Terminator Genisys ★★★½

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

Terminator Genisys is such a frustrating film. Terminator was already one of those franchises slumped into mediocrity by subpar sequels, that the announcement of a new stand alone trilogy featuring Schwarzenegger's return to his signature role didn't exactly let expectations skyrocket. Everyone (= those who still gave a shit) was prepared for another letdown. Then why the frustration? Because Genisys gets so much right, only to fuck it up with stupid decisions.

Now this is not a film that was ill-concieved from scratch, quite the contrary, actually. The alternate timeline approach, the explanation for the T-800's aged look and upgrading him, the updated theme of mankind's blind faith in technology (one of the core elements in Cameron's films), Sarah Connor not being a carbon copy of either her previous incarnations, and Skynet infiltrating the leader of the resistance, are all great ideas. Alas the execution...

It pains me to say this, but Jai Courtney is not the biggest issue here. Yes, he is miscast as Kyle Reese, not because of his limited acting skills, but because of his physique. He looks like man who spends most of his time at the gym, not like someone whose life never knew anything but war and deprivation. It's not his fault, the way the character was written is the problem.

By far the worst decision was Jason Clarke as John Connor. I like Clarke, he is not a bad actor. I usually ignore Salvation because it feels more like a Mad Max film than a Terminator film, so the only impression of the adult post-judgment day John Connor we previously had was the short glimpse in Judgment Day, where he was played by Michael Edwards. That scene conveyes the impression of Connor as a quiet, hard man, worn-out by endless battles and being mankind's last hope of survival. Which totally makes sense. But not the tiniest trace of this can be seen in Clarke's face. That's not the face of a man who carries the fate of the world on his shoulders. To make matters worse, Clarke is let down by the weak dialogue the script gave him to work with. It gets better though, once Connor is corrupted by Skynet. Yet this dramatic and tragic twist would've had so much more impact, had we seen a convincing portrayal of him prior to that.

Next cause for grief are the horrendous attempts at humor. What fucking halfwit thought it would be a good idea to recycle the only bad moment in T2 (the T-800's attempt to smile) and let him do it again? And not only once, no, but three fucking times? Probably the moronic sibling of the other fucking idiot, the one who decided to already reveal the biggest plot twist in the trailer. Somewhere on the planet stands a sad, lonely tree working hard to replace the oxygen these two fuckwits are wasting.

Look, I know you can't make a $ 150 m blockbuster without some kind of comic relief, and as dark and serious in tone as Cameron's original film. Not in the Hollywood of the 21st century. I get the point of making concessions to average moviegoers. But at least do it right. And in some way they did actually. Sarah and Kyle not getting along, constantly bickering with each other got that job done just fine. There was no need for more. After all it's still a movie about the impending doom of mankind, for fuck's sake!

Anything else to complain about? Sure. Why didn't they shoot this with an unrated cut in mind? I never expected Genisys to be as violent and bloody as The Terminator. T2 wasn't either and it worked perfectly. So a PG-13 theatrical cut was to be expected, although you could point out that Prometheus and Fury Road were equally expensive movies that were released with an R-rating (alas neither one used the given leeway properly). Extended/unrated cuts on Blu-ray are common practice, every other bullshit comedy gets one, yet a film were it actually would have made sense, does not?

Some of the dialogue is poorly delivered too. I know it's rather picky but this is one of the easiest things to avoid. Of course you'd need a director who recognizes subpar spoken lines and lets the actors repeat 'em until they nailed it. Alan Taylor does not seem to be such a director otherwise he wouldn't have let Emilia Clarke get away with half botching "Come with me if you want to live!" (on the other hand her "Now, soldier!" only a few seconds later is awesome) or Schwarzenegger with the abysmal "... protect my Sarah."

None of the above issues are of fundamental nature. All could have been avoided or fixed without costly or time-consuming adjustements. That's why Genisys is so frustrating.

For all it's shortcomings I like what the film has to offer. To see Schwarzenegger once again in his most famous role is a lot of fun. Arnie fighting against himself was fantastic, albeit it could have been a little longer. The alternate timeline offered the opportunity to do something different with the Sarah Connor character than the Cameron films and I think Emilia Clarke was the perfect choice for this version of her. It's nice that they didn't degrade her to a damsel in distress because of her young age. I already mentioned the not so smooth relationship between Sarah and Kyle which makes totally sense since he clearly wasn't prepared for her being not the help- and clueless woman he expected to meet.

When I saw it for the first time, the different time levels were a bit confusing, but already the second viewing showed that the story is far less complicated than it seemed. Granted there are a few things that are unexplained and unfortunately will remain so in all likelihood since Paramount seems to have scrapped the planned sequels for good. It's sad, I really liked what Genisys set up and would have loved to see how the story continued.

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