These “transfer” reviews are from when I only did reviews on my Facebook page back in 2015. Bare in mind when reading these, I didn’t have the same formula in my review writing that I do now, and my usual “who starred and who directed” information is completely absent, so everything “italicized” is new. With that said, enjoy this review from 2015.
Oh yeah, I’m a fan of the TERMINATOR franchise. I admit, I even liked T3 and SALVATION. I do admit also that those particular movies had MAJOR flaws, and 3 was pretty much the worst of the then-four movies. Six years since SALVATION, the announcement of a new movie with new actors, aside from Arnold Schwarzenegger, I was pretty excited. That is… until the second trailer came along, but I’ll get into that rant some other time. Suffice to say, I was pissed that certain reveals were treated like garbage. But I was still on board and curious to see what Jai Courtney, Emily Clarke, and Jason Clarke respectively playing Kyle Reese, Sarah Connor, and John Connor would bring to the table.
DISCLAIMER: If you are not familiar with the TERMINATOR franchise, 1) Shame on you. 2) My story will not pander to you, so if you feel lost, like I’m referencing things that sound like you should know, it’s because you should.
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger (KILLING GUNTHER , COLLATERAL DAMAGE , TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY , PREDATOR , and the upcoming VIY 2: JOURNEY TO CHINA ), Emilia Clarke (ME BEFORE YOU , TV show GAME OF THRONES [2011 – ongoing], and upcoming ABOVE SUSPICION  and SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY ), Jai Courtney (SUICIDE SQUAD , DIVERGENT , A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD , and upcoming films STORM BOY  ARKIE ), and Jason Clarke (MUDBOUND , EVEREST , DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES , 4 episodes of TV show FARSCAPE [1999 – 2003], and upcoming films WINCHESTER  and CHAPPAQUIDDICK )
Support: J.K. Simmons (FATHER FIGURES , JUNO , SPIDER-MAN , and upcoming films THE FRONT RUNNER  and KLAUS ), Courtney B. Vance (THE MUMMY , OFFICE CHRISTMAS PARTY , THE DIVIDE , and the upcoming ISLE OF DOGS ), Byung-hun Lee (THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN , G.I. JOE: RISE OF COBRA , HERO , and the upcoming KEYS TO THE HEART ), and Sandrine Holt (UNDERWORLD AWAKENING , FACES IN THE CROWD , and RESIDENT EVIL: APOCALYPSE )
Directing: Alan Taylor (THOR: THE DARK WORLD , and TV shows; 7 episodes of GAME OF THRONES and 1 episode of LOST [2004 – 2010]). Co-writers: Laeta Kalogridis (SHUTTER ISLAND , ALEXANDER , TV show BIRDS OF PREY [2002 – 2003], and the upcoming ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL ) and Patrick Lussier (DRIVE ANGRY ). Composer: Lorne Balfe (12 STRONG , 13 HOURS , PENGUINS OF MADAGASCAR , video game CALL OF DUTY: MODERN WARFARE 2 , and upcoming films PACIFIC RIM UPRISING  and THE HURRICANE HEIST ). Cinematographer: Kramer Morgenthau (REBEL IN THE RYE , CHEF , THOR: THE DARK WORLD, and upcoming films THE DARKEST MINDS  and TV movie FAHRENHEIT 451 ). Editor: Roger Barton (TRANSFORMERS: THE LAST KNIGHT , STAR WARS: REVENGE OF THE SITH , PEARL HARBOR , and the upcoming GODZILLA: KING OF MONSTERS ).
Story on top (spoilers), review on the bottom.
