Movie Review: Terminator: Genisys

Alan Taylor’s Thor: The Dark World was crowned champion as my worst of 2013. With plot holes at an astronomical level, action scenes that were disappointing visually and conceptually, and acting directionless and talentless, Thor: The Dark World is easily the worst film that has come out of Marvel in recent years.

Had I known Alan Taylor directed this, I would have cringed but it would not have deterred me. Terminator Salvation was such a bad sequel, such a u-turn from the franchise’s previous direction, that James Cameron’s creation was begging for a rebirth. Sadly, they gave it to Alan Taylor.

Something else that the Terminator films have been doing lately is spoiling their own films in their trailers. Terminator Salvation had an awful, spoiler-ridden trailer. If you’re reading this review prior to seeing the film, DO NOT WATCH THE TERMINATOR: GENISYS TRAILER 2. Luckily for me, I don’t watch much television so I never saw the second trailer, for if I had, the film would have been spoiled. However, I am one of the lucky ones. There are millions who were not so lucky and had their experience destroyed before they purchased their ticket.

The purpose of marketing is obvious: to market, to sell a product. How do we sell a movie? Well, highlight the main actors, the director, maybe a few minor plot points, and a strong emphasis on visuals. I wrote a piece entitled The Art of the Trailer that you might check out to explore the world of film marketing further.

To sell a film, what should we not do? Well, let’s not divulge any plot twists. Can you imagine how awful The Sixth Sense would have been if Shyamalan had revealed one of the best plot twists of all-time in the trailer? That would be incredibly stupid, wouldn’t it?

Someone on the staff of the marketing department for Terminator: Genisys heard this argument and said, “You know what? I don’t see what’s wrong with that.” I don’t know if this was the boss that decided this and all of his subordinates just decided to play along so as not to incur his wrath or if the whole department was brimming with incompetence, but this was a poor decision from an entertainment and financial standpoint. If you reveal what’s going to happen, why would we pay to watch it?! It is the simplest argument in the world, yet in two consecutive films, the marketing department managed to play dumb and get paid for it. Think about it: some guys got paid, healthily I might add, to spoil a film connected to one of the most well-known franchises in film history. Wow.

So there’s that.

However, as I said, I avoided the stupid and for that I’m thankful.

Yet another stupid however: the marketing department and the script writers collaborated at the beginning of this film.

I had never seen The Terminator, the first film, until last week and that was because I suspected it to be closely tied to this film. I will kid you not, the sets and shots are exactly the same as the first film. Whether this was meant to be an ode to the one that started it all or not, it’s irritating. It went on for at least ten minutes. The intrigue of such a strategy lasts a few minutes, but ten is far too long. No one likes verbatim material. No one.

Once Terminator: Genisys decides to start being its own creation, it’s not awful, but once again, time travel is incorporated, a feature that I think needs to be removed for good from this saga. The franchise is an endless loop: send terminator back, send someone to aid the Connors. Kill terminator. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. There’s only four repeats instead of five because thankfully, Terminator: Salvation avoided that concept. That was one of the only pluses to the movie.

If Skynet can continue to send terminators back and the resistance can continually gain control of a time machine to send someone back themselves, without that sequence of events ever changing, this war will never end, making myself all the more irritable when a character says a variation of, “If we do this, Skynet is done.” No, it is not. No matter what you do, that won’t happen. The Skynet of the future will somehow realize you are trying to destroy its existence in the past and will send one of its killing machines farther back in time to kill Sarah Connor. Then the resistance will send someone to protect John Connor from a young age. Then Skynet will send someone to kill that young John. Then they’ll send someone to kill older John. Then they’ll say, “Screw it” and send someone back to kill a young Sarah. The process is monotonous.

For me, the Terminator franchise is a prime example of why films should avoid the concepts of time travel. With as many variables, equations and results that such a theory carries, it is impossible for everything to be accounted for. The first two installments demonstrated a thorough evaluation but delve any further into it and complications arise. The continual usage of all-too similar story lines is why I believe the franchise is overrated, but that’s a discussion for another time.

The writing is fair but introduces another fatal flaw to yet another Taylor-directed work. James Cameron’s endorsement of this movie strikes me, because Genisys falls not in left field, but in a ballpark on a different continent.

