by Brad Nelson 12/20/15
I RedBoxed this one last night. It’s the 4th? 5th in the series? I forget which slot this is in the franchise, and that is telling. It’s forgettable but watchable. If you’re a Terminator fan, you’ll want to see this.
And I’m not sure that there can be any spoiler alerts. This first half of this movie, at least, is as if you took the first three Terminator movies, cut the films into short segments, and then spliced them together again at random. There isn’t anything new here. Also, the sci-fi wears very thin because of the time-travel schtick. Therefore this movie is ultimately little more than a vehicle for chases, gunplay, and explosions with a few Schwarzeneggerianisms thrown in.
Arnold is fine in this. They even smartly mention that the reason he looks older is that the skin that surrounds his mechanical parts ages like normal human skin. He plays his role fine. But then this is a unique role that belongs to him, so there is no one else to compare him to. But this isn’t a walk-thru, pick-up-the-check-on-the-way-out, effort by Schwarzenegger.
The main problem with this movie, other than the dull leads, is the time travel device. The first couple of films had enough novelty going on in them that you weren’t bogged down with the time travel aspect. But in this movie it is central. And it is so central that you can’t get much satisfaction in thinking that anything that is happening matters in any way. Skynet can never be wiped out because they can just keep sending back Terminators. And the humans can just keep sending back Kyle Reeses. Ad infinitum.
So be prepared to enjoy the chases, the gunplay, the explosions, and the few Schwarzeneggerianisms, because there really isn’t a movie here to speak of. And surely part of the reason the time-travel doesn’t spoil the first two movies is that Michael Biehn (Reese) and Linda Hamilton (Sarah Connor) give such strong performances of characters that are very well fleshed-out by the writers.
What was striking about this movie was how dopey in comparison Genisys’ Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) and Sarah Conner (Emilia Clarke) were. And “dopey” is the best and only word I can think of. At best, these are daytime soap opera stars. Next to Biehn and Hamilton they are lightweights, almost comically so. But looking at the big picture, no doubt this is the sign of the times. The generally dopier movie-goer may not see much amiss here.
Unlike one of the previous Terminator movies (3?), although there is nothing new here (and there was nothing new there either), the pacing, timing, and novelty of the chases, car crashes, explosions, and hails of bullets is a little more interesting. But even then, by the end of this movie the cliches are weighing down heavily. Again…nothing new here.
Ironically, the best touches to this film are the small human touches provided by the good Terminator T-800 unit played by Schwarzenegger. He is “pops” to Emilia Clarke’s Sarah Conner. And Emilia gives an often cringe-worthy performance. But the dialogue and acting from Schwarzenegger are good enough to give this movie the only emotional impact it has. There is none (unless you are of the dopey generation) coming from the relationship between this movie’s Kyle Reese and Sarah Conner.
There’s a younger version of Kyle Reese who makes an appearance toward the latter part of the film and threatens to inject something on the human-scale. But he has few lines and it is too little, too late. You’ll have to be satisfied with the explosions. And if the culture has successfully made you a dope, you’ll enjoy that and never miss the bits that made the first two movies so compelling.
Oh, and Jason Clarke as John Conner is another thoroughly forgettable actor. Like me, while watching this movie, you may be trying to decide who is worse: Jason Clarke as John Conner or Jai Courtney as Kyle Reese. I give the edge to Jai, but it’s a close call.
As a movie within a movie, there is almost a good storyline that is never realized. J.K. Simmons plays a man who understands there is something alien going on (possibly with time travel involved) and he has made it his life’s work to solve this mystery. He has a few good lines, but his storyline is completely pointless and has no bearing on the overall story, such as it is. But you can see how this could have worked out had they spent a dime more on the script, perhaps stealing a few thousand from the special effects budget, if even that.
Still, despite the complete unoriginality of the first half of the movie, and the slavish devotion to time travel as a device, a story does eventually break out. And if you can watch this with a smirk — not expecting too much (or much at all) — you’ll enjoy seeing where they’ve taken the Terminator franchise…which seems to be to a dead end. With time travel, if you don’t like your result, just try again.
And the same with the franchise. Maybe the next one will hire real actors and real script writers. And try again.
Brad is editor and chief disorganizer of StubbornThings.
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