Latest ‘Terminator’ movie an existential threat to itself
Welcome back, Arnold. The rest of you can leave now.
The latest (and wholly unnecessary) entry in the vaunted “Terminator” franchise, “Terminator Genisys,” offers little in the way of sense while leaving you wondering what the point of this film was to begin with. A prequel that turns into a strange retelling of the original 1984 film by James Cameron, “Genisys” is both too stiff and too lax in what it hopes will serve as yet another franchise launch.
I mean, it’s been more than 30 years since that film came out; maybe people have forgotten just how awesome the first two films (both by Cameron) were. If you’re one of those people, let me remind you: “The Terminator” and “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” were great, well-crafted examples of how pop and dystopia can work together. “Genisys,” on the other hand, is simply an exercise in mechanical futility, highlighting the worst social aspects of the original films without harnessing the human component that made them worth watching.
The basic premise of the “Terminator” franchise centers around the self-actualization of Skynet, a missile defense system, in 1997, the loss of 3 billion human lives in the immediate aftermath of Skynet viewing humanity as a threat and the advent of a human resistance that tries to fight against humanoid robots bent on their destruction. “Genisys” decides to take a different route, starting in the future (2029) and working its way through time both backward and forward.
This time around, ever-so-important Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) is sent to the past to protect even-more-important Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke) so she can give birth to the leader of the resistance in the future, the most-important John Connor (Jason Clarke). But somewhere along the way, something changes, and the future Reese is sent to isn’t the one we remember from the 1984 movie.
In fact, the Sarah Connor of this timeline needs little help escaping the clutches of the Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger). Instead, the Terminator — aka Pops — is on her side, helping protect her from a world in which she already knows about Judgment Day, Skynet and all that robotic/world-destroying nonsense. So the group, which finds itself trying to figure out how to present Skynet from launching its deadly attack, travels from 1984 to 2017 to stop what basically amounts to Judgment Day in the Future.
Now, if you’re expecting any of this to make sense, stop right now. Why Reese knows what he knows, why time travel works the way it does, why Sarah Connor and Pops are a tag-team rather than arch enemies: None of it makes sense. Director Alan Taylor seems to think that by merging timelines and throwing out terrible one-liners and cliched character archetypes that we won’t notice that the plot is riddled with holes. Trust me, you’ll notice those gaping wounds easily and early one.
Now, the film does deserve a modicum of praise for its visuals. The constant action sequences involving both human and robot are fantastic and well-paced, creating the only sense of momentum the film possesses.
In the end, it’s not particularly clear why there was a need for “Terminator Genisys.” Other than money, of course. Because it sure wasn’t to further advance any particular theme in the overall “Terminator” story line. Unless, of course, the goal was to confuse with asinine time travel and anger with stupid quips. There’s plenty of that to go around.
Two “So much judgment” stars out of five.