Starting off in the future, Kyle Reese and John Connor set off to a Skynet base to destroy a secret weapon while simultaneously unleashing a bulk of the Resistence against Skynet’s defense grid to win the war. The defense grid is indeed smashed, but John and Kyle arrive at the base and see the machines send back a T-800 through their time displacement machine. John pieces together that the war is no longer over and that a new battleground has been picked. Knowing the machines sent the Terminator back to 1984 to kill his mother, Sarah Connor, Kyle chooses to go through to protect Sarah so John will one day be born. As Kyle goes through the time jump, he sees a mysterious figure appear behind John and grabs him, but it isn’t known if John perished. Then Kyle begins to experience mysterious memories that he never had as a child, then arrives in 1984. Right out of the gate, Kyle encounters a T-1000 (Byung-hun Lee) that somehow knew of Kyle’s appearance. After a bracing run and hide sequence, and running into a young cop who is caught up in the fight, Kyle is saved by Sarah and drags Kyle to safety. Kyle is thrown for a loop because he was lead to believe that 1984-Sarah would be weak and helpless, but this one is commanding, dangerous, and resourceful. Even leading the T-1000 to a trap and with the help of an older T-800 that Sarah named “Pops,” kills the T-1000 in a shower of acid. Bringing Kyle up to speed that Pops came and saved Sarah from the T-1000 back in the 70s, was basically raised by Pops, and began preparing for Kyle’s arrival ever since, the new plan was to create another time machine and send Sarah to 1997 where Judgment Day would begin. But in Kyle’s mysterious memories, the young him (Bryant Prince) says that Judgment Day will happen in another time: 2017. Though Sarah doesn’t agree with the logic, Pops believes Kyle, and that convinces Sarah to go with it. They arrive, but Pops isn’t there in time to meet them before the authorities arrive to detain them. Getting patched up in a hospital, Kyle and Sarah are surprised by the appearance of John. Knowing that the game has changed, he came back to help them take on the future Skynet. But Pops isn’t fooled and after shooting shot with a shotgun reveals that John has been changed into a new Terminator made of nano-tech (I think), and is really here to stop Kyle and Sarah. The three of them escape and prep for the coming fight to dismantle the upcoming computer program Genisys that will link all technology together. After another encounter with John near the Golden Gate Bridge, the trio survive and manage to allude John in the process, but are detained by the police. They are eventually freed thanks to the help of the young cop Kyle and Sarah encountered back in 1984, O’Brien (J.K. Simmons), who believes them when he is told that the world will soon come to an end. Upon arrival to where Genisys is stored, Cyberdyne, and fighting John the way there, the trio begin to set charges to destroy the system. Summed up, lots of fighting, John is killed, Genisys is destroyed, Pops is upgraded into a T-1000, and everyone is good.
Honestly, I was holding out that this movie would be better than 3. Much to my delight, it was. That’s not to say that GENISYS didn’t have its problems and is probably a worse movie than is good, but it does do a few things that I think were good and made a pretty solid difference.
Before I get into it, the movie’s title “Genisys” is referencing some kind of computer engine that will ultimately become Skynet. Yes, it’s spelled the same way and it’s not explained why. The title is indeed silly and stupid for no real rhyme or reason. But honestly, good or bad titles don’t make a good movie; good stories or characters do. So no points docked, but still… bleh.
I’ll start with what I liked.
Front and center will be the actors. Schwarzenegger doesn’t miss a beat. Despite his age, he’s as imposing, hilarious, and bad-ass as he’s ever been. “Old, but not obsolete.” Too true, you wrinkly old icon, you. But seriously, his age isn’t distracting and plays the part perfectly as always. Moving on to the co-stars. Let’s start with E. Clarke’s Sarah Connor. For me, this could have been an easy miss. Not that I doubt the woman’s acting abilities, I’ve seen some of GAME OF THRONES, but with her youthful, innocent, cute baby-butt cheeks, it was hard for me to believe that she could pull off anything remotely close to Linda Hamilton’s bad-ass execution of HER Sarah Connor, or Lena Heady’s Sarah Connor in TERMINATOR: THE SARAH CONNOR CHRONICLES (despite how good the show is, that title will never cease to be awkward). Just lookwise, she didn’t seem up to par. Thankfully, my fears were mostly put to rest. E. Clarke was indeed a commanding figure in the story and certainly had he bad-assery about her. But with an altered background unlike first and second movies, Sarah was raised by Pops, so she’d naturally be effective in a fight and E. Clarke delivers. What’s also different is her vulnerability. While certainly Hamilton’s Sarah did have a sense of vulnerability in a few key scenes, E. Clarke’s Sarah’s emotions were pushed just a little further, giving way for a wider range than Hamilton was given. E. Clark’s Sarah would smile, be cynical, crack a joke, get snappy, protective, and all of it feels organic to the character in a way that would have been completely inorganic to Hamilton’s. At this point, I can no longer compare the two Sarahs as they are completely different characters in their respective movies. Thankfully, they’re both hot and kick-ass.
On to Kyle Reese. Now, I like Courtney, he’s a good actor in almost everything that he’s in, even though his résumé consists of some pretty awful movies (DIVERGENT, WATER DIVINER, A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD), but I feel like a mark was missed in this movie. The stakes for the character just aren’t present in this one. And it was the same problem that Michael Biehn’s Kyle had in the first movie. They’re fish out of water, but they’re doing just fine. There’s no beat with the two characters looking around at the non-nuked world around them and processing in its beauty. Granted, a scene was filmed in the original film where Kyle shows his vulnerability in the new world, and it was removed due to the idea that it didn’t seem to fit the tone of the overall film I guess, but I wish they’d found a way to incorporate Kyle’s lack of comfort in this film. I bet Courtney could have done well with that, but more focus was given to his lack of comfort with working with a Terminator and making sure the future ends up brighter than his. So I suppose it blends well enough for the story that was established and I shouldn’t complain.
