By: Kevin Jordan
I feel like we’ve been here before.
Apparently, I’m one of the eight people who liked Terminator: Salvation and is willing to say it out loud. So, when I say that Genisys is on par with Salvation, that’s not a knock against Genisys. Of course, I also enjoyed Terminator 3 and I’m pretty sure I’m going to Movie Jail for that. But, I want to be clear on this – while I enjoyed all three of those movies, the only one that was better than your average summer popcorn flick was Salvation because it was the only one that didn’t just retread the same worn-out plot of sending a terminator back in time to kill a Connor. Ridicule me all you want, but Salvation is the only one of the (now five) Terminator movies that was interested in filling in the story between Judgment Day and Time-Travel Day, and I really liked that.
(Note: Salvation was supposed to be the first in a trilogy, but the production company that owned the rights to the franchise went bankrupt and had to sell. That doesn’t really explain why the new owners didn’t continue Salvation’s story, but I’m guessing they weren’t fans.)
The reason I liked Genisys as much Salvation has less to do with the plot and more to do with Genisys just being a fun movie to watch. Of the three major retreads we’ve seen this summer (Jurassic World and Mad Max: Fury Road being the other two), Genisys is getting the worst reviews by far, even though it does exactly the same thing as the other two flicks – reboots a flailing franchise while providing a good thrill ride. The difference for me is that Genisys at least made an attempt at a plot while those other two movies consisted of a two-hour-long car chase and a dinosaur eating surprisingly few humans. What’s more is that many other critics lauded the feminism of Fury Road and Jurassic World, yet are completely ignoring it in Genisys, even though Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke) is easily as strong a woman as from those other flicks. But enough of that, let’s talk about Genisys alone.
In a nutshell, Genisys is basically a mash-up of the first two Terminator movies. It begins in the future, with John Connor (Jason Clarke) and crew launching two assaults that will deal the final blows to Skynet and end the war. John is part of the assault that is going to capture the time machine from Skynet and send Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) back to 1984 to protect Sarah Connor. As Kyle is about to transport, he sees something grab John, but disappears before seeing anything more. As he is travelling, he sees new memories of a different timeline, including himself as a child reciting a warning, then drops into recreated scenes from the original Terminator. Seriously, the next five minutes of scenes are painstakingly detailed in order to create exact replicas of what we saw thirty-one years ago, including a young Arnold Schwarzenegger. It doesn’t last long however, as an old Arnold and Sarah Connor take out the young Arnold and a T-1000 (the liquid metal terminator) attacks Reese moments after he appears.
At this point, you should have lots of questions because there are too many terminators and everything we know just got erased with the death of the original terminator. We soon learn that old Arnold was sent back to 1973 to protect nine-year old Sarah and that they built a time machine to go to 1997 to stop Skynet from going online. Still with me? Good – you’re doing better than many critics who thought this movie was confusing but had no issues with the silliness happening on Isla Nublar.
Kyle informs them that 1997 is no longer Skynet’s birth year; that it’s now 2017 and calls itself Genisys (ta-da!!). So, Kyle and Sarah jump to 2017 where they meet up with the now-twenty-years older Arnold (complete with gray hair, which makes no sense because in T2, Arnold’s skin heals itself in sunlight so why would his skin and hair age at all?) to stop Skynet/Genisys from going online. Didn’t I tell you it was a mash-up? Also, how is any of that confusing? Some critics are really dumb.
There is one little surprise that I won’t ruin, but I will tell you that a T-3000 is the new adversary terminator in this flick. I’ll also tell you that the casting left a little to be desired. I understand why Arnold was in this movie (and he was exactly as good as he needed to be) and casting the Mother of Dragons as Sarah Connor is a no-brainer. I even get Jason Clarke considering the run he’s on (Zero Dark Thirty, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, The Great Gatsby), though I had a really tough time buying him as John Connor. But who the hell still thinks Jai Courtney can act? Did they not see It’s a Good Day to Die Hard? Or Divergent? Between him and Channing Tatum, I’m not sure who’s worse, but at least Tatum’s facial expressions change once in a while. And to top it off, why cast J.K. Simmons and only give him four minutes of screen time? Just, wow.
My biggest complaint about Genisys is that it doesn’t bring anything new to the table. The franchise stopped being scary after T2, we don’t get any new characters, and the story ends at the same point as T2 except now it’s just twenty years later. What’s worse is that no time is spent on character development or relationships because the writers just rely on stuff that was done in past movies, even though an alternate timeline allows them to do whatever they want. So, when Sarah gets emotional over Arnold, you simply don’t care or don’t believe because the only thing differentiating that relationship from John and Arnold’s in T2 is that, in this one, Sarah calls Arnold “Pops”.
Bet you’re missing Christian Bale now, aren’t you?
Rating: Ask for four dollars back because you kind of already saw this one.