Posted by: Valentin Berceanu | October 19, 2015

Terminator Genisys Review

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Having missed it during its run in theaters, I long awaited the proper release of Terminator Genisys on digital so that I could finally see it. Having watched it, I find myself of two minds about it. First, it really isn’t as bad as the 26% Rotten Tomato meter would seem to indicate. As usual critics are full of shit proving once again, that they will tear anything that’s even in the same vicinity with the borderline to pieces especially if there are some big names involved just to further their own profiles. I mean, for chrissakes, this is the same site that had Transformers:Dark of the Moon pegged at 35% and god forbid we mention Magic Mike XXL pegged at 62% and there is no way in hell you can call yourself a movie critic if you’re going to score those two movies above Genisys. As usual, the mainstream public, goes the other way and gives this film a 6.7 rating on IMDB which is insanely close to my own personal rating of it because, second, the movie doesn’t really live up to its own potential.

First up let me start with the good. Terminator Genisys is the true sequel to James Cameron’s first two films of the franchise. While Rise of the Machines was marginally entertaining despite a very poor performance from the actor who played John Connor, and Salvation was an absolutely disastrous movie despite the casting of Christian Bale as John Connor, we could, for all intensive purposes, pretend that those two movies never happened and just tack Genisys on as the official sequel. The movie pays excellent homage to the first two movies and Arnold is excellent in this incarnation (way better than in 2003). In fact, I’m gonna go ahead and say that the first hour of the film is excellent and on par with any of the first two movies. I would have given it a 9 at the time had it maintained the same kind of excellence throughout the final 40 minutes. Unfortunately there were two scenes, two action sequences in fact, that made my rating drop. The reason for that was something that has truly been the plague of Hollywood for this past decade: the action sequences are not LIVE ACTION but they are computer generated instead… and I don’t care how well it’s done (these particular CGI scenes are done well) it still doesn’t look real. Not only that but, the added benefit to actually having done stunts for real instead of just moving a goddamned computer model around, is that you might realise where, in your action sequence, you brutally violate the laws of physics (yes, I am aware that time travelling is extensively used throughout the entire franchise, BUT STILL!!!).

The casting choices were pretty good. Emilia Clarke does a very good job of Sarah Connors, Jason Clarke is a decent John Connor (some might have preferred Bale, personally I’d have been curious to see what might have happened with this script and Bale, some, including myself, might have even preferred Ed Furlong to have another go at the role), Byung-hun Lee is an absolutely excellent T-1000, Arnold, as I’ve mentioned before is a much improved version over his 2003 performance, not quite on par with his 1992 but pretty close, however Jai Courtney as Kyle Reese just doesn’t work. It’s not that he’s a bad actor, the jury’s still out on that one (personally I thought he did a good job in Jack Reacher, but I hear his other performances aren’t that fabulous), it’s just that this is an iconic role that, for many Terminator fans, is forever associated with Michael Biehn, so I think they should’ve shopped around a little more for someone in the same vein. Courtney’s presence doesn’t necessarily take anything away from the film overall, but it fails to add anything as well.

The plot is contorted, but ultimately believable (in this universe), there’s still a minor unsolved loophole and room for a sequel and the action sequences, while they are great in the first hour of the film, they do become over reliant on CGI and a little repetitive towards the end. I personally feel that some great cameo opportunities were missed and had they been included it would not only have meant a huge tip of the hat to the original movie, but may have even swayed the hearts of some of the on-the-fence critics. First one would be having Bill Paxton reprise his blue haired punk role that first brought him to the screen back in 1984 and one can’t help but feel that Reese’s dad, when he does show up on screen, should’ve been played by Michael Biehn. Also, on a personal note, I would’ve loved to see Robert Patrick at some point in the movie, even if it was just for a second.

In the end, i recommend watching this movie for every fan of the Terminator franchise (1 and 2 especially) and the appropriate ticket price would be 10$, so if you can get yourself a copy for 15$, it’s more than worth it. On an estimated budget of 155 million USD and with a worldwide gross of over 440 million USD, it didn’t break the bank, but, at least, it finished well off in the black and the digital sales have only just begun.

Stop reading here if you haven’t seen the movie, otherwise on to the spoilers and nitpicking!

Like I said above the first part of the movie is breathtaking for any Terminator fan. The fight scenes from the future is what we’ve always salivated about and something the special effects of 1984 were woefully unprepared for. This time around, the machines are gorgeous, the Hunter Killers especially. The script does seem to suffer from an overuse of exposition through dialogue to the point where it makes one wonder if Kevin J. Anderson wasn’t involved. It’s also funny how the soldiers from this future where they had been fighting Skynet for the better part of the past 32 years, didn’t know what a waiter was, but had no problem using analogy to a microwave oven and tin foil when explaining the principles behind the time travel machine. Still, these are all minor things where we chuckle and move on because Reese travels back to 1984 and the first plot twist arises when we see John under attack while the time travel machine is engaged.