Describe the Terminator franchise. It’s a simple enough task if you’ve watched any of the films: post-apocalyptic, a world covered in grunge and desolation and seemingly hopeless. They are films foreshadowing the end, brewing technology’s deadly capabilities and artificial intelligence’s problem-solving and creativity. Character bonds are built on survival but remain distant from emotion. There is no time for that. This is war. There is violence. There is destruction and chaos. There is termination.

At no point would one say the franchise epitomizes excessive humor, romance, character reversals or feel visually out of its element, but I assure you that Terminator: Genisys has all these characteristics.

Alan Taylor is such a talentless hack, he tries to jump on the coattails of Age of Ultron and the more recent Jurassic World (which I strongly recommend), films that can get away with precisely dispatched humor because the element was never blacklisted from the franchise. Perhaps a handful of one-liners could be gathered from the four films combined, but Taylor is incognizant of the Terminator franchise’s semblance in cinema and decides to make a film comparable to an action-filled sitcom. Did he watch the franchise?

Taylor’s lighthearted attitude is the antagonist to a serious action film and contradicts everything that the franchise emboldens. In an age where film now heavily relies on visual effects, Taylor’s visual editing is awful, from major scene transitions that I’ll mention in the spoiler’s edition to fights that don’t have the dominant punch the Terminators are known for. The action is performed, not executed with the element-defining quality that Cameron’s two installments remain famous for and even Rise of the Machines and Salvation attempt to replicate. The action does not hold the gravity that the Terminator franchise has stamped on it.

Alan Taylor, I hate you. Here’s to hoping you never have a managing job again in any field of work, especially cinema.

Thankfully, Arnold Schwarzenegger finally got back on the horse and demonstrated he might have some gas in the tank after all and right when we were pulling into the car dealership to trade him in, too. Jokes aside, I’m happy for Arnold. As an actor, Arnold deserves better performances than The Last Stand and Sabotage, both colossal failures. He owes it not just to his audiences and fans, but to himself. After a laughable governorship and a quite possibly more laughable career re-ignition, I was begging for Arnold’s retirement in Winners And Losers: Round 1 (WAL). Watching athletes and actors struggle with something that was once so natural for them is hard to watch and in some cases, diminishes their legacy and unless I hate you, I don’t wish that for you. So since I’m saying that, Taylor, I take back what I said. Please continue making movies you and only you think are good and continue to dig yourself into a hole of negligence and unending criticism for your inadequacy and continual carelessness.

If Terminator: Genisys has a great thing going for it, it’s Arnold learning how to breathe again in front of the camera. He’s entertaining, his humor works and his stage presence is finally present again. Terminator Salvation missed its leading man badly and the franchise did well to return him. Bravo and welcome back. Try to stay back now and please be cautious of what you choose to star in next.

Why Jai Courtney continues to get roles and especially in big-name productions, I’m unsure, but thankfully, he remains tolerable and develops some chemistry with Emilia Clarke’s Sarah Connor. It’s not mind-blowing or particularly engaging but it’s there and it is what it is.

Arnold’s Terminator plays a father figure to Sarah and the bond that has grown for years that we sadly don’t get to take part in is admirable and at times, touching, if once again misplaced. Jason Clarke as John Connor also plays a substantial role if not the one he should have ever been tasked with. Once again, I’ll touch on that in the spoilers.

Once again, if you’re new to my blog, I’ve always ranked movies on a scale of 0-100 (I don’t know why, I just always have). Here’s the grading scale.  

90-100  It’s a great movie and definitely one worth buying. (Avengers: Age of UltronThe AvengersThe BabadookInterstellarChappie)

80-89   It was a pretty good movie and definitely one worth seeing, but it doesn’t quite scratch my top ten percentile. (The Cable GuyThe Cabin in the WoodsTears of the SunEdge of TomorrowThe Amazing Spider-Man 2)

70-79   It’s okay but I’ve seen better. It has its moments, but it has its flaws, too. (Anchorman 2: The Legend ContinuesLeon: The ProfessionalEnemySleeping with the EnemyEquilibrium)

60-69   It’s got plenty wrong with it but I still got enjoyment out of this one. (Black SheepTwistedParkerHouse at the End of the StreetThe Raven)

50-59   This movie isn’t intolerable but it’s not blowing my mind either. I’m trying really hard to get some sort of enjoyment out of this. (The SentinelMad Max: Fury RoadBlitzThe PunisherDrive Hard)