Finally, we have J. Clarke as the future leader of the Resistance, John Connor. J. Clarke is a terrific actor. With DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES under his belt, it’s no wonder he got the part. But dear lord I wish he’d gotten a haircut or something because his hair looks a little too bed-ridden for me to take seriously. Will I say that’s what bugged me about him, yes I will, but does that make his performance bad? No, but the material he was given kind of did. This is the first Terminator baddie that talked too much. While he as the T-3000 was still a better model than the T-X (though Kristanna Loken is far better to stare at), even she was more threatening. She shut up… er, at least, more often than John Connor did. But as I said, nano-tech made more sense than liquid metal over the metal exoskeleton, and made for some really cool fight scenes toward the end of the movie. J. Clarke is menacing when he needs to be, but once he opens his trap, any shot to the face is cheer-worthy.
While we’re on the subject of the characters, their relationships with each other are handled pretty well. Kyle is clearly antagonistic toward Pops, but it was nice to see that he would also not always get along with Sarah, despite their inevitable romantic attraction for each other. I also found it funny, in a good way, that they are initially attracted to each other based on their looks, but their relationship does develop and they do find middle ground. In fact, I’m not even sure if I remember the characters kissing, making for a clever decision to make more room for development in any possible future installments to the series. Hell, even Kyle and Pops have an arch of sorts which seems to always result in something funny. Cliché as well, but still funny.
Finally, as soon as Kyle arrives in 1984, the movie is essentially the opening to the first movie almost perfectly recreated. The black guy operating the machinery, the kneeled young Terminator, the punks who berate the Terminator (but boo they didn’t digitally recreate Bill Paxton’s face on his respective character), Kyle arriving next to a homeless dude, steals his pants, it’s all done wonderfully and impressively, despite one or two oopsies.
And speaking of oopsies, it’s time to talk about what I didn’t like.
Now for the bad. The problem that this movie has that was never really an issue in any other Terminators is the time travelling concepts themselves. I get it, all time travel movies have their unattended loop-holes that create plot-holes, but the great ones don’t try to justify it by creating complex words and their relation to other timelines, they just kind of let the movies roll with the situation and hope that whatever payoff awaits the audience at the end will be well-received. GENISYS, however, tries to be smart about it and falls flat on its face. I mean, I get that this is an alternate timeline from the first two movies and is trying to go in a fresh direction, and that’s commendable and welcomed. But, seriously movie, shut up. I’m not following techo-babble even when at its simplest. Just cop out on me and say that this is an alternate timeline with a new set of rules, shut up, and deal with it. The strangest thing is that the shit that gets explained isn’t the shit we have the most questions about. How about, why was there a T-1000 trying to kill Sarah as a nine-year-old? Why was there a reprogrammed T-800 there to protect her? Why did it take them decades to kill that same T-1000? None of these questions are answered. As excited as I am for a future installment, I do hope the writing becomes a little more focused.
Also, the action. Not all of it is bad, but dear god is it distracting when you see a helicopter chase scene defy physics. I know that the franchise doesn’t shy away from over-the-top thrills, but it’s always been done in a way that doesn’t feel exploitative… referring of course to the first two films. 3, SALVATION, and GENISYS kind of just toss it in for excitements sake instead of trying to be organic to the scenes. Weirdly enough though, it’s only like that when the characters are on or in vehicles. As soon as they’re on the ground, the action is pretty cool. Why is it only in very specific parts that it becomes silly and off-putting?
Wrapping this up. I guess now that I have everything down, the movie is better than I probably made it out to be. While not perfect, it is a solid flick and is indeed better than 3 and SALVATION. While the series has a ways to go before it comes close to the original two, this is a decent step in the right direction. Now if they can just expand on some of the unanswered questions, this new series of TERMINATOR films can potentially be winners. GENISYS is certainly worth a shot if you’re into the franchise, but I do caution getting your hopes too high. There’s more good than bad, but the bad is glaringly obvious.
My honest rating for TERMINATOR GENISYS: 3/5
It’s probably obvious that I need to see this movie again, simply on the basis that I don’t remember thinking this highly of the flick looking back on it. “Better than T3 or SALVATION”? Really? I remember not hating the movie, but I don’t remember liking it that much either.