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The leap back into 1984 is absolutely fabulous! The digitized young Scwarzenegger is almost spot on. Some serious strides have been made since Tron and the digitized Jeff Bridges and one wonders how far away we are from a S1MONE moment, where we get a movie starring Steve McQueen, Paul Newman, Alain Delon and Clint Eastwood, all digital versions of themselves. The major plot twist is revealed with a typical Arnie line “I’ve been waiting for you!” that almost pulled a loud cheer from me when it happened. That is the perfect beginning of a rollercoaster ride through the first two movies with enormous tribute scenes and revisiting old, but great scenes. The thumbs up, the defacing of the young Arnold moment with the red cyborg eye glowing, the T-1000 as a cop, the “come with me if you want to live” moment in all of its inverted glory, the liquid T-1000 coming out of the background (this time a mirror), the headshot in the eye the T-1000 recovers from (God was I ever waiting for the finger wag there!), the blades on the floor to slow down the T-1000’s slide, the short but memory evoking foot chase the T-1000 gives to the van, the T-1000 sliding through the window of a vehicle, the T-800 emerging from the flames, the electrocution of the T-800, the T-1000 mimicking one of the main characters while the character is present in the same scene (again with an awesome twist), a little nod to James Cameron’s Aliens, a cool way for the good Arnold terminator to remain without the flesh of one hand (this time, the right hand), and a play on words of the old line this time in the form of “I’ll be there”. And the roller coaster ride jumps us forward to 2017.

Nothing to complain about so far, except the goddamned PG-13 rating, which most certainly robbed us of an undoubtably memorable nude scene from Emilia Clarke (and in the year Esquire named her the hottest woman on Earth, no less!!!) and the sometimes non-Reese screen presence of Jai Courtney which breaks the magic in some moments here and there (mostly when his clothes are off).

The roller coaster of action and callbacks to the past, fittingly slows down in 2017 in order to catch us up to the present plot. Genisys, some kind of software assistant (a version of Siri, or Cortana, or Google Now – why the hell do I feel this one’s the closest rendition? , or Facebook’s M) that will be launched in October 2017. John Connor shows up, and he’s got a story and he means to convince us that he’s for real, but (I don’t know if I had seen the spoiler trailer or not) I knew the twist was coming. Jay Courtney really almost kills the scene with his wooden acting when he finds out Reese is John Connor’s father, but luckily an aged Arnold and a huge teddy bear cut it short and get the roller coaster rolling again. Complete with crashing through walls, a very cool new model of a terminator (or something else altogether if you wanna be nitpicking this detail), a decaying T-800 that has to bang itself to get unstuck, a cool MRI machine scene are just new flavours to an already packed action movie. However, about 85 minutes in, everything goes to hell, in the first action sequence that takes place outside, the one that focuses on the school bus. The flaming terminator is a nice touch, even though the people in the background of that scene need some serious acting lessons if they think that’s how normal people react when they witness a robocop-like thing walking out of an inferno, flames still blazing on it, like it’s nothing. Also, my heart tinges that we don’t even get two seconds of the Harley chasing the bus. What we do get is a totally unrealistic bus crash that Reese could not have possibly survived followed by another crazily concocted action sequence with Reese picking up the bag of explosives while the bus is falling down around him. I mean, come on! Did they really write this stuff down on paper, or just come up with it directly in post-production?

Another nice little callback to the police precinct assault in the first movie, precedes the most damaging scene to the entire movie’s watchability. The helicopter chase/fight scene. I wish to God and back that they had done this with less spectacle but with real helicopters, because, as much as this movie is aimed at teenagers, I don’t think even their innocent minds can suspend belief for long enough in the laws of physics to accommodate for all that’s happening. It’s also a shame that the biggest callback (I’ll be back!) is wasted during this scene.

The end showdown takes place in the caverns beneath the Cyberdyne Systems campus, where we get a little too much of pushing terminators through walls. The situation seems desperate then it gets turned around eventually, but there is no real sense of urgency in these scenes. I just laid back and waited for the conclusion. Arnold sacrifices himself to save the day. Everything blows up and, somehow, the good T-800 gets a “predictable” upgrade to a T-1000 style body. After that, we’re all off into the hills. Unlike the end of the original Terminator movie though, Sarah isn’t alone, but accompanied by Reese and Pops and there isn’t any storm coming. Or so we’re led to believe until the first batch of credits roll and then the movie starts again for the predictable scene that leaves the door open to a sequel. Cut to black and roll credits.

I would’ve loved this movie if not for the two action sequences in the end that kind of destroyed it for me. Also, had there been a slightly different casting choice for Kyle Reese, I would have even gone so far as to put it on par with Judgement Day. However, as things stand, it’s a good addition to the series that can definitely wipe the slate clean of the disaster that was Salvation and the awkwardness that was Rise of the Machines.

7 out of 10.

PS: I am way too old to call the end credits’ song anything but rabble and meaningless noise.

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