I definitely went into Terminator: Genisys prejudiced by negative review headlines. Although I don’t read reviews until after I see a movie, these headlines, some word of mouth, and the low aggregate rating on Rottentomatoes made it pretty clear that this was garbage. Also, I had posted images from Entertainment Weekly’s misguided photo shoot about a year ago, and that was the source of my own negativity. Part of that is also my lack of love for the franchise itself. I greatly enjoyed the original Terminator back in 1984 – great movie, miles ahead of other entries in the sci-fi genre at the time, and it still holds up well. Terminator 2: Judgment Day, no, I can honestly say that as with most James Cameron movies, I’m not a fan. He’s a great technical visionary, but for me of all the big name directors, he’s the weakest. I wasn’t amazed by Terminator 2, Terminator 3 was tv-movie weak, and Terminator: Salvation was watchable, but that was about it.
So yeah, going in to Genisys, I had a lot of my own baggage. I think that was why I mostly enjoyed the unusually long first act. I did think that shuffling the pack of the first two movies and bringing them together like that was actually kind of fun, and it definitely made me wonder how and why all this was happening (though there’s one core mystery that’s huge, but once it’s mentioned, it’s never addressed again in the movie, by anyone!). To me, this was a great way to attempt to reboot the franchise. It could have been better, but I was definitely onboard during this part.
Trouble is, once the action moves to the underground trap for the T-1000, it all comes to a screeching halt, all of it. The action, the movie’s internal logic, the pace, everything. This is where the movie’s biggest plot hole opens wider than a Sarlacc’s maw. Maybe someone can explain to me (in a non-apologistic manner) why the bargain basement Terminator model represented by Ahnuld has any fucking concept of alternate timelines (even down to how they work), and that he contains the knowledge to build a fucking time machine. He’s a robot designed for killing humans. That’s what he was built for. He’s just a smart weapon. It’s like giving every grunt the knowledge to be a general. What the what? This is pretty much that eye-rolling part of the movie for me, where the writers prove themselves incompetent or just plain lazy. It’s a literary no-thought-required Get Out Of Jail card. Absolutely garbage writing. Another one is the silly nod to Fascism in the opening part of the movie where humans are being captured and bar coded. I have no idea why a villain bent on destroying the human race would be spending the effort rounding them up to bar code them, then … what, exactly? The franchise is named “Terminator”, not “Capturer”, dipshits.
When the action shifts to 2017, the movie becomes utterly uninteresting, thanks to the odd marketing decision to play the movie’s big reveal in the previews. I already know Connor is now a Terminator, but now I don’t care. To be honest, even the reveal was done poorly, so maybe that’s why they showed their hand in the trailers. The trouble with the Connor character here is that it does piss on the franchise’s consistent narrative that saving Connor is the object of every one of them. This was just a stupid and mostly meaningless attempt to do something different, and it doesn’t work. The part where he himself does the “absolutely will not stop, ever” bit is forced to the point of it being embarrassing. It’s straight out of a fan fiction playbook, and it has no place in professional screenwriting.
At the end of the day, the worst thing I can say is that this movie was mediocre. It wasn’t bad enough to be truly terrible, but never made the effort to be more than a serviceable action movie. I read that the producers were trying to make this the first of a planned trilogy, but how much more mileage can you get out of a franchise where the bad robots have time travel access and literally have no idea how to use it to kill their enemy. Skynet has got to be one of the stupidest movie villains of all time.
© Andrew Hope: 2017