Ever since James Cameron made a name for himself with his first directorial effort in 1984’s dark sci-fi/thriller The Terminator and followed it up with a superior 1991 action-sequel in T2: Judgement Day, the franchise has struggled to find its creative footing ever since under the direction of new film makers, producers and studios. A lot of the blame can be landed solely on 2003’s Terminator 3: Rise Of The Machines, which lost the serious dark future tone of its predecessors and replaced it with campy humor and over-the-top ridiculous action set pieces. 2009’s Terminator Salvation attempted to correct this mistake, but the movie fell flat among fans, remembered more for Christian Bale’s on-set outburst rather than the half-decent future-set film it turned out to be.
And so arrives Terminator Genisys, a 2015 sequel/reboot to the series under the direction of Paramount Pictures and new director Alan Taylor (Game Of Thrones, Thor: The Dark World). Taking a ‘clean the slate’ time-travel page from the reboot approach used by 2009’s Star Trek, Genisys restarts the mythological clock on the Terminator story-line anew but utilizes the previous timeline fans are familiar with to do so. As before in the original film, Kyle Reese (Jack Reacher’s Jai Courtney) is transported back from 2029 by John Connor (Zero Dark Thirty’s Jason Clarke) to 1984 to protect Sarah Connor (Game Of Thrones’ Emilia Clarke) from a T-800 Model 101 assassin, only to discover that the timeline has been distorted and changed from the one he was prepared for with Sarah fully capable of handling herself and under the longtime protection of an older T-800 Model 101 (Arnold Schwarzenegger).
With events altered, a plan is hatched to time-jump again into 2017 when Skynet is set to go online as a new technological app and stop the apocalypse from happening once more, but the group runs into a new weapon created by Skynet to ensure its survival which conflicts all of their intended moves. Even with Arnold Schwarzenegger returning to the series, a new director and eye-popping new visual effects and scenes, Genisys struggled as a theatrical release and its poor performance at the box-office (thanks in part to a marketing campaign that spoiled too much) plus general lack of interest for the series has stalled plans for any future films in this new timeline. Did the film deserve it? And does its 3D Blu-ray/DVD release on November 10, 2015 do anything to get viewers to take another look?
The answers of yes and no could be applied to both questions, but at the end of the day the edition does almost everything in its power to rebound the perspective bestowed upon the film earlier in the year. Of course the film itself is the starting point of debate. Genisys is heavily inspired by the previous two James Cameron films that made the series great to begin with, but there are moments when its bombastic action nature and light-hearted tone relegate it into the grouping of the weaker sequels. Genisys really falls in the middle of the hierarchy. It has some great entertaining scenes and visual effects (i.e. the 2029 Work Camp opening, the 1984 Arnold Vs. Arnold face-off), but it gets a bit much with all the time-jumping going on and muddles its own mythology in some areas (a mistake Terminator 3 made frequently upon Cameron’s films).
The cast for the most part is quite good in the roles and the movie comes up with a neat way to get the obviously much-older Schwarzenegger back into the series. But while hardcore viewers may be happy with the new actors portraying Sarah Connor and John Connor, the choice of Jai Courtney (a gifted action-star in his own right) is a perplexing one as Kyle Reese considering the actor doesn’t embody any of the weary, malnourished war-torn qualities that made the character so memorable in the first film. He looks and acts like a pro-athlete in the worst future environment imaginable and then takes his task far too lightly when he travels to the past. It’s creative choices like this which ultimately do a disservice to what Genisys is trying to accomplish with the series.
Is Genisys an entertaining Terminator film? It is. And it’s executed very admirably by Taylor and his team behind the camera. Does it have flaws? Certainly. And while many of the them pop up throughout the movie, it thankfully doesn’t stay in your face for long once they do. After viewing the 3D Blu-ray edition of Genisys, some things become clearer. First off, the film plays far better on video than it did theatrically, backed up by an absolutely outstanding video and audio presentation that might be one of the best of the year. The 3D conversion experience is solid and doesn’t deter a viewer from thinking the 2D Blu-ray disc might be better, while the 1080p high definition image is striking and crystal to the eye. The three-disc edition also includes a standard DVD disc.
The audio mix’s activity and range (whether it’s Atmos or a 7.1 TrueHD offering depending on your system) and excellently balanced and powerful when it needs to be. The most glaring flaw of the edition is the bonus content, which seems light considering the weight of the release. The 2D Blu-ray disc contains three featurettes focusing squarely on certain elements of the film; casting choices, shooting production in New Orleans and the visual effects (read an Examiner interview with VFX supervisor Sheldon Stopsack through a link below). Alan Taylor and Arnold Schwarzenegger are very front-and-center in these segments discussing the film, while James Cameron himself even chimes in at one point to add some thoughts on the visual effects.
For a fifth entry in a 30-year old franchise, Terminator Genisys is actually better than it should be; a respectable rebound from the previous two sequels, but there is still too much wrong in the approach that prevent it from putting the series on a path to redemption and possibly new heights (eg. Fast & Furious). Had the supplemental material not been light, Genisys’s 3D Blu-ray edition would have been a slam-dunk home run of an HD release, but as it is it’s still a fairly strong release and offers quite a bit to help give the movie the attention it does deserve among viewers and fans of the franchise.