Friday, July 3, 2015

Terminator: Genisys

He told you he'd be back. Given the crippling disappointment of Terminator Salvation, which if not for the existence of A Good Day to Die Hard would unquestionably be the worst action sequel ever made, it's inconceivable that somebody thought making another Terminator movie was a good idea. No less shocking is the fact that Terminator: Genisys, despite several plot points and awful title, is actually fun.

Recognizing after four films and a TV-series how screwed-up the Terminator timeline has become screenwriters Laeta Kalogridis and Patrick Lussier deliver not so much a sequel as a reboot that jumbles the events of the first two Terminator films, heavily condensing them to occurring simultaneously in 1984 while introducing a face to SkyNet and new villain to hunt down Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke) in 2017.

One of the (many) flaws of Terminator: Salvation was its headstrong determination for John Connor to run from who the previous films had molded the character into. Here John (Jason Clarke) is the once again the prophet general of the human resistance that defeats the machines in the opening scene but not before time travel can be introduced into the equation.

The first third of the film rewrites history in a Back to the Future II kind of way as Kyle Reese's (Jai Courtney) journey into the past takes a far different turn than in the first film (while still finding plenty of moments to pay homage to the original). It seems the arrival of a Terminator far earlier in her timeline has led Sarah Connor to become a bad ass at a much younger age. Learning from "Pops", it's Sarah who saves Kyle this time around and journeys with him back into the future to 2017 to the new timeline's date of when SkyNet became active.

While reasonable, SkyNet's new origin is somewhat lame and I regret the film doesn't choose to reuse any of the ground covered by Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines as to SkyNet's rise and its previous attempts to kill John. The new movie also makes quick work of both the T-800 and T-1000 with almost comical ease compared to the earlier films. But where the new sequel gets into real trouble is its choice of villain who is by far the least terrifying robot baddie of the franchise, with the exception of the completely forgettable Salvation. The choice of villain not only limits our heroes' actions but leads to a lackluster final act where the storyline drags to its inevitable conclusion.

Jason Clarke is fine as John but I think director Alan Taylor missed an opportunity to bring back Nick Stahl, or even Edward Furlong, as a nice gesture to fans and add a bit of stability to the timeline turmoil the film creates. I've never been a fan of Courtney who is put to use well enough here that he's at least not a detriment to the film. Emilia Clarke isn't going to make anyone forget Linda Hamilton from T2 but she does what she can to put her own spin on the character. Used in a supporting role, Arnold recaptures some of his old mojo playing the aging robot who has spent decades caring and looking after Sarah Connor. It's easily his best role in a decade.

Terminator: Genisys isn't great by any means, how can it be since it's the fourth best film in a five movie franchise, but it is a huge improvement over the last film that by all rights should have killed off the franchise. As an enjoyable popcorn flick with loving looks back at films it understands are far better than what it is currently producing, it works. That said, despite my enjoyment, I'm far from sold on the new timeline or the possible sequel this film lines up that looks problematic at best. And, yes, there is a mid-credit sequence teasing the possible next entry into the franchise.

No comments: