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Terminator Genisys
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by Peter Sobczynski

"No Shirley Manson But Plenty Of Garbage"
1 stars

If I had to choose one word to sum up the experience that is "Terminator Genisys," it would be "lazy." This may sound like an odd word to choose to describe a film that begins with a full-scale nuclear holocaust, rends the very fabric of space and time willy-nilly and deploys all the firepower, explosions and car chases that can be bought with a nearly $200 million budget but I cannot think of a better way to describe this leaden and utterly perfunctory exercise in cinematic water-treading that fails to offer longtime fans of the franchise a single thing that is new or exciting or newcomers any reason to get them interested in the first place. As a result, the film that was supposed to supply the big-screen fireworks this holiday weekend instead demonstrates all of the firepower of a few wet squibs.

The film is, of course, the continuation of the long-running series that began in 1984 with a low-budget and seemingly unassuming B-movie potboiler that brought together a filmmaker whose only previous work had dealt with the horror of flying piranha, a largely monosyllabic star whose most significant screen role to that point had been as Conan the Barbarian and a weirdo story about a half-human, half-robot killer sent from a machine-controlled future to kill a woman before she can eventually give birth to the leader of the future human resistance. And yet, that film, 1984's "The Terminator" proved to be an instant classic thanks to an ingenious screenplay (one that Harlan Ellison would eventually lay some claim to via a lawsuit) and resourceful direction by James Cameron, a knockout performance by a perfectly-cast Arnold Schwarzenegger and action set-pieces that put its higher-budgeted brethren to shame. A few years later, Cameron and Schwarzenegger reunited for the mega-budgeted sequel "Terminator 2: Judgement Day" and the results were miraculous--the rare follow-up that was the equal--possibly the superior--to the original because it took viewers to new places and, coincidentally, offered up arguably the biggest quantum leap in the history of visual effects since "2001: A Space Odyssey." Unfortunately, that astonishing one-two punch would go on to be diluted in subsequent years by such meh continuations "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines," "Terminator Salvation" and the television series "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles," only the first of which included Schwarzenegger and which Cameron had nothing to do with at all.

Perhaps correctly realizing that no sensible person has even thought about those later installments since they first came out, the people behind the painfully titled "Terminator Genisys" have essentially decided to ignore them entirely and essentially stick with only the first two films as its frame of reference. Once again, we learn that in 1997, 3 billion people were killed in a nuclear holocaust that occurred when the Skynet computer system became self-aware and turned against humanity and the few survivors have formed a resistance movement against their cyborg overlords led by the charismatic John Connor (Jason Clarke). Once again, we learn that a Terminator cyborg (Schwarzengger) has been sent back in time to kill his mother, the seemingly unassuming Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke), in 1984-era Los Angeles and once again, brave resistance fighter Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) volunteers to go back in time to protect Sarah and (Spoiler Alert for anyone who hasn't been paying attention for the last 30 years) wind up fathering the child that would grow up to be John Connor.

Just as Reese is about to zap back, however, he sees John being attacked by something and has weird visions of childhood memories that he does not remember having. Things get even weirder when he arrives in 1984 and winds up being rescued from a shape-shifting T-1000 (Byung-hun Lee) by a ready-for-action Sarah and, more astonishing, another Schwarzenegger-model cyborg that has been protecting her since she was a young child and whom she affectionately has dubbed "Pops." (Somewhere in movie hell, space has been made for the person who came up with the idea of a cuddly Terminator named Pops, presumably right next to the guy who thought that a PG-13 rating and a cute little boy were just the things needed for a "Blues Brothers" sequel.) As it turns out, Reese has somehow entered an alternate timeline and in this one, Judgement Day has been rescheduled for 2017 and it will be brought about by Genisys, a cloud-like operating system app from the good people at Skynet. (It cannot be coincidence that this film began screenings on the same day that the new version of iTunes hit the marketplace, can it?). Reese and Sarah jump forward in time to 2017 (don't ask) to bring down Skynet once and for all, again, but without giving too much away (though the trailers certainly do), let us just say that there are some complications.

