Terminator Genisys Director: Alan Taylor
Screenwriters: Laeta Kalogridis, Patrick Lussier
Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jason Clarke, Emilia Clarke, Jai Courtney, Lee Byung-hun, Matt Smith, J. K. Simmons Paramount Pictures
Rated PG-13 | 119 Minutes
Release Date: July 1, 2015
“Hasta la vista…”
Directed by Alan Taylor (Thor: The Dark World), Terminator Genisys is the fifth film in the Terminator series. It’s also the franchise’s nadir — just in case you thought it couldn’t get any worse than Jonathan Mostow’s Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003) or McG’s Terminator Salvation (2009).
In the year 2029, John Connor (Jason Clarke) leads the human resistance against the machines. Here’s the thing about this franchise that boggles my mind: why do studios and screenwriters insist on making this goddamn series about Future John Connor™?
Post-apocalyptic John Connor is without question the most uninteresting character in Terminator lore, and yet filmmakers and executives believe that audiences are dying to see the battle-hardened leader John Connor was destined to be. We’re not. Seeing Future John Connor™ in action is like watching Baby Darth Vader™ grow up – we don’t need to see it to understand it happened. How John Connor beats the machines isn’t important – it never has been – all that really matters is that Sarah Connor gives birth to humanity’s greatest liberator.
But here we are, with another actor playing Future John Connor™. Connor has been portrayed on screen by SEVEN different actors – and yet the only version of this character that resonates is Edward Furlong’s teenaged portrayal in Terminator 2: Judgment Day, but I digress. This new John Connor discovers that Skynet has a secret weapon: a time machine that could end the war before it begins. He assembles a team of soldiers (including Jai Courtney‘s Kyle Reese) in a last-ditch effort to destroy the time weapon and end the war.
Before the Resistance can reach the device, Skynet sends a T-800 to the year 1984 to kill John’s mother, Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke). As a result, Connor sends Reese back in time to protect her. This is the prelude to James Cameron’s The Terminator, except this 1984 is different; things have changed.
In this timeline, Skynet sent a T-1000 back to 1973 to kill Sarah as a child, but the assassination attempt was thwarted by a T-800 (Arnold Schwarzenegger) programmed to protect her. Nine years later, the Sarah Connor of 1984 is a soldier – a techno-warrior raised by the aging Terminator, who she affectionately refers to as “Pops.” When Reese lands in this new, different 1984, it’s Sarah Connor who says, “Come with me if you want to live!” Get it? It’s a twist, guys. Are you sure you got it? OK, moving on!
After rehashing some memorable moments from Cameron’s original film, Sarah and Kyle use their own time machine (built by Pops) to travel to San Francisco, 2017. Why? Because Reese has a childhood memory from a life he never lived that tells them to. The plan is to destroy Cyberdyne Systems before the tech company launches Genisys, a “Killer App” that will become Skynet. In response, 2029 Skynet sends a new Terminator model – the T-3000 – back to 2017 to stop Pops and the gang.
Now that we’ve got the basic, yet very convoluted premise out of the way, let’s talk about how horribly miscast Terminator Genisys is. Jai Courtney is the new Sam Worthington – a black hole of personality with the charisma of cold eggs. I don’t know who Courtney is playing here, but it’s not Kyle Reese. There is only one Kyle Reese, and his name is Michael Biehn. As for Emilia Clarke, the Game of Thrones star provides a half-hearted Linda Hamilton impression that’s only serviceable in contrast to Courtney’s lifeless performance.
If there’s anyone turning in a solid performance in Terminator Genisys, it’s Schwarzenegger. The only problem is, Arnold’s got too much personality, making him the most human character in the whole damn movie. J. K. Simmons shows up in a minor role and delivers a few laughs – some of the only humor that works in Taylor’s goofy, gag-filled movie – but his character serves little purpose otherwise.
And really, that’s the story of this whole movie. Other than serving as a soft reset of the series so Paramount Pictures can keep churning out shitty sequels, there isn’t a lot happening in Terminator Genisys. Actually, let me rephrase that. There’s tons of stuff going on, but none of it makes any sense, and none of it matters, because Alan Taylor makes it impossible to care about these characters or their struggles. There’s nothing tangible here – it’s soulless digital drivel, slapped together in hopes of cashing in on an existing IP. This is the worst that big-budget blockbuster filmmaking has to offer.
My only hope is that one day the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) becomes self-aware and – after seeing the never-ending torrent of Terminator movies in production – decides to wipe out humanity. Until that fateful day, we’re forced to endure this gauntlet of diminishing returns. Paramount can’t be bargained with. It can’t be reasoned with. It doesn’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead.