Before I get started on reviewing this giant glass of mediocrity, I really want to get something off my chest. Have any of you seen that trailer for Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension, the supposed finale of the Paranormal Activity series? The fact that movie is going to be in 3D blows my mind in terms of how stupid that concept is. What, so the main characters just so happen to have state of the art 3D cameras that they’re filming all of their stuff with? I remember back when the first film came out and everyone was praising the film as a horror movie classic because it aimed to be realistic and the equivalent of watching you know…found footage. That’s the entire idea behind found footage; it’s supposed to feel as though you’re watching something that actually happened and has been captured on camera. This concept has had a great run but this movie seems so idiotic and gimmicky that I wouldn’t be surprised if this is the film that officially kills this sub-genre’s popularity. With that said, let’s get to a review of a film that won’t feature anything that is nearly that energetic.
Let me make one thing clear, Terminator: Genisys is a pretty bad movie. I wouldn’t recommend it to a lot of people and for the most part a lot of the stuff like the characters and the storyline and the performance of the main protagonist seem in rather poor quality. However, this film manages to do a solid enough job in enough areas as to where I can’t really say that I hated it. Genisys isn’t as awful as the trailers made it look but it’s the definition of sub-par. This is the sort of flick where you forget watching it 10 minutes after you’ve left the cinema. It’s watchable but much like a bag of chips or a chocolate bar, it isn’t that substantial.
Genysis starts off in the same way the original Terminator film started off. The year is 2029 and the world is an apocalyptic wasteland so edgy that they apparently can’t spell the word genesis right. A rebel group led by John Connor (Jason Clarke) is fighting the evil robots that have taken over. In its final attempt to save itself, the robots send another robot back in time to kill the mother of John, Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke). John sends his friend Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) back in time to stop the robot and save his mother. When Reese goes back in time though, things quickly go wrong and separate from the events of the first film. Sarah isn’t a naïve young woman but rather a prepared soldier who has already been properly trained by an older robot (Arnold Schwarzenegger) who was sent back in time to protect her. Sarah and Reese go to the year of 2017 with a time machine and find out that the robots are using Genysis to destroy the world, a thing that will apparently take over all of the technology we use and yadayadayada.
I quite recently watched The Terminator for the first time and found it to be an excellent piece of cinema; it’s a movie that has held up really well. A lot of the greatness of the film for me comes from how complex the story is and how well they were able to make it seem clear and easy to follow. Like the recent Looper, The Terminator has this deep, sci-fi storyline but it chooses to focus on the feelings and the reactions of these two great characters and the way they cope with how this is affecting them. Because of this, the film never seems sloppy and leaves you wanting to learn more about the world without it feeling like it told you were told nothing about the world. It also helps that the chase scenes and the fight scenes are beautifully shot and edited together with some awesome, perfectly 80’s music. The way the story is presented allows for the film to be both a fantastic piece of science fiction and a riveting action film. That gotten across, It’s humorous to now see that the thing the original film accomplished the best is the thing the recent film has failed at most spectacularly.
Genisys (I still can’t believe they spelled it like that) has a huge, massive storyline but it attempts to throw all of it at you rather than centering it on the point of view of interesting characters. When this movie isn’t being inane, convoluted exposition that is so confusing and problematic that even a scientist couldn’t comprehend everything it’s supposedly saying, it’s showing you these characters and these action scenes that are above all else, weak in comparison to the first film. This is one of those movies that thinks that if it throws a lot of stuff at you, it will keep you distracted from how hollow and forgettable everything else is. So many plots happen and so many characters are introduced but when everything is added together, it still manages to equal zero. A lot is going on but it’s not done in a way as to where you can dissect all these different areas and find something that is comprehendible.
