Sunday, 5 July 2015

Terminator: Genisys

John Connor sends Kyle Reese back in time to protect Sarah Connor, but when he arrives in 1984, nothing is as he expected it to be.


The first two instalments of the Terminator series were both exquisitely engineered entertainments. Since then, the series has been on a steady decline. In fact the sequels didn't have real reasons to exist. Time travel movies are a leap of faith on the part of a filmmaker. The good ones lay out a set of rules that, as preposterous as they may seem, operate within their own air-tight logic; with puzzle pieces snapping perfectly into place. It's not the case of Terminator: Genisys. A simple summary  can't even begin to cover a plot so dense that the trailer succumbed to spoilers. Trying to explain a plot that rewrites the entire series, Genisys - as the newly released Poltergeist - will serve as a good test of how keen the audience is to see basically the same old thing in a new (but very similar) bottle.  This time jumping thing plays well enough if you're not thinking too deeply about it. "Time travel makes my head hurt" yells Kyle Reese midway through the movie and so it was echoed by the audience. Director and writer made a hash of the saga's mythology, tweaking timelines and messing with its tenants for their own convenience. It's confusing. Indeed, there are several points in the script that feels like the earlier movies had criss-crossed together like the plots overlapping timelines. Is it very creative writing? Or are they ripping off the originals? Arguably it is both. 


Genisys tries to explain certain things that happened in the first two films, while also adding a lot to them. For instance, in the first Terminator when Kyle Reese lands back from time travelling he smashes right onto the concrete whereas Arnold Schwarzenegger has this epic intro, the movie gives you a reason for that. There are a little bit of connective tissue between this movie and the first two; but for the most part, the timeline is incredibly confusing and some of it make no sense whatsoever. Especially the ending which has one WTF moment that lacks credibility, even in this logic defying loopy universe. Arnold once again declares "I'll be back" in this fifth installment of the Terminator franchise. His return is vital, of course. J.K Simmons surprisingly brings some much needed humour to this really complicated storyline. Plus, they were clearly aiming to benefit by association with Emilia Clark,  Game of Thrones cast member. She can be fearless at moment, but she can't do much about the very one-note dimension of her character and that goes as well for Jai Courtney as Reese, a role more devoid of depth or wrinkles. That leaves it to Arnold to save the day. He was 37 when the first entry was released in 1984 and is now 67, but he's still imposing and amusing up to a certain point. He can't dominate the way he did 30 years ago, even with the visual effects equivalent of plastic surgery; telling his cohorts "I'm old, not obsolete" but that will be up to the audience to decide. 


Visually, we've seen it all - those images, or many like them - so many times before. Action scenes are accumulated and seem like warmed over versions of action we've seen in early Terminator entries or elsewhere. How many times have we seen the Golden Gate Bridge destroyed in a big budget movie in past years? Did they already rebuild it since San Andreas? There's a lot of action, a lot of things get blown up, but none of it was filmed in a memorable way, not one scene was more memorable than any other scenes we've already seen. They're all "just fine", where they shouldn't be "just fine". They are part of a series of amazing action sequences. The fact is that the movie tries to be too big and it is BIG but it can't carry the weigh it loaded on itself. A scene during the end credit titles suggests that a follow up to this film is already intended by its makers. However if Arnold really wants not only to come back but to be welcomed back, he'll need one day to unterminate. I suppose there wasn't any reason to expect more from this movie than the lure of watered-down nostalgia, and it barely succeeds at that. Finally, like any other 3-D extravaganza released in recent summers Genisys is a wildly expensive, decent looking, mildly diverting mess that doesn't make a lick of sense. Its connection to older better movies cons us into believing it's better than it is. 


Overall, if you stick to the fact that it's the first Terminator but it's a new timeline and they are doing things differently now, that would have been fine; but they decided to go in another direction. It should have been better than just a turn-your-brain-off type of movie you'll have fun. There's good humour, Arnie is great, but for the most part characters are dull, the timeline is screwed and the action is disappointing.

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