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~Ephesians 5:16

Monday, January 25, 2016

TERMINATOR: GENISYS Review



I don't think I've ever met someone who wasn't a fan of the Terminator series. There have been many films having humans war with robots, but few as refined as this franchise. Interestingly, Terminator is much like Alien. The first two installments are universally acclaimed (with the second one in particular being hailed as two of the greatest action movies of all time.) Alien 3 and Terminator 3 aren't as renowned. I would consider them both underrated, but those are reviews for another day. Resurrection is known as the worst Alien, and Salvation is known as the worst Terminator. (Is T4 really that bad? I don't think so, but again a review for another day.) Years passed and many thought we wouldn't be seeing another film. Enter GENISYS. Marketed as a sort of reboot, it appeared this film was looking to emulate the first two. In some ways it succeeds in that. But, it goes about this in perhaps the moist bizarre way possible. Genisys has one of the most convoluted storylines I've ever seen. It is however also one of the most fast-paced and fun movies I've ever seen, so at least there's that.
 When John Connor (Jason Clarke), leader of the human resistance against Skynet, sends Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) back to 1984 to protect his mother, Sarah (Emilia Clarke), from a Terminator assassin, an unexpected turn of events creates an altered timeline. Instead of a scared waitress, Sarah is a skilled fighter and has a Terminator guardian (Arnold Schwarzenegger) by her side. Faced with unlikely allies and dangerous new enemies, Reese sets out on an unexpected new mission: reset the future.

What I find most peculiar is the audience this film is attempting to cater to. It tries to be a reboot, thus bringing in new fans while also attempting to continue the ongoing storyline. Let's try to put this bluntly: the story basically erases all the previous movies from existence. It then decides to transform John Connor into a Terminator for the film's antagonist. Sound insane? That's because it is. The writing just doesn't do a good job explaining any of it. There's a brief scene with Sara Connor telling Kyle Reece about this timeline mishap. It's meant to inform the viewer, but instead of the viewer going "Oh wow!" it's "Wait what?" It doesn't get any less confusing as the story goes along. Interestingly, the film's first act even attempts to retell the events of the first two installments. New fans will be almost completely lost, and longtime watchers will be alienated by the poorly written time travel aspect.


What the film does succeed in is action. This was one of the most fast paced films of 2015. Much like Judgement Day, the film never lets go of its fast pace. The fight scenes are all excellent and contain a large amount of tension. One of the best scenes for example is when T tells Sarah Connor "I'll be back" before skydiving into the helicopter. The final fight with John Connor is great because the viewer knows T is severely outclassed, so it's fun seeing how the heroes will get out of it since it's impossible to think of a logical reason. As for the cast, they aren't bad...but are they good? Kyle Reece wasn't a terrible focus throughout. Generic for sure, but not horribly so. Sarah Connor has always been more on the crazy side, and Emilia Clark does a solid job recapturing that from the older films. (Though, can someone please tell me why "bite me" is even a saying?) The romance between the two was pretty bad and poorly developed. The obvious highlight is Arnold Schwarzenegger, whom after all these years can still play an excellent T-800. (I will also give the story credit for at least trying to present a reason why a robot would age.)

It's always impressive when a film can keep at least one immensely surprising plot twist free from its marketing and trailers. (I just found out that they had released a TV spot and poster spoiling the twist, terrible move Paramount!) Based on everything we had seen, it appeared the new T-1000 would be the antagonist. While lacking the engaging cool factor of the original one from T2, this guy was pretty solid. But, he was only a villain for about 20 minutes. The story takes a 180 and introduces John Connor as the antagonist. It was a bizarre move, but definitely an interesting twist. Though, perhaps a little too much. Connor's role in the franchise has always been the resistance fighter, the person who leads humanity. To transform him into a Terminator, even if Skynet forcibly does it, destroys a fundamental part of the franchise. I can applaud them for taking a risk. Whether or not that risk was worth it is another story.

Later in the story Reece and Sarah travel to 2017. At this point the story takes a jab at how much we're invested in the internet. If computers become so advanced and we're willing to accept basically anything when it comes to being "plugged in," can we unknowingly let them take over? It's fascinating how the story manages to squeeze in this allegory amidst the chaos. The soundtrack is very strong, as expected from a Terminator film. The tension is given even greater depth in each of the fight scenes thanks to the themes.

Overall, Terminator: Genisys is definitely one of the more interesting films I've seen in awhile. It contains one of the most poorly written time travel plots out there in relation to previous events. The action is some of the best however, so at the very least one wouldn't be bored while watching. (Which is the biggest crime a film can commit.) While very poorly explained, Director Alan Taylor knows how to deliver a story that doesn't lose its momentum. Plus, Arnold delievers another stellar performance as T-800.

3.5/5

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