Terminator Genisys (2015)
★★ / ★★★★
In 2029, just when the final assault against Skynet, led by John Connor (Jason Clarke), is finally won, it is discovered that a Terminator had already been sent to 1984 to kill Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke), mother to the leader of the Resistance, as a fail-safe. John’s righthand man, Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney), volunteers to go back in time to protect Sarah, but it turns out the mission is not as straightforward as it seems. Upon arrival in 1984, Kyle learns the timeline had already been changed and it appears as though he has memories of events he never in fact experienced.
“Terminator Genisys,” written by Laeta Kalogridis and Patrick Lussier, takes elements from James Cameron’s “The Terminator” and “Terminator 2: Judgment Day,” puts them in a blender, and a few original ideas are sprinkled into the mix to create a reimagining. Although the picture is superficially entertaining as a whole, one foot remains deeply embedded in the past. Thus, due to nostalgia, a great limitation prevents this sci-fi action picture from turning into one that will be remembered positively from years to come.
Some action sequences are quite enthralling. The first half is particularly strong. Standouts involve increasingly difficult encounters with a T-1000 Terminator dressed as a cop (Byung-hun Lee). There is a nastiness to this villain because even though chaos is happening all around—bullets flying, vehicles exploding—there is an eerie calmness to Lee’s performance. The body is tough, agile, strong but the face is serene. We believe that our protagonists are really up against a tank-like robot that will not stop until its assignment is accomplished.
The various intersections of timelines require the audience to pay careful attention to dialogue—which is problematic because this is not the film’s strong point. The script is plagued with expository lines that explain, for example, a character’s thoughts or feelings rather than going through a more demonstrative avenue. Although the performers do the best they can to inject emotion into these lines, the words and phrases still come across as forced. As a result, we do not buy completely into the human drama behind the conflict. This is highly apparent with Kyle and Sarah’s interactions—a critical misstep because how their relationship is built is central to the plot.
The numerous flashbacks hinder the material’s forward momentum. While Kyle’s new memories provide the necessary mystery to keep us wondering how he managed to acquire them, they are redundant and tend to take away tension that is created. It might have been better if these images were only seen once and are only referred to again via dialogue—as if it were a way for Kyle to hold onto them the deeper he gets into his mission. The movie has an annoying habit of assuming that audiences are not paying attention. To pass as an intelligent film, even only superficially, first the filmmakers must assume that viewers have relatively long attention spans.
Directed by Alan Taylor, “Terminator Genisys” entertains because it moves fast and action pieces occur every ten to fifteen minutes. Deeper questions about time travel and repercussions that are worth getting answers are set to the side so it is not for viewers who wish for a more cerebral experience. However, such a warning should have been apparent to those already familiar with the franchise.