Propelling this fifth installment in the franchise is the moderately intriguing revisitation of several key moments from the original film. Sadly, it doesn’t take long for the potential to dissolve into a formulaic escapade of messy time travel antics and CGI-heavy action sequences. While the explosive battles between varying Terminators aren’t exactly mundane, real suspense rarely enters into the fray, considering that every colossal combatant (and human lead characters alike) appears invincible, shrugging off gunshots and even dismemberments. Stock explanations involving quantum physics, nexus points, and decay algorithms serve only to raise further questions – but perhaps the most important query will be, “What exactly is ‘Terminator Genisys’ supposed to add to the series?”
The year 2029 witnesses the end of the war between man and machine. Skynet, an automated defense program turned destroyer of mankind, faces defeat at the hands of John Connor (Jason Clarke) and the Resistance. In a last ditch attempt to save itself, the digital entity sends a T-800 Terminator back in time to 1984 Los Angeles to assassinate John’s mother, Sarah (Emilia Clarke). Uncovering Skynet’s plot, the underground leader dispatches his own time traveler, Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney), to follow the Terminator and protect Sarah. But when Kyle arrives in the past, he discovers that not only does Sarah already know about him and his mission, but also a reprogrammed guardian Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) watches over her – while several new and far more dangerous threats are working to ensure the future is not safe for humankind.
This just might be the most unnecessary of all sequels. In its effort to be nostalgic or to pay homage to its predecessors, “Terminator Genisys” essentially remakes (or snatches parts from) all four prior movies. It takes the Kyle Reese element from the first film, the T-1000 and the reprogramming of Schwarzenegger’s cyborg as an ally from the second, the love story from the third, and the not-so-secret identity of one of the main characters as both a human and a Terminator from the fourth. It also steals stale one-liners from all the entries and reuses them in the most eye-rolling manner possible.
The music, the themes, the sound effects, the names, the destruction, the imagery of a gleaming metal exoskeleton, the fight choreography (such as Terminators morphing into stabbing weapons and using stray pipes for spears, mimicking the deceased, or smashing each other through walls), the special effects, and the naked time traveling all come back for more. So too does Schwarzenegger, with a quick explanation for his aging appearance. But despite a significant return to the role that made him famous, this fifth attempt at rebooting the series still can’t recapture even an ounce of the magic that permeated “The Terminator” or “Terminator 2: Judgment Day.” A large part of this is the unbalanced, inconsistent tone, which seems less sinister than “Terminator Salvation,” but far goofier than “Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines.” It’s comparable to the Batman pictures, which go from severe to silly and back again as each new chapter is released.
There’s also quite a struggle to come up with a formidable villain, as the T-1000 previously evolved into the most stunning movie antagonist of just about any science-fiction thriller. Here, the new nemesis is as uninspired, unexplained, and unimpressive as imaginable. His creation, capabilities, and weaknesses are so ineffectually chronicled that by the climactic battle it’s entirely uncertain what he’s doing or how he’s doing it. Plenty of electricity bolts, flashes of color, and particle effects hope to hypnotize viewers into staying their curiosity.
In another attempt to surpass the former films, “Terminator Genisys” puts the time travel idea on an overdose of steroids. Hopping back and forth too many times to keep track of, the characters (as well as the audience) must regularly accept instances of split or changing timelines that are utterly incomprehensible. Some alternate realities contain more than one version of the characters while others do not, further perplexing the whole affair. It would be equivalent to “Back to the Future” if Dr. Emmett Brown never explained any of the time travel inner workings, instead just letting the audience guess as to which action causes which outcome.
A modicum of commentary on technological integration, overdependence on computers, and the desire for constant connectivity at all times (like being plugged into the Matrix, but willingly) edges into the plot, but it’s unable to produce a lasting message. Even the fatalistic notion of producing the very products that destroy – or will destroy – humanity is lost as the premise completely undoes itself during a quick scene after the end credits. To think that Genisys, which, like Facebook, has found its way into nearly every recess of the globe, could be destroyed simply by blowing up their headquarters is completely ludicrous. And yet, the primary goal of these terroristic time travelers is just that. At least, there’s adventure and stunts to level out the baffling plot, though even those fleetingly pleasing moments are ruined by computer graphics that ignore realism, paired with an annoyingly diminished sense of violence – likely attributed to the PG-13 rating, which ensures the censorship of blood and devastation that go hand in hand with unstoppable killing machines.
– The Massie Twins (GoneWithTheTwins.com)