Review by Nathan Miller
The depictions made about our future in the Terminator franchise have always transfixed audiences. The original film was an unexpected classic which was surprisingly outdone by the most notable film in the franchise: T2: Judgment Day. The storytelling was intriguing and its action complemented the momentum of the film. T2 is still relevant to this day. The time continuum of the Terminator franchise is the key factor of repeativity due to its constant use as a plot element. The alterations to time are not the issue, but the changes made to support plot devices, in the weaker films of the franchise, hinder the overall storyline. Terminator Genisys was made to reboot the series. Every Terminator film went from being old to being obsolete, in terms of storyline continuum, with the release of this film. While that is not entirely a bad thing, there were moments of this film that seemed dependent on erasing what was known about the franchise. Terminator Genisys does succeed in delivering an entertaining film, but it is not a film without issues.
Terminator Genisys begins as a retelling of the first film. John Connor (Jason Clarke) and the resistance destroy Skynet after years of war, but it was able to trigger one more fail safe before going offline. A T-800 was sent back in time to kill Connor's mother, Sarah (Emilia Clarke), in an attempt to erase John from existence. The resistance utilizes the same time traveling device to send back John's right hand man, Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney), to save a weak and defenseless Sarah. John depicts his mother as a woman who would be unable to pull her own weight, so he warns Reese of the possible troubles of supporting her. As Reese is being sent back with the time machine, a terminator attacks John which results in a flux in the timeline. Reese goes back in time only to be welcomed with an advanced T-1000 on his trail and a battle ready Sarah. She is well-versed in weaponry and knows about the machines. At her side, an aging T-800 (Arnold Schwarzenegger) dubbed "Pops" has been with her since the age of nine. This altered timeline results in Skynet being released as a life-changing app in 2017 which gives Sarah and Reese an oppurtunity to stop it before it is able to go online.
Terminator Genisys was a reboot with good intentions. They pushed the connection of Sarah and Pops throughout the film, and it was very successful of maintaining the audience's interest with that friendship. Arnold Schwarzenegger did a terrific job as Pops. It was the best depiction of his famed character since T2. Emilia Clarke was able to pull of Sarah Connor with ease and was the strong woman role people have become accustomed to over the years. There were moments between her and Pops that were unexpectedly heartfelt. The writers did a terrific job in building up that relationship which left me many times wanting that duo on screen rather than Sarah and Reese. The trio overall had great moments together, and it was those interactions that turned out to be the best parts of the film. Surprisingly, the practical scenes shined more than the overly excessive action sequences. The pacing of the film helped keep my interest as there seemed to be many twists and turns in both the timeline of the series and of the film's plot.
The nostalgia behind many of the various quotes and references to previous films can excite those knowledgeable of the franchise. While Terminator Genisys paved the way to a new start, it did not forget to acknowledge those past films -- even the cruddy ones. I was expecting this film to be unbearable, but I ended up finding quite a bit to enjoy in this popcorn flick. There is something about this film that will appeal and make fans of the films happy. I am not saying it is anywhere near the best film of the series, but there is enough to accept it for what it is and look forward to a stronger follow-up. The CGI of the film was a mixed bag of good and bad, but it did not take away from the overall experience of Terminator Genisys.
What bothers me about Terminator Genisys is the sway from believable to unbelievable for the sake of an action sequence. There was a segment of Sarah and Reese being attacked by a terminator in a moving bus that was completely ruined by its unrealistic crash. Reese was literally flung around like a ragdoll inside the rolling bus yet was able to climb out of as it barely dangled off the side of the golden gate bridge. What bothers me about it is this series has always made it a point to showcase the strength difference between a terminator and a human. In the same sequence, Pops is launched face first into a cop car which results in him asking the officer to exit the vehicle while his head was wedged in the windshield. These are the types of action scenes I would have prefered. Let the indestructible robot deal with the heavily unrealistic moments of the film. They are capable of doing the impossible, so let that shine rather than keep the humans at the same level.
The story had a lot of issues dealing with its implementation of Skynet. While I can understand the apps use in day-to-day life, I cannot for the life of me see why the government would use it for their operations as well. I could have seen a government official's personal device gaining access to these systems but to have it control everything in the world and be an optional app is ridiculous. Although, that one guy who decided not to pick up the app would have been always bringing it up if the end of the world did happen. The countdown sequence to its upload was a bad attempt at a plot device. Seriously, Skynet? You are going to turn the hour countdown to 12 minutes as an attempt to dissuade them from blowing you up? Why not turn the countdown completely off and upload your app right at that moment? Another failure in my eyes was the new model of terminator in this film. The cyborg initiative in Terminator Salvation should have been the furthest they went in this franchise, so the new model in this film was too over the top for my liking. Lastly, I thought it was weird that a giant building complex was destroyed with the trio trapped in its rubble yet nobody noticed or questioned them when they left. A big difference in this film when compared to the other ones was the police's and public's knowledge of these individuals. They were branded as terrorists, yet nobody could put two to two together and look for them at the recently exploded building complex of a highly recongnizable company?
As I stated, the film is not perfect. I felt the first half of the film was its strongest, but the story started to fall apart towards the middle. It is a pain to deal with time continuums, so they did well enough overall that this film could be the start of a new trilogy. There were many important questions left unanswered (who sent Pops for example), which did not help the already muddled storyline, but it made it possible for the franchise to return with a new continuum. This is not the return many were hoping for from the Terminator series, but it was a great effort nonetheless.
All images courtesy of http://www.terminatormovie.com/