40-49   This movie is just mediocre. It’s not doing anything other than the bare minimal, so morbidly boring that sometimes I’m actually angry I watched this. (The Lost BoysZombeaversCrankErasedI, Frankenstein)

30-39   Definitely worse than mediocre, the 30′s ironically define the 1930′s, full of depression, lack of accomplishments, poverty and just so dumb. (CenturionPlanet of the ApesStonadosRedemptionPride and Prejudice)

20-29   What did I just watch? Cliches, stupidity, nothingness, did I mention stupidity? Just…wow. (The Boy Next DoorThe ColonyIn the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege TaleThe GreyX-Men: Days of Future Past)

0-19      Watching this movie resulted in one or more of the following: seizure, loss of brain cells, falling asleep/unconsciousness, feel you wasted your time/day, accomplished nothing for you, left the movie knowing less about it then you did going into it, constantly asking yourself why you came to see this movie, or near-death experience. In short, staring at a wall was just as entertaining as watching this movie. This movie deserved a sticker or a label that said, “WARNING: EXTREME AMOUNT OF SUCKAGE.” (CyborgOutcastSabotageGallowwalkersTucker & Dale vs. Evil)

My score for Terminator: Genisys: 65.

A case of mistaken identity, Terminator: Genisys is nowhere close to what it should have been but Taylor’s best efforts to suck this film dry of life or entertainment are stifled by Arnold’s first true comeback role and Jason Clarke’s portrayal of Connor against the unbeatable odds stacked against him. It is a fun sequel but certainly not a good one. It’s fair and it’s better than Terminator Salvation, but a film this poorly directed has no invitation to compete with Cameron’s imaginations. Perhaps it can compete with Rise of the Machines, but I’ll have to watch the series again before I can decide. My disappointment notwithstanding, please put a much-deserved win on the board for Arnold.

*SPOILER ALERT* IF YOU DON’T WANT THE MOVIE SPOILED, STOP READING!!!

*SPOILER’S EDITION*

The big spoiler that the second trailer highlights is that John Connor has been taken over by the terminators…or decided to destroy the world. One of the two. I don’t really know.

The thing is, in both the movie and the Wikipedia plot summary, it says something to the effect of the terminators captured John and infected him. What he’s infected with I don’t know but he’s now made of nanorobotics. It also seems improbable that John is under mind control because he tells Kyle Reese, Sarah and the Terminator what happened to him and that he’s been tasked with the survival of Genisys.

Regardless of what actually occurs here, the Terminator franchise essentially killed their star hero that has been the focus of all these films from the beginning. Not since Spider-Man 3 has a film taken its main character and disfigured him in such an extreme way. This, I assume, is the biggest reason that Genisys has tanked at the box office and has been mercilessly assaulted by critics. They took the hero, the cornerstone of this franchise’s legacy and they destroyed him and to make matters worse, turned him into the villain to continually remind us of their horrible experiment. It did not ruin the film for me, but it definitely took 15 points off the top and for many fans, much more than that.

Now, to editing. When Kyle and Sarah first time travel to 1984, the Genisys clock says 11 hours. They are transported in the middle of the highway and cause a lot of accidents, are arrested and taken to the police station. When they get to the station, we see the clock says 4 hours. It took 7 hours for the police to arrest them, which happened almost immediately after they got there and to take them to the station…

In a later press conference at Genisys, the clock says 21 hours till initiation. This is one of the most notable, unintentional plot holes I’ve seen in a long time. I have no clue how everyone missed that.

In a scene later in the movie, Connor pulls the ignition out of a school bus Sarah, Kyle and Arnold are in. The bus is driving along the Golden Gate Bridge and is shown flipping front first, vertically, along the bridge, but in the next shot, the bus is shown flipping horizontally, spanning side to side, something that is physically impossible.

Finally, in Sarah’s flashback to when her family is killed, she jumps into a lake and hides under the dock and hears her house explode with her parents inside. Arnold comes walking along the dock and sees her through the boards, picks her up and carries her away from the danger. It is worth noting he is carrying Sarah Connor with one arm and in his other arm? A bazooka. You would think a correlation between an exploding house and a terminator carrying a bazooka could be found, but Sarah never notes any suspicion of that, nor is the flashback mentioned again.

That, my friends, is stupid writing.

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