I was thinking…
…how inundated we are with remakes, reboots and sequels that a movie pitched as a sequel can really be more of a reboot than simply another film in an anthology, and few people notice the difference. Terminator Genisys is a perfect example of this. Taking a page from J.J. Abram’s Star Trek “reboot,” the latest in the Terminator franchise is a retelling of the original story, but in an alternate universe, different timeline-y sort of way.
Now that begs the questions: Are screenwriters so out of ideas that they’ll keep mining the old stories for as long as the precious vein lasts? Or are we so unhappy with our lives and the state of our world that we wish so hard for a parallel world where things are carried out in another fashion and we project those subconscious thoughts upon our desires for entertainment?
Chew on that for a little while.
Okay, so back to the film. First off, let’s get the title out of the way. It smacks of a Hollywood prima donna’s firstborn child: “Yes, my daughter’s name sounds like Mary, but it’s really spelled with four m’s and a silent q.” The subtitle, however, references not an attention-grabbing limelight thief but a computer application meant to unite everyone’s digital devices.
And this app is…Skynet!
I’ll let that sink in for a bit.
Yes, so sad is this generation that the cautionary tale told by the post-apocalyptic sub-genre is: we all use cell phones and computers too much.
Remember the 80’s and 90’s (heck, all the way back to the 50’s), when nuclear annihilation was the threat? Now it’s cell phone apps. What a watered down generation. I’d even compare it to a bunch of, well, let’s just say it’s another word for cats and we’ll leave it at that.
Anyway, this “killer app”–now literally a killer app–is named Genisys and it is the burgeoning Skynet–the puppet master behind the terminators of the last four films.
But wait, you’re thinking, I thought Skynet was a military contracted artificial intelligence meant to remove soldiers from the dangers of the field of battle.
Well, that’s where the parallel timeline comes in.
John Connor (Jason Clarke—Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Zero Dark Thirty), the leader of the human resistance in the year 2029, sends his right-hand man Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney—Suicide Squad, A Good Day to Die Hard) back to 1984, in order to protect his mother from being killed by a terminator sent back by Skynet.
Nothing different there.
Except, this time, as Reese is in the act of being sent back, he witnesses someone or something attack John and, subsequently experiences flashes of memory from a past he never lived. In those memories, he, as a boy, is telling himself that Genisys is Skynet and it can be killed before it’s born.
So, Reese arrives in 1984, naked as the day he was born, buts soon finds himself in a standoff against a T-1000 liquid alloy terminator (Byung-hun Lee—The Magnificent Seven, Red 2). He, in turn, is rescued by Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke—Game of Thrones) and an older T-800 nicknamed Pops (Arnold Schwarzenegger–c’mon, do I really need to tell you what he’s been in?).
It turns out, the T-800 had been sent back to the time when Sarah was nine years old in order to protect her from another liquid alloy terminator.
More parallel universe changes.
Reese, now possessing knowledge of his alternate self, convinces her they need to travel to 2017 and prevent the launch of the Genisys app. So, it’s back to the future.
They are not there (or is it then?) for one night before encountering…
…wait for it…
…John Connor from 2029.
I won’t say anything else, despite the fact that the second or third trailer for the film gives most of it away anyway.
While refusing to move along authentically new lines for the story, Genisys does manage to open up a whole new avenue for future films, should the franchise–much as its namesake–refuse to die. The potential differences could make the parallel universe thing work for it much in the same way Abram’s Star Trek has.
However, Genisys seems to lack the melancholy–bordering on bleak–tone that surrounds the first two, James Cameron-helmed, flicks. It almost seems like the director, Alan Taylor (Thor: Dark World), purposely wanted to distance this film from those of the past by omitting from the entire film the sad, fateful theme composed by Brad Fiedel (Johnny Mnemonic, True Lies). Only during the end credits does it finally make its appearance, and by then, it seems almost out of place.
The casting choices are a little on the strange side as well. This might be attributed to the entirely non-American main cast. Gone are the clean American good looks of Michael Biehn‘s Kyle Reese from the original film and the hard-edged tough chick-ed-ness of Linda Hamilton‘s Sarah Connor.
While Emilia Clarke’s Sarah does capture slight essences of Hamilton in the right light, she is a little too soft and smooth to be a convincing survivalist/soldier raised by a killing machine from the time she was nine. And maybe it’s just because I’m a big fan of Michael Biehn, but Courtney can’t hold a candle to the man.
But Ahh-nold is better than ever and his character actually provides the lion share of the humor in the film. And humor is definitely something this outing has over its predecessors–another sign that the franchise is heading in a new, if not necessarily better, direction.
The effects are also quite impressive. Perhaps the best example is the 1984 T-800 that looks exactly like Arnold did back then. It’s almost creepy how they got one man playing a killer robot from the future to look exactly like a another man playing a killer robot from the future, but how he looked in the past.
Although it lacks a great deal of the character-driven depth of the first films, the acting is more than a little stilted throughout and the casting is not extremely logical (evinced by the somewhat dry performances), Terminator Genisys is still a solid action flick with the potential for starting a whole new lineage of killer robot movies.
Ammo Dump rating: 6 out of 10 dismembered terminator arms.
I’ll talk more about this film and others during my (every once in a while) radio show. Listen in on Friday afternoons starting at 4:10 on WJBC-AM1230 in Central Illinois. For the rest of the world, listen on @ALphaEXray.or the “iHeartRadio” app on your smart phone. And don’t forget to follow me on Twitter:
Run time: 126 minutes