Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Review: Terminator Genisys

Image courtesy of Paramount Pictures.
The "Terminator" series has a compelling story line but, unfortunately, it is also a franchise that long ago ran out of steam. This latest entry is not so much bad as it is unnecessary. Its story involves an alternate reality caused by time travel, but rather than give this fifth entry a unique spin, it just makes it feel like the same old package in new wrapping paper.

As the film begins, John Connor (Jason Clarke) has led the rebellion to victory against Skynet and finds that a terminator has been sent back to 1984 to assassinate his mother, Sarah (Emilia Clarke). However, when Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney), who is supposed to impregnate Sarah, arrives in the past, he finds out that she has already long been fleeing from futuristic cyborgs and is under the protection of Pops (Arnold Schwarzenegger).

I've never been able to wrap my brain around how John Connor could be alive to fight the resistance in the first place if he had to enlist Reese to go back in time to get Sarah pregnant and this film mostly skips over that conundrum. In this sequel, the "judgment day" does not occur in the late 1990s but, as it turns out, in 2017, when an app known as Genisys is set to launch. One of the film's few intriguing concepts is how wrapped up in technology humans are in the 21st century and how Skynet is a "Trojan horse" that easily infiltrates via gadgets, such as iPhones and laptops.

The other welcome addition to "Genisys" is J.K. Simmons as a detective whose life is saved by Sarah and Pops in 1984 and who investigates the strange goings-on of 2017. Of course, he is perceived by his fellow officers as a raving lunatic who proclaims that robots from the future have come to destroy mankind. But Simmons brings some humanity and humor to a movie that is mostly exposition and expensive special effects.

James Cameron's original "Terminator" film was a thrilling, low budget action film, while its sequel, "T2: Judgment Day," was a high octane blockbuster with groundbreaking special effects. The three sequels since that original pair have been various shades of mediocre. None of them have been particularly bad, but if the series had stopped after the second picture, that would have been perfectly fine as well.

"Genisys" has some great special effects, but a mostly lackluster story and a twist that is not only underdeveloped, but not especially compelling. I'm not sure there's anywhere else for this series to go, that is, until the obligatory remake most likely gets made in about 10 to 20 years. Sometimes it's best to leave well enough alone.

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