Terminator Genisys: Big Messy Fun

Terminator Genisys ReviewRating:  3.5/5

I wanted to write this before the weekend results come out on Sunday or Monday.  It’s Saturday, July 4th 2015 and I just saw Terminator Genisys after spending the week watching and reading mostly negative reviews.  Some say the movie was just bad, others say it tried to be too big and got into a mess because of it and still others say that Arnold is done and Jai Courtney isn’t the best to play a leading man.   I have to say that while I agree with a few of the problems some reviewers had with the movie, it was not a bad movie and Jai Courtney had issues but was not the source of some of its problems.

This is a popcorn movie, let’s be clear about that right up front.  In fact all the Terminator movies were popcorn movies, especially the first which got elevated because it was just so damn clever.  Those who are not old enough cannot remember what it was like when this movie first hit the scene.  I was just out of the Air Force at the time, working a part time job doing surveys at a call center on 33rd and 6th Avenue in New York City.  The Herald Square area always had these islands just before you hit the traffic filled avenue where poster size advertisement sat in the middle of rows of benches.  When I got my lunch and went to eat it on one of the benches there was the poster of Arnold, wearing black sun glasses with CSM-101 in red on the right side holding a big ass gun with his shirt open.  The words, “They needed someone with no pain, no pity no fear, something unstoppable.  They created” and the only other words were Schwarzenegger and Terminator under it.  (All of Arnold’s movies had Schwarzenegger in big caps either at the top or just over the title back then.)   I did not know what the movie was, what it was about.  But it was Arnold holding a big ass gun; they had me at “hello.”   With all the nostalgia people celebrate the movie for it’s easy to forget the original had plot holes in it too.  The second movie was just badass all around, so its flaws are easy to forgive as well.

Arnold Schwarzenegger The TerminatorWhat separates it from the third and fourth movie were the plot holes became too glaring, the mistake of trying to make the movie more “family friendly” with their PG-13 rating and the lack of James Cameron, which may not have been a reason if not for how badly these two movies cocked things up.   I do not believe Terminator Genisys messed up as badly as the last two.

But let’s talk about the good.  Arnold was great as the Terminator.  It was fun having him be the guardian of Sarah Conner for most of her life.  The call Emilia-Clarke-Sarah-Connorback to the original film was also great.  And it was clear something was different even if Jai Courtney had to redo most of Michael Biehn’s original scenes.  The movie let you know up front that something was different, and every trailer let you know they were doing this call back. So I don’t see how so many critics complained about this.  The call backs were not isolated to the original movie, Genisys called back to every Terminator ever set to film, including the TV series.  I had no problem with the reveal of John Connor as a new kind of Terminator.  Well not exactly but I’ll get to that in the bad.  The John Conner Terminator was c00l, raised the stakes of what the heroes were fighting and Jason Clarke was a much better John Connor than the one Christian Bale gave us.  JK Simmons showed up and was not wasted like some critics said.  In fact he was a call back to the older movies I did not expect and made sense for the character.  But the absolute standout goes to Emilia Clarke, and she had some pretty huge shoes to fill after Linda Hamilton and Lena Heady kicked ass in their time as Sarah Conner.  No she was not “mother of dragons with guns” she was Sarah Conner if she was raised to find and survive by a good Terminator, and she pretty much rocked.  The fusion with the storyline and Skynet’s plot with today’s world of smart phones and tablets was also a good idea for the story.  Skynet take over might be an iPad upgrade rather than only a military weapon against America’s enemies as it was portrayed in all the other films.

Terminator-Genisys-Jason-ClarkeNow the bad.  First and foremost was the lack of any explanations.  Remember I mentioned the huge plot hole in the first movie?  For instance; why didn’t Skynet simply go back to when Sarah Conner was a child?  The weapons would have been far less of a threat and who would have expected it.  Also, why just send one Terminator?  Why not two or three.  This is something the Television show explored to great effect.  At least the movie explained that plot hole to you with Kyle Reese’s exposition.  Here they don’t explain who sent the Arnold Terminator back or why.   What happened that he was sent back to protect Sarah Conner, and what happened to the Terminator that killed her parents?   Equally why did Skynet send Terminator John Conner to 2017?  If Skynet could take on a humanoid form, why not send itself back too?  It would have given us more Matt Smith, who was actually wasted.  The problem with Jai Courtney is him and Emilia Clark has zero chemistry and for a guy who spent most of his life fighting a war he sure whined a lot.  My biggest problem with the John Conner Terminator was he was too hard to damage.  Both the original Terminator and the T-1000 could get hurt.  They showed wear as the heroes battled them.  They were not perfect just huge threats.  Even Kristanna Loken’s T-850 took a lot of damage despite being far more superior to Arnold’s T-100.  In this movie things that should have caused at least some damage was shrugged off to easily.

Another thing I agree with in terms of the “bad” was that the movie tried to be too big.  Terminator is essentially a chase/survival movie with science Jai-Courtney-Kyle-Reecefiction overtones.  Genisys tried to be a bit too much of a think piece, tried to make the story too huge with one too many time machines.  Oh and there was no explanation for the purpose of the third time machine except as a macguffin to move the story forward.

If you take this is a popcorn movie you will have fun with it.  If you go in to find every nit-pick in the book and want to rant about the lack of James Cameron, don’t bother going.  I took my godson and step-son, they both had a blast and talked about the parts they really liked with the joy of children who just had a good time and did not care about who directed it or plot holes.  It’s not the best of the franchise but it is by no means the worse.