Past, present, or future, no one is ever safe from the damaging effects of sequels or reboots. Terminator Genisys goes back in time to try and save the world but irreparably ruins the future of the franchise.
It should be obvious that a film is overly ambitious when you have the character known for his terseness (Schwarzenegger) using the great majority of his dialogue as forced exposition for the film. The film spends the entire time trying to explain and justify its existence but ends up getting caught up in too many timelines and not enough coherent explanation. We are not novices when it comes to time travel or the cyclical nature of it in Terminator, because it all makes sense. John Connor (Jason Clarke) sends back Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) to protect his mother Sarah (Emilia Clarke), knowing full well that Reese is his father. That point is where the cycle begins, and it becomes complete when Kyle impregnates Sarah and then is killed. While trying to explain that in this timeline, something else happens, which we didn’t realize before is a fool’s errand. Welcome to Terminator Genisys.
In this new, impossible timeline, as Kyle is sent back to the past, Skynet (Matt Smith) in human form infects John Connor and turns him into a machine-based life form. Then, a mysterious force sends Sarah a T-800 (the Schwarzenegger one) to save her from a T-1000 (the mercury-esque one), sent to kill her when she is nine years old. She is then raised by the robot, who she lovingly calls Pops. Reese then arrives to a past where everything has changed, a new multimedia social platform called Genisys is actually Skynet in disguise, and our once-great human savior is turned into villain number one.
The plot has more holes in it than a bowl of Spaghetti-Os. The time travelling alone is incoherently butchered as a vain excuse to introduce a new story with familiar characters played by completely underwhelming actors. If Matt Smith were actually utilized in the film more, maybe he could have made sense of their time travelling as he’s done before in the iconic role of The Doctor from Doctor Who. Convoluted notions of time travel aside, this film is all about the studio effects and not the substance. Although there were killer robots since the beginning, the films were previously able to bring forth a sense of purpose or even a reason for being.
Director Alan Taylor (Thor: The Dark World) fails to incorporate that same metallic heart into Terminator Genisys, making the near scene-for-scene remake at the beginning just a foreshadowing of how hollow an echo this film would turn out to be. The true hero of this film, and the reason many people are excited to see it, will be Arnold Schwarzenegger’s reprisal as a T-800. He has been the only constant in the entire film franchise, starting off as a villain and then becoming the savior. The most exhilarating part of this wanton, CGI-laden mess was the battle of Arnold vs Arnold that happens early on in the film. Were I smarter, I would have left after that battle, completely satisfied. Sadly, I don’t have the luxury of time travel like so many of the people and machines do in the film.
Where Terminator Genisys both fails and succeeds is in the way it panders to us as if we could be subdued with nostalgia and reworked references to the first film. They hold little charm this time around and only serve to undermine any original thought that was put into the creation of this film. Instead, the film comes off as a vehicle to restart a once-great franchise. Even though the vehicle is packaged nicely, it won’t get anywhere without an engine. The nostalgia is great at first, reminding you of why you originally fell in love with the franchise. Yet, as the film continues to bludgeon you with more references and the same gags (like Arnold’s terrifying smile), they become tragic reminders of how far these films have strayed. At the end of the film, you’re left with a sour, metallic taste in your mouth and a longing to re-watch the first two films (maybe even the third one), trying to forget this one exists. Unfortunately, like Skynet’s threat of complete human annihilation, nothing is more terrifying than the already confirmed threat of more Terminator sequels.
RATING: ★★★ (3/10 stars)