I suppose "Terminator Genisys" deserves credit for having a certain audacity in its willingness to take the almost universally beloved narratives of the first two films and simply chuck it out the window in order to bring in an entirely new timeline to follow. Of course, to actually pull his gambit off would require a storyline that is as good, if not better, as those that Cameron developed and that is where screenwriters Laeta Kalogridis and Patrick Lussier have totally failed here. Pretty much all of the curveballs that they toss at the viewers fail to make any significant impact and only serve to remind the longtime fans of how well done the originals were--the banter between our heroes is both forced and oddly inappropriate considering they are trying to save the future of mankind, the would-be catchphrases reek of desperation ("I'm old, not obsolete" is no "I'll be back," to put it mildly, the dramatic twists are anything but and it was probably not the wisest idea to put all the explanatory scientific mumbo-jumbo in the mouth of someone who has difficulty properly pronouncing the word "cellular." For his part, director Alan Taylor, whose previous effort was the woeful "Thor: The Dark World," brings no noticeable flair or style to the big action beats--lots of stuff in blown or shot up along the way but the whole thing has been staged in such an anonymous manner that you'll forget about them even as they are unfolding before your eyes.

The best thing about the film is Schwarzenegger in his return to his most iconic role but even he seems to be more or less going through the motions--even a seemingly surefire moment such as the one where he brawls with his 1984-era personage doesn't quite come off. J.K. Simmons also gets some laughs in a supporting turn as a cop with a long-standing interest in all things Terminator-related. On the other hand, Emilia Clarke is kind of wasted in a standard-issue bad-ass babe role that never allows her any of the complexities that she gets to work with on a weekly basis on "Game of Thrones" and Jason Clarke is similarly underutilized as her son. As for Jai Courtney, who has been stinking up the joint in a number of movies of late, he is so lame and ineffectual as Reese that if he is meant to represent mankind's last great hope, then I for one would like to welcome our robot overlords.

"Terminator Genisys" is to the "Terminator" series what "Superman IV: The Quest for Peace" and "A Good Day to Die Hard" were to their respective franchises--an unnecessary bit of hackwork that has no reason to exist other than to exploit the goodwill generated by their predecessors in an exceptionally uninteresting manner. Fans of the original films are likely to be appalled with how thoroughly the memories of the originals have been trashed while younger viewers will find themselves wondering what the hell the big deal was in the first place. Although the post-credits sequence suggests that future films are in the picture, this one is such a bummer that it may wind up doing what Skynet has failed to do since the Reagan years and bring the entire world of "The Terminator" to an end.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=27057&reviewer=389
originally posted: 07/01/15 11:18:42
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User Comments

2/13/17 morris campbell tired end it already 1 stars
1/25/17 danR meh... That's all; have a nice day. 3 stars
3/29/16 Aj wales Where is it going. Really. Arnie is just to old at this point. 3 stars
9/30/15 Loopy Flawed but had enough interesting moments to keep my eyes open 3 stars
8/27/15 Laura Sometimes, there are movies better left as they were and move on. 3 stars
7/13/15 mr.mike Been there, done that. Ahnold and Simmons good. 3 stars
7/10/15 henry best one yet----arnold still got it 5 stars
7/08/15 Luke C It's time to travel back and kill this franchise before it can do anymore damage 2 stars
7/06/15 Jack Insulting, Idiotic and worst of all...BORING. 1 stars
7/06/15 Bents Arnold is excellent...he's the only thing that makes this move watchable. 3 stars
7/06/15 Martin Tired franchise, looking for a new life - so it was back to its future. 2 stars
7/06/15 KingNeutron This is the Arnie we all know and love, he nails it again here. Clarke was great too 5 stars
7/04/15 Bob Dog A solid update of the franchise - heaps of good Terminator fun!!! 5 stars
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  01-Jul-2015 (PG-13)
  DVD: 13-Oct-2015

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  01-Jul-2015 (M)
  DVD: 13-Oct-2015

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