Here are just a few of the questions I had with the film. Everyone is acting so excited in the year 2017 about the release of Genisys from children to adults. It’s basically this system that will connect everyone and there technology together. Why would anyone be excited about this? I can maybe understand people of the field getting hyped but why are children freaking out and getting overjoyed about the release of this machine? There’s also this sacrifice near the end of the film that almost makes for a touching and sincere moment. Only minutes later, the film makes this sacrifice meaningless and the character returns with no true explanation as to why they’re back. Additionally, there’s a scene where Kyle meets a version of himself as a young child even though Kyle was originally born during wartime and during the apocalypse. So these two versions of themselves are living together and their timelines both exist and how does that happen and why doesn’t one of these timelines erase the other and AHHHHHH! This is the cinematic equivalent of an unsolvable Rubik’s cube I can give this flick the benefit of the doubt that if I saw some of the other movies it would make more sense but I feel like a lot of this can also be coughed up to the general failure on the part of the writers for this film.
When the film isn’t confusing its audience, you’re following around the unlikable, useless character that is Kyle Reese. I always assumed that Jai Courtney was a good actor who kept getting terrible films like Taylor Kitsch or Nicholas Cage but after watching this movie I can’t definitely say that Jai Courtney is a weak actor. He doesn’t have any charm or personality or charisma or any of the other stuff you need to be an action lead. He has zero chemistry with Emilia Clarke; an actress I can only assume is better than what is shown here due to her experience in Game of Thrones. The scenes where he’s supposed to be funny are dead on arrival and the moments where he’s supposed to be sympathetic and heartfelt end up feeling surprisingly obnoxious. It doesn’t help that the character is also pretty terrible. He spends the film complaining about everything and getting in the way of what Sarah and the robot want to do and it comes to a point where you just want him to leave. Charmless performance with a charmless character, go figure.
On a technical standpoint, the film is both pretty good and pretty bad. The visual effects have certainly improved and they even look impressive here. There’s this one chase scene with a bus involved that reminds you of what this film should at least be, good popcorn entertainment. That aside, this movie doesn’t succeed at a lot of the stuff the first film did so well. The original film has this killer soundtrack that makes the film feel energetic and alive. The motorcycle chase in the original has this moment with this techno score and the scene is so damn cool. This movie on the other hand features the most predictable and disinteresting music that you’ve heard a million times before in the modern action film. The original film also had this vibrant cinematography that made the film visually pleasing. The movie has these action scenes at night that were so fast paced and so beautiful looking in terms of how they presented the city of Los Angeles. Genisys instead features a lot of slow, uninventive action scenes that look dull and lifeless. Partially this is due to the worthless 3D, a gimmick used here that you eventually forget is even there. The Terminator is a classic because of how different and original it was in its technical aspects but Genisys feels less inspired by the original and more inspired by a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy of the visuals of a film inspired by the original film.
As I said at the start of this review, this film at least deserves some credit for getting a few things right and making the film at least not unwatchable. First off, as empty as the film ends up being, it never felt boring. I never felt the need to look at my watch and the movie remains at least mildly engaging throughout. As I mentioned, the visual effects are solid and for as stock as some of the actions scenes are, there are a few that mildly work. The movie also features two pretty good smaller parts with the guardian robot and a detective played by J.K. Simmons. Bringing Schwarzenegger back was a good idea that paid off and he definitely has the most likable and entertaining character of the film. He has some really funny moments and the few moments of humanity and heart in this movie are thanks of him. J.K. Simmons also deserves credit for making a character that would’ve made this film way more tolerable if he was the main character. In the 80’s, the character of Simmons was this cop who ends up getting saved by Kyle from getting killed by a robot. In 2017, he’s this detective who helps the leads out and believes in their story when they’re arrested. Simmons as always is good and the small storyline this guy was given was way more interesting that most of the main storyline with Genisys and the robots.
There’s a lot about this movie that is bad and in a summer that appears to have some pretty great films so far, you shouldn’t be in a hurry to check this one out. The leads, the action scenes and the storyline are all forgettable for as “big” as they attempt to be. The best I can say about the film is that it’s harmless. It goes through one ear and out the other and it doesn’t even leave an ugly taste afterwards. Some of the parts are decent enough and Schwarzenegger actually goes a long way in helping this film out but at the end of the day this is still a very mediocre and average movie. This is a mindless summer action flick, nothing more and nothing less.
Release Date: 7/1/2015
Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Emilia Clarke, Jai Courtney, Jason Clarke, Matt Smith, Byung-Hun Lee and J.K. Simmons
Directed by: Alan Taylor
Screenplay by: Laeta Kalogridis and Patrick Lussier