Terminator Genisys (2015) Movie Review “Convoluted Storytelling Ruins Great Action and Entertainment”

Terminator-Genisys

You remember in “Back to the Future Part II” when Doc Brown and Marty end up in an alternate timeline?  Doc then takes out a chalk board to quickly explain how the alternate timeline works to Marty (and to us the audience)?  “Terminator Genisys” would probably need five chalkboards to even come close to explaining the convoluted and messy narrative and timelines this movie is suppose to be telling (and taking place in). Many of you know I was excited for this film (#8 on my most anticipated of the year) and yeah the trailers were a bit hit or miss but still no way could they put another mediocre “Terminator” film out right? The most frustrating aspect of this film is much of this movie is firing on all cylinders.  The action is great, the acting is really good and the visual effects are well done but the horrendous and messy script brings the entire film down a few pegs.  I had some fun watching it and it is entertaining but unfortunately the writing leaves much to be desired.

In 2029 John Connor and Kyle Reese lead an assault on Skynet and help lead the resistance to victory against the machines.  In a last ditch effort to win the war against the humans, Skynet sends a T-800 Terminator back in time to kill Sarah Connor in the year 1984.  Kyle Reese volunteers to go back in time to save her.  When he gets back to 1984, its very different than he expected.   Sarah Connor isn’t some helpless waitress, she is a stone cold solider raised by another Terminator since she was 9 years old.  Meanwhile a T-1000 Terminator is waiting for Reese in 1984.  What proceeds is a something no one was prepared as humanity faces its greatest threat yet, it’s own savior.

Photo- Paramount Pictures
Photo- Paramount Pictures

I am being vague in case you didn’t see any trailers and didn’t spoil yourself of the big twist.  In case you still haven’t seen the film and unaware of the big twist, don’t read any further go see the movie. The film works so much better when you don’t know the big twist.  I don’t know how you wouldn’t know about it by now but by some outside chance you don’t, don’t read this go see the movie then come back.

What the “Terminator” series is in desperate need of is a good writer or set of writers.  The “Terminator 3” script was mostly lazy, the “Terminator Salvation” script was nonexistent; this film’s script is all over the place.  There is a difference between being deep and intricate and just being downright confusing and convoluted.  “Genisys” seems to believe that it’s being smart while it’s really walking all over itself.  This is coming from a guy that defends the “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” script (a script that faces a lot of criticism for being convoluted).

Photo-Paramount Pictures
Photo-Paramount Pictures

This movie seems to disregard everything that happened in “T3” and “T4” and even “T2”.  The movie is on a whole separate timeline but the paradoxes it creates with the first film are left wide open without any explanation at all.   If it’s a straight up reboot then why is the original star still in the film (and I don’t believe it is meant to be either)?  The filmmakers try to introduce the concept of multiple timelines in the world of “Terminator” (which I believe “Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles” actually did first) but the movie doesn’t really do anything with it or explain it.  You don’t need to give every detail just enough so there is an understanding of how the concept works and how it relates to all the other films.   It’s a headache after trying to piece it all together.

The things that do work in the film is just about everything else.  Other than a few moments (like the little too over the top Helicopter chase) the action is very good.  Director Alan Taylor once again demonstrates he does have some talent behind the camera.  This film does feature some of the best action sequences since “Terminator 2” (which again isn’t saying much though considering the quality of the rest of the series).  They are exciting and very entertaining.  If you come to this movie looking just for great and memorable action set pieces and don’t care so much about story or structure of narrative, then this movie delivers for two hours.  At points I forgot about my complaints about the plot and just gave into the furious entertainment (hoping everything would be resolved later in the feature).

Photo-Paramount Pictures
Photo-Paramount Pictures

From an acting standpoint this is no slouch either.  Arnold Schwarzenegger returns to the titular role of the Terminator (here nicknamed Pops) and he owns every single minute on screen.  He is used for more comic relief than normal which may turn off some fans but for me it worked.  He was funny when required and badass when he needs to be as well.  Taking over the role of Sarah Connor is “Game of Thrones” star Emilia Clarke.  She plays the role a bit different than Linda Hamilton but it makes sense considering the different timelines and upbringings.  Emilia is a bit more youthful and doesn’t want to face her ultimate destiny.  If anything she is an amalgamation of John Connor from “Terminator 3” and Sarah Conner from “T2”.

Speaking of John Connor, taking on the role of (the famous role that never seems to hold onto a cast member) is Jason Clarke.  Only the fourth actor in four movies to play the role, Clarke is impeccable in the movie.  He has the commanding presence that you expect from a character like him.  The twist taken with the character (which at first I wasn’t sure if I would like) is actually one of the highlights of this movie.  The twist of course being that Connor had been turned into a Terminator of sorts which Sarah and Kyle have to fight.  It’s actually a refreshing twist that the series was in big need of ( I only wish now the trailers didn’t spoil it).

Taking on the role of Kyle Reese is Jai Courtney.  Courtney is very hit or miss for me in the roles he plays (the term hit only referring to him being solid and not great).  Courtney is solid and serviceable in the role.  He was my biggest concern going into this film and I can live with him as Kyle Reese.  However nowhere near as good as Michael Biehn or even Anton Yelchin from “Terminator Salvation”.

Photo-Paramount Pictures
Photo-Paramount Pictures

In the end I came out very conflicted with this film.  On one hand the spectacle and the action gave some really good entertainment (more so than the two previous films).  Sometimes that can be all I need (just look at “Jurassic World).  However unlike “Jurassic World” (whose story was generic and predictable but still a solid plotline) the story is so sloppy that I can’t just give it a pass on pure entertainment value alone.

Final Score

5.5/10

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