stick in your craw.
Ever since the second movie, Judgment Day, unwanted comedy has sneaked into this franchise, but in attempting to entertain the rugrats, Genisys takes it to new lows. Much of the comedy involves Arnie's terminator, a real slap in the face to Cameron and the chilling killing machine he originally created. Arnie is only short of letting out a fart here (brace yourself for the DVD deleted scenes), and Courtney's Reese seems to have been written as though he should be played by Bob Hope, constantly mocked by Arnie for his inadequacies, despite being in far superior shape than the terminator himself. I'm pretty sure someone who has spent their life scavenging for food would resemble the wiry Michael Biehn, not a male stripper.
Director Alan Taylor is best known for his TV work, and it certainly shows here. The set-pieces are executed in a manner best described as functional, and a sequence on the Golden Gate bridge only serves to remind us of the great work of directors Rupert Wyatt and Gareth Edwards in Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Godzilla, two movies that successfully pulled off exactly what this movie is attempting, and failing, to do. But such set-pieces are thin on the ground in a movie smothered in exposition soaked dialogue scenes, with the same information repeated ad nauseum every time a new character shows up. Why do we need to have the time machine explained to us? We've all seen the first movie. Oh wait, think of the children!
At this point Cameron's original movies seem like self-fulfilling prophecies. The machines may not have taken over yet, but on the evidence of Terminator Genisys they've sure got a foothold in Hollywood.



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