He is back
The story of the Terminator saga is quite unique. With the first installment released in 1984 and becoming an unexpected hit, they only managed to make the sequel 7 years later (with the same team of lead actors and director, another rarity) and still blew the world away. If that happened today, they would instantly line up 4 more Terminator movies to come out in 2 year intervals, 7 spin-offs and a TV series. Instead, everything stopped right there and then, after what was and still is considered one of the best sci-fi movies of all time. Fast-forward 12 years to 2003 and we finally get the lackluster third installment that was bound to happen. We got the star, Arnold, but we didn’t get the mastermind director, Cameron. It wasn’t nearly enough. Then, Arnold steered away from the movies, got a temporary gig in politics and it seemed like the franchise was calling it a day. But it wasn’t. In 2009 we got the weird one, Arnold-less and Cameron-less. With one of our time’s greatest actors, Christian Bale, playing mankind’s savior John Connor in the future, in the war, being the resistance leader everybody in the previous movies talked about. It didn’t quite work either.
So, here we stand, the year 2015, more than 30 years after the first movie and Arnold Schwarzenegger fulfilling his on-screen promises of being back as the Terminator. The score of the franchise is 2 great ones – 2 not so much ones. This is the tie-breaker, what’s it gonna be?
PRODUCER: Paramount Pictures / Skydance Productions
‘I’m not going to stop the wheel. I’m going to break the wheel.’
Borrowing a line from another character played by Emilia Clarke that you maybe might’ve heard of, Genisys plot quickly switches from the usual protection or extermination of Sarah and John by the Terminators into the human race taking a more pro-active approach.
We start in the future, Judgement Day did happen but the humans are about to take back the planet. Skynet’s Hail Mary play is to send back a young Arnold T-800 to 1984 and kill Sarah Connor, so John sends his right-hand man, Kyle Reese, to stop the Terminator. Yes, that’s the original storyline and the nods to it don’t stop there. We witness the iconic scene when Arnold’s T-800 arrives naked at LA’s Observatory and encounters a band of punk kids, only this time he also meets our old friend Arnold T-800 and they fight in what I have to admit was a bit of a letdown of a scene. The thing is, the timeline has been altered and Sarah has been orphaned at age 9 and saved by this T-800 who’s now her father figure (she calls him ‘Pops’ and everything). They already know about Skynet, the other Terminators, and Kyle Reese travelling back in time. But, as a consequence of tampering with the timelines too much, Skynet’s awakening has been postponed and had its name changed like a brand of mineral water accused of being cancerigenous. It’s called ‘Genisys’ now and took the form of an app, of course, that links all electronic devices together and has its own countdown clock to make things more dramatic. Anyhow, our heroes set out to destroy the iCloud before it goes online.
It’s always tricky to follow logic in time travelling movies, but Genisys actually manages to make sense of all the changes and alterations. Or at least it reaches an acceptable level of no major plot holes (except for an incomprehensible cliché scene at the very end) which isn’t an easy feat and it deserves points for it.
Where the movie deserves the opposite of points is in the casting department. Emilia Clarke is hands down more beautiful as a brunette than she is as a golden haired Targaryen, but all that does is to distract from what’s important. There’s also a softness, a ‘girlieness’ to her that plays against the tough warrior Sarah Connor should be. Jason Clarke starts with a promising portraying of the messiah John Connor, but the movie quickly takes a sinister turn for the character and he ends up coming across as a bad guy from a videogame. Last, (and yes, least) is Jai Whatshisname getting his way at making Kyle Reese, a guy who’s been through the freaking Apocalypse, look as boring as a baseball game. I will not waste one more character writing about him, won’t even learn his last name, nope.
So, does the whole thing suck?
You’d think a movie with one of the worst casts ever, about a franchise that had its last good installment in 1991 is not worthy of your time. However, Genisys has a nice mix of winks to the old movies and chances taken into new territory. Tie that together with wonderful set-pieces of action scenes, and one not so secret weapon that I can’t believe I’m just mentioning in the article: Arnold; and things start to look a little better.
Say what you will about The Governator, but his on-screen presence and magnetism is still powerful and undeniable. He gets to play three T-800s from different time periods and he nails it effortlessly, as always. Sadly, sometimes you get the feeling he’s being underused and the character calls for more growth and development. Other times, he is sidelined to just fighting off the bad guys chasing our human pieces of boredom. This should be Arnold’s world, with everybody else just living in it.
Terminator 6 and 7 are already officially announced but given the lukewarm response at the box office, it’s still uncertain if they are gonna happen. Here’s hoping that if there’s a next time, they make it Arnold’s show.