Let’s just get this out of the way: Terminator is my all-time favorite geek movie franchise, so there’s going to be some sort of bias going on with this review. Or perhaps that makes my expectations a lot higher than norm. But, hey, if you thought critics, in general, wrote movie reviews without any sort of bias anyway, you’ve been sadly mistaken.
And if you thoughts critics were the “be all, end all” when it comes to watching a movie or TV show, reading a comic, or buying a video game, then — unless you count on this ol’ tin church roof, GH-mothereffin-G, as your sole recommendation domain — you’re even more sadly mistaken.
Better, if you thought Terminator Genisys was a remake, a reboot, a reimagining of the first two classic James Cameron-headed Terminator films, then (you guessed it) you’ve become quite the mess of sad mistakers. But make no mistake–Terminator Genisys is a terribly fun time at the movie theater.
If nothing else, director Alan Taylor (Game of Thrones, Thor: The Dark World) pulls together an admirable “greatest hits” package of the first three Terminator films (hey, I liked Rise of the Machines!), taking longtime fans down numerous mind-boggling time-trips to Skynet’s 1984 and beyond.
To many cynics, reimagining some of the same classic scenes from the original Terminator film, and, to a lesser extent, a pair of strikingly similar-if-not-same antagonists, artillery and technology (including the T-1000 prototype) from yours truly’s “greatest action movie ever” (Terminator: Judgment Day) might come off as cheap; an easy ploy to gain the attention of those lost through McG’s utter mishap from 6-years ago.
I think it’s smart.
Critics and fans hated the last movie almost as equally, and that’s when Christian Bale and company attempted to take the beloved sci-fi franchise in an entirely different direction. The grainy 80s-meets-modern Real3D/CGI direction from Taylor in Genisys, on the other hand, is a brilliantly simple, yet effective, move on his part to capture the essence of both originals, especially when the two timeframes (and there are a few more, as one “origin” flashback in particular is told through a dreamy, almost druggy, colored lens) dominate the plot. It’s sort of like playing Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon with Lorne Balfe‘s very Hans-driven composition (Mr. Zimmer actually earns an executive music producer credit for the film) and without all the neon.
For this review, I’m not going to go over the plot because…who watches a Terminator film for the plot? It’s nearly the same story as all of the others, featuring all of the same characters (GoT‘s Emilia Clarke replaces Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor; Dawn of the Planet of the Apes‘ Jason Clarke plays the first-ever evil version of her son, John; Suicide Squad‘s Jai Courtney surprises as the new Kyle Reese; and, hell, even Byung-hun Lee is the pitch perfect Asian version of Robert Patrick’s Cop/T-1000). Same players, same scenario, but, this time, with tons of twists and turns. I’d even go so far as to saying the sheer terror and horror of this fifth film is far more effective than the rest.
While the cast was as steady as she goes, leave it to the original Terminator himself, the T-800, and his modern day, gray-haired, post Governatorial self, Arnold Schwarzenegger, to steal the whole damn show. Ahnuld was great! He was smart and funny and as intimidating as you’d beg for. Watching both versions of T-800 battle each other is a treat. Watching the “old but not obsolete” Arnold interact or battle with anyone in this movie is a treat. Even if some of the lines were rehashed, all of the action legend’s scenes were fun and provided plenty of “LOL” moments (have you ever witnessed a movie crowd clap at the end credits of a movie with a 27 score on RT? How divisive can a film be?).
As much as I adore going “back” to the goods again with Terminator Genisys, I’d be amiss to leave without any complaints. More likely, I’d just be labeled a damn fanboy. The film’s script is, at times, overwrought with time-travel exposition, although thankfully most of it comes out of the mouth of “Pops” a.k.a. Arnold’s T-800, so all that Nexus mumbo-jumbo is fun.
Hell, if you don’t take it too serious, which I don’t think Taylor and friends do either, you won’t get too angry. Every single form of entertainment made about time travel (other than arguably Back to the Future) had its issues, so why get too bent out of shape about this one? So long as the actors look convincing and the robots kick ass, why give too much of a shit about Genisys and its world-domineering Google that does just about what every other Marvel villain wants to do; only, this time, the director thankfully focuses more on the furiously entertaining battle than whether any of this time-jumping crap makes sense.
And I’m not sure what any of the disdain for Clarke’s performance as Sarah Connor is. The “Mother of All Dragons” plays nothing short of a strong and headily stable woman who never once succumbs to the past’s insistence to feel the victim, or, more humorously, the urge to “mate” with Reese. The good news: She does the damn thing, reflecting many of the same admirable qualities as Hamilton. Shoot first, ask questions later.
While Terminator Genisys might not be a “day one” Blu Ray 10-Bible purchase like Mad Max, it dutifully hits all the right beats, blending the first two films with modern CGI as best as imaginable. Those 2-hours-and-6-minutes flew by faster than a few sharp script ramblings from J.K. Simmons. Sorry to tell you, newspaper critics, but I suppose I just served you another beatdown–and without the impeccable strength of Ahnuld nonetheless.