The original two Terminator films are excellent. The first is an example of a movie made for the sake of making a cool movie to be proud of. There was a lot of imagination, work, and passion put into the film. Stan Winston’s practical special effects and Brad Fiedel’s score add an incredible amount to the film’s soul and complement James Cameron’s passion for making the movie. They did the best they could do on a relatively small budget and it became a culturally influential work of art. The second film had the same zest of passion from all of these creators, but with more money to expand on a film made from the heart.
It could have ended nicely with the second one; Skynet is destroyed and the war prevented.
But, the series is too-well known and loved, so it was passed on to those that would use the name to almost guarantee sure-fire box office hits. In 2003, the Terminator movies continued without the heart and soul that were the reason for why the first two are classics.
Now comes Terminator: Genisys, the fifth in the series but with Rise of the Machines and Salvation being irrelevant. Genisys, if you’re wondering, refers to a cloud-like program that Skynet uses to try and take control of the world’s computer systems.
In Genisys, the story starts with Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) being sent back in time by John Connor (Jason Clarke) from 2029 to 1984 to protect Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke) from a T-800 infiltration unit. But, as Kyle goes back, something seems to go wrong.
As in the original movie, Kyle lands in the alley by the drunk homeless man (whom Kyle gets his pants from, which is something that bothered me in the first movie, because why would he want to keep wearing a filthy hobo’s pants?), and then gets chased into the department store by the police. And, also like in the first movie, the Terminator arrives at the observatory overlooking Los Angeles where that group of punks are. These scenes have been recreated very well, which deserves a lot of credit. After this, however, everything diverges.
Kyle is confronted by a T-1000 (Byung-hun Lee) in the department store (where he still gets his trench coat and Nike shoes), the guardian T-800 (Arnold Schwarzenegger) confronts the other T-800 Terminator at the observatory, and then Sarah with the guardian smash into the department store with an armored van and pick up Kyle.
At this point, the movie diverges from being interesting to frustrating. The Terminator and Terminator 2 settle the audience into the world where the viewer can also form a connection, empathy, and understanding toward the characters. Also, the characters seem more real and the world more organic. There are all kinds of subtleties, smaller narratives, and attention to details that make the world naturally flow which gently commands the viewer’s attention and interest.
The story flows with the action and exposition is not wedged in. When Kyle is explaining the T-800 unit and the future war to Sarah in the first one, it is relevant to the situation and doesn’t stop the tension of having the T-800 and the police searching for them in the parkade.
And, of course, many memorable lines are recycled. They used to mean something in context. Such as the Terminator, when at the police station in the first movie, telling the officer at the front “I’ll be back” and then driving through the front door. Even in the second movie, this line was downplayed and used relevantly and in a somewhat similar situation to the original.
With Genisys, there is no subtlety and there isn’t a real sense of urgency. It certainly is a spectacle with a lot of special effects, but it sometimes amounts to little more than chaos and noise. When there is action in the first or second, there is tension because of how they can draw in the viewer with a simmering pace, rather than constant full force.
The seams stand out and it is easy to think about all of the plot-holes of Genisys. Indeed, there are plot-holes in the first two movies, but they are glossed over by everything that made these movies great.
There is a large plot-hole and general lack of logic in Genisys that really gets on my nerves. And this is not the only example of it. It’s seen in many movies, television shows, etc…
Here’s a little background to give context to what I’m talking about; in addition to Kyle going to the alternate 1984 when Sarah is already being protected by a Terminator, Sarah and her Terminator built a time-displacement machine of their own. But to activate it, they need the CPU of the Terminator sent to kill Sarah. Before taking the clothing from those punks at the observatory, the friendly Terminator stops it and Sarah destroys it with a .50 calibre sniper rifle.
Since they have the chip now, Sarah and Kyle go forward to 2017. In this timeline, the 1997 Judgement Day never happened. However, for some reason, even though he was born during the war in 2004, Kyle Reese was born in this alternate timeline, as well. He has memories of the two timelines, and even meets himself as a child.
The problem is that Reese shouldn’t have been born in the alternate timeline because the events leading to his conception and birth were drastically different. In fact, events before a person’s conception don’t have to be drastically different to begin with. A small, seemingly inconsequential, difference in history would drastically change the story of history.
And, on that note, Kyle and Sarah would conceive a different child than the one they would have in the first movie, because it’s under different circumstances. Although that might not matter that much, as long as this child is a boy, named John, and is trained to lead the resistance.
Now that I’ve got that out of my system, back to the other problems of the movie. They go from 1984 to 2017, which is not a plot-hole, but a plot and movie-making convenience. If I had to guess, it’s because they didn’t want to go through the trouble of having to make the setting look authentically like 1984. They couldn’t even be bothered to give Emilia Clarke that ‘80s style perm – which probably was a good idea, so I’ll sweep that one under the rug.
***END OF SPOILERS***
There are dead-ends, too much convolution, and too much convenience. J.K Simmons plays a police officer that believes Sarah and Kyle and wants to help them. He is mocked by his fellow officers and has a troubled past, but his character is ultimately pointless to the story. He leaves the plot as simply as he arrived into it. He could have been an attempt at a comic relief, but it didn’t work if that was the intention.
Also, the main characters are quite shallow. Sarah and Kyle don’t have the same tone in their characters as they originally did, and don’t really act according to the situation. It’s more cartoonish. And, for most of the movie, they yell at each other and bicker as if it were a network television show for a younger audience. Why do young characters, redone in new movies like in J.J. Abram’s Star Trek, have to be jackasses and caught up in pettiness?
Even when they confront the machine version of John Connor, they have to yell at each other there, too, as if there isn’t something really urgent and extraordinary going on. Actually, come to think of it, they never act as if there is something extraordinary going on as if they are superheroes in a children’s comic or cartoon.
I think a big part of it and other problems have to do with the film makers casting a wide net to get as many people in the audience as they can. Genisys is rated PG-13 and was intended on being rated PG-13. It’s watered down and aimed at the lowest common denominator because they don’t want to risk not making large revenue at the box office.
There isn’t the creative freedom to have deeper themes, characters, and situations that might warrant the MPAA giving the film a restricted rating. Instead of being a dark and violent tech-noir movie, it’s an action-packed superhero spectacle. It’s being slammed over the head with a blunt instrument with blaring noise.
It’s another movie where kids can stare at their cell phones until something loud happens, cueing them to look up at the movie screen.
As a fan that deeply appreciates the importance of The Terminator to sci-fi and movies in general, I’ve come to think that it’s best that there are no more Terminator movies.