Since this is a family website, this Examiner won’t share his complete thoughts on shameless cash-grab sequels. Even well-intended, but entirely unneeded sequels are dangerous, threatening to tarnish what has come before. Only a proper viewing will let us know what to make of ‘Terminator: Genisys’.
In 2029, John Connor (Jason Clarke) is leading a huge attack against Skynet. Skynet sends a T-800 terminator back to 1984 to kill Connor’s mother (the first movie). To counter this, the resistances’ second in command, Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) volunteers to go back in time and protect Sarah Connor.
Upon arrival, Kyle finds that Sarah (Emilia Clarke) doesn’t need any protection. She is quite adept at handling herself and already has a T-800 Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) back to help. After dodging some dangers, the group plans to time travel to 1997, when Skynet becomes self-aware and truly dangerous. Of course, there is a very significant complication that threatens to rattle the resistance all the way to the core.
It was easy to go into this movie with low expectations. ‘Terminator: Salvation’ was not enjoyed by this Examiner at all. It was focused on faceless characters in a huge conflict, trying to expand the mythology of a story that works best when it is simple and intimate. This film splits the difference.
Nearly the entire first act is expository, time-hoppingly inclined and grim. Not the good kind of dark, gritty grim,but the PG-13 self-serious kind. Around 12 minutes in, after an interminable opening sequence that is all over the place, we finally meet the T-800, well, the 1984 version for a few seconds. All of the scenes where the resistance, is standing around talking about the present (2029) state of things is dull. It’s not until twenty minutes in that the plot is truly set in motion and we are ready to roll. Cutting 15-20 minutes from the runtime and being a tiny bit more liberal with the gore/violence would have brought us back to prime Terminator form.
The narrative gets a little muddy (though not impossible to follow) as we deal with past versions of characters and meeting future children/parents that are younger than the children and….time travel stuff. What made the first few films in this series enjoyable was largely the straightforward nature of the plot, the action/technology and the intrigue with the Terminator characters. When these movies try to delve too deeply into what Skynet is and how insidious it is, the actual plot suffers.
On the bright side, there is a good deal of action and this is structured a bit more like the first few films. We are back to having a familiar hero and a late-game twist keeps things interesting.
Courtney has an incredibly dull character to play, even though he is supposed to be the protagonist. Clarke fares much better though she does vacillate wildly between being tough as nails and dependent on help. When J.K. Simmons arrives on the scene, he adds a level of fun to the events in a slightly surprising role. Too bad he doesn’t really have much to do. Jason Clarke certainly has a lot to do. As you would hope, the star here is Schwarzenegger who, even as a monotone, emotionless T-800 manages to have more personality than almost everyone else on screen.
For all of its flaws, ‘Terminator: Genysis’ is a vast improvement upon ‘Terminator: Salvation’. This would be a logical way to end the series, but if there have to be more, if this level of quality can be expected, it’s not the end of the world.
Rated PG-13 126 minutes 2015