First and foremost, I’ve missed most of the previous iterations of the Terminator franchise. After James Cameron’s groundbreaking efforts in 1984 and again in 1991, it was difficult for me to latch on to a ‘franchise’. When I heard about the latest installment, Genisys I thought to myself “ok, I’m going to give the film a chance” despite knowing that the entire plot unfolded itself within the trailer. I will also add that Genisys, for all its flaws, is a marginally better film than Jurassic World.
Set in the future, John Connor (Jason Clarke) and Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) lead the resistance effort to stave off SkyNet’s take-over of the human race. Through two offensives, the team is successful in shutting down their cyborg enemy; however, SkyNet is able to send a T-800 model (Schwarzenegger) back to 1984. Connor sends Reese back to protect Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke). As Reese makes the time jump, a force overtakes Connor, but we don’t know immediately what becomes of him.
Director Alan Taylor effectively sets up this plot by recreating several opening sequences from Cameron’s original The Terminator. Events unfold so that Sarah is threatened again however her characterization here is stronger than she has been portrayed in the past, as if she’s been through something before we get to this point in the timeline. Theoretically.
Pacing and editing are effective in the film, and there’s a charm and witticism about Schwarzenegger that I found appealing. Jai Courtney plays an effective Reese and his acting here I think is as good as Michael Biehn was in the original film, but that’s where we diverge.
Jason Clarke is not as effective in an action-oriented role. He’s primarily been in dramas and that has served him well. Emilia Clarke is a good foil for Courtney, but doesn’t hold up as well against Schwarzenegger, despite the relationship that unfolds. JK Simmons makes an appearance in a rather humorous role, which reminded me of Dr. Silberman (Earl Boen from Terminator, T2 and T3).
There are some solid, but unrealized concepts. However, plot holes and underutilized character strings make the story, written by executive producers Laeta Kalogridis (Shutter Island) and Patrick Lussier (Drive Angry) ultimately ineffective as it tries to use past history to reshape the future.
Practical effects by John Rosengrant and his team at Legacy Effects did an amazing job with the T-800. CGI effects, which were rendered by at least six different effects houses, were eye candy to be sure, but ultimately grated on me because of their overuse. And this is now at least the second film in 2015 to lay waste, either metaphorically or physically to San Francisco. What gives?!
The 3D stereo conversion and IMAX presentation were extremely effective. However I couldn’t help but feel that this film would have done quite a bit more if I’d watched it with an object-oriented Atmos mix rather than the IMAX mix. The IMAX mix was quite stunning, but what I think has made the Terminator films of the past more successful has been its sound effects and not always its visual effects.
This is the first time that I’ve heard a score from Lorne Balf and he rendered the Brad Fiedel Terminator Anthem quite well. The remainder of his score was effective, but left me wanting more.
As I was checking the specs of the film (it was shot in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio with Arri Alexa XT Plus cameras), I noted that the original run time was 126 minutes and that the USA version is 125 minutes (could there have been a minute chopped to get a PG-13 rating?) I get the reason to make it PG-13 (sell more seats), however Skydance and Paramount have overestimated their audience reach with this film and should have shot for an R rating. I know there’s talk about this film being the start of a new trilogy (so the obligatory hanging around until the end credit roll has completed is encouraged). But, this film lacked the creativity that the first two films had, not only in their revolutionary effects work, but also in their simplistic ability to tell an effective story.
Terminator Genisys is not necessarily obsolete as much as it is old. It relies heavily on the history that it is trying to rewrite, making it a euphemism for the clichés it wanted to and should have avoided.