Film and TV

Reviews For The Easily Distracted:
Terminator Genisys

Terminator Genisys

Describe This Movie In One Simpsons Quote: "Smithers, release the robotic Richard Simmons."

Rating Using Random Objects Relevant To The Film: Two Nike Vandals out of five.

Brief Plot Synopsis:
I wanna publish zines/And rage against machines.

Tagline: "New mission. New fate."

Better Tagline: "Listen, and understand: that Terminator reboot is out there. It can't be bargained with. It can't be reasoned with. It doesn't offer refunds or care about the Tomatometer. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until this franchise is dead."

Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) and John Connor (Jason Clarke) are living in a Computer World. They've fought for years to crush Skynet, the self-aware AI that launched a global thermonuclear war in 1997 and nearly wiped out humanity (never mind the Radioactivity). Victory is within reach, but Skynet are no mere Pocket Calculators, and have sent a Man Machine called a Terminator back to kill John's mother Sarah (Emilia Clarke). Reese, who views Connor as a role Model (and is secretly in love with Sarah), volunteers to go back to 1984 to protect her. However, upon arriving Reese discovers she's not only been preparing for his arrival since 1973, she also has (platonic) Computer Love for the "Guardian" terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) who watches her back. And if The Robots of 1984 weren't bad enough, now they have to travel to 2017 to combat a nearly self-aware Skynet, who's decided It's More Fun to Compute after all.

"Critical" Analysis: Hopefully you didn't have much of an emotional investment in either the third (Rise of the Machines) or fourth installments (Salvation) of the Terminator franchise (really, what are the odds?), because Terminator Genisys is emphatically ignoring the events of those movies. The good news is, that annoying kid with the hat is gone, unfortunately the flaws in the fifth entry of "I'll Be Back" the series would be there even if Edward Furlong popped up, distracting everyone who thought he was dead.

And in truth, I enjoyed the beginning. Some of my favorite parts of the first two films depicted the war against the machines, and we get a much more intense version of that here. The contrast between the original movie's opening 1984 scenes and their recreation here, right down to "Nice night for a walk" and Reese's Nike Vandals (I had a pair!), is pretty fun. It's when the T-1000(!) shows up and Sarah Connor saves Reese's bacon that the wheels start coming off. Unfortunately, this is about the 15 minute mark.

Genisys continues the annoying trend — begun in T2 — of turning Schwarzenegger's T-800 into a non-killing machine, though the situation here is hilariously juxtaposed with the human protagonists' total failure to give a shit about collateral damage. Say what you want about Terminators, at least they were accurate shots. Sarah and Kyle's solution to being pursued by killer machines is to blow up an oil tanker in the middle of downtown San Francisco or flee from an exploding secret weapons cache in a school bus, presumably leaving the children who arrived in it to the mercies of a pissed off T-3000.

Yes, "T-3000." Skynet is certainly adept at creating new Terminators. Maybe one day they'll invent one that can do its goddamn job.

This is the second summer blockbuster in a row that requests, nay, requires that you shut down higher brain function to enjoy it. In Jurassic World, you could almost forgive the actions of the idiots who opened a theme park filled with prehistoric murder machines because, well, they were idiots. In Genisys, any inconsistencies (who sent the Terminators back to 1973? Does "Genisys" — the malignant AI that becomes Skynet this time around — really have to upload to "the cloud?") are waved off as in most time travel stories with "Alternate future" or "Time nexus" or other such gobbledygook.

And to quote Mean Girls, stop trying to make Jai Courtney happen. He spectacularly failed to invigorate the Die Hard franchise, and he adds nothing to Genisys but petulance. Nick Stahl in Rise of the Machines, Sam Worthington in Salvation, and now this: it's like the filmmakers went out of their way to nab the most vanilla, unremarkable actors possible (a nation turns its lonely eyes to you, Michael Biehn). Courtney — whose face perpetually looks like that of a soccer player whose dive didn't fool the referee — is next set to play Captain Boomerang in Suicide Squad, which should help drive the merciful final nail into DC Comics' movie efforts.

The best times occur when Schwarzenegger is on screen. It's not snotty to say the Terminator is Arnold's signature role, and we allow the dry humor he's apparently been able to develop over nine years living with humans. Clarke is fine, but for someone who's been preparing for robot war since the Nixon Administration, she still looks a lot more like T1 Linda Hamilton than the hard as nails T2 version. J.K. Simmons also has a nice about face from his usual psycho characters as a Jack McGee-ish cop obsessed with killer time-traveling robots ever since he stumbled across them in 1984.

Combining the largely played out (on film) dangers of global interconnectedness (Hail Hydra) with the omnipresent problems of time travel proves too much for director Alan Taylor, whose previous stint on the muddled Thor: The Dark World offered admittedly decent practice for the incoherent story and nonsensical action on display here. Terminator Genisys is supposedly the beginning of yet another trilogy of films, but I doubt I'll be the only one hoping Skydance and all concerned will simply tell the franchise, "You're terminated, [EXPLETIVE DELETED]."

Mustn't offend the PG-13 crowds, after all.
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Peter Vonder Haar writes movie reviews for the Houston Press and the occasional book. The first three novels in the "Clarke & Clarke Mysteries" - Lucky Town, Point Blank, and Empty Sky - are out now.
Contact: Pete Vonder Haar