Blu-ray Review: Terminator: Genisys

There aren’t a lot of franchises that have taken as many kicks at the can when it comes to restarts as the Terminator series has. Back in 1991 Terminator 2: Judgment Day stunned audiences with its awe-inspiring visual effects for the time, and overall fresh take on the original. It took another 12 years before anyone attempted to continue the story of John Connor, and his constant need to be protected throughout time in order to fulfill his destiny as the eventual savior of humanity.

Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines was far lighter fare than the previous installments, but didn’t cause the stir that its predecessors did, and so the franchise went dormant once again until six years later. In 2009, Christian Bale took on the reigns of John Connor in Terminator Salvation, the first Terminator film to actually take place in the future, showcasing the war between man and machine over time travel. It was a planned trilogy, however, it failed to impress at the box office and everyone involved soon moved on with their careers.

There were many reasons that people said that potential reboot failed, with Arnold Schwarzenegger’s lack of involvement at the forefront. Fast-forward to the summer of 2015 and that theory would be put to the test, as Arnold returned in the franchise’s fifth installment, Terminator: Genisys.

To be fair, there’s something unique about the Terminator series, and while this is the fifth film, this movie is best viewed as the spiritual successor to The Terminator. With the time travel element in place, this chapter erases Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines from history. In fact, it actually erases Terminator 2 as well.

Without getting into the dynamics of it too much, Terminator: Genisys begins in the year 2029 on the night where John Connor (this time played by Jason Clarke) sends Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) back to 1984 to protect his mother from the original Terminator. It’s actually a really fun premise, though the beginning is bogged down by a lot of bland dialogue attempting to set the stage for what’s to come, while also connecting the story to moments briefly touched upon in past films. Less words and more silent nods for fans to fill in the obvious blanks would’ve worked a lot better here.

Outside of that, there’s definitely a nice throwback to the whole “No fate but what we make for ourselves,” line from the original film, in that the future is always in motion and is never set in stone. In Genisys, as Reese is being sent back in time, Connor is attacked by an unknown Terminator assailant. This causes Reese to see visions of a past he never lived, in a time when the world should have already ended.

One of the best parts of the film comes when the original Terminator arrives back in 1984. Make no mistake about it, Genisys has some impressive visual effects, and the team did a superb job creating a digital version of 1984 Schwarzenegger for these scenes. There are some truly great moments here, as nothing is as it’s supposed to be when Reese arrives, which alters the entire mission and future.

Now while it’s cool that Genisys goes out and does its own thing in terms of time travel, it also leaves some holes that I’m sure some have attempted to sort out, but overall come off as somewhat convoluted and somewhat nonsensical. This time out, Sarah is already a trained warrior and is ready for Reese’s arrival. Back when she was nine, someone (who is never revealed) sent back a Terminator to protect her, and he’s grown up alongside her – thus explaining why an older Arnold can reprise his role as the T-800.

So with everything having changed, Reese’s new memories cause him to know that they should not go to 1997 to stop Skynet, but 2017. At this point, both the original Terminator film and T2 are taken out of existence, which should mean that John Connor is never born, right? That part is talked about throughout the film, as Sarah (played by Game of Thrones star, Emilia Clarke) knows she’s supposed to fall in love with Reese and have John together, but is afraid to do it because she knows Reese has to die if that happens.

That all doesn’t make much sense, as they’ve already altered the timeline to a great extent, and if they don’t “mate,” as Arnold (or Pops, as Sarah refers to him) constantly brings up, how is John alive in the future? If he’s not born in 1984, and they jump ahead to stop Skynet in 2017 without having mated, then wouldn’t John only be 12 when the world ends? Does all this not matter because if they stop Skynet (aka Genisys) from destroying the world, then a resistance leader isn’t needed anyway? But if it’s all one timeline that constantly affects the past and future, then wouldn’t not having John in 1984 cause future John not to exist in the same way that would’ve happened had the original Terminator succeeded in killing Sarah Connor in the first place, and thus not allow Reese to go back in time to help this new Sarah right from the get go?

That’s what happens if you think about it too much, and you kind of have to! As soon as they decided to skip ahead to 2017, I immediately questioned everything above, and had to do my best to ignore it and just enjoy the movie for what it is. I mean, it’s trying new things, it’s just that with all the twists it tries to throw our way – like John himself coming back to the past midway through the film – you can’t help but question it. They never had you John! How are you able to come back if you were never born in 1984?!

Again, there are likely some conspiracy theories as to how this all happens, and maybe I’m missing a wormhole or something that would help explain it all. But when it comes down to it, it’s clear that Terminator: Genisys is really trying to reboot the franchise into its own thing, logic be damned, instead of simply being viewed as another sequel.

Unlike the gritty, R-rated Terminator and Terminator 2, Genisys is much more in the realm of a popcorn flick, heavy on both bright set pieces, and a lot more comedy than the previous films. That’s not entirely a bad thing, as the film had me laughing out loud on multiple occasions, and since the story is lacking on certain levels, at least the constant flow of jokes, alongside some well produced action sequences helped keep it entertaining.

While I didn’t mind the lack of Arnold in Terminator: Salvation, he’s definitely the highlight of Genisys, really carrying the film on his shoulders. If he weren’t in this, well, the movie would be a complete dud. Granted, the story relies heavily on him being in it, so to be fair, it probably wouldn’t have been made had he not signed on. He’s got some great lines, he’s clearly having fun, and while his battle scenes are special effects heavy, they’re still an awesome sight to behold.

The rest of the casting is a mixed bag, as Emilia Clarke is a fantastic actress on Game of Thrones, however, when it comes to playing Sarah Connor, she just isn’t given enough bad ass scenarios to work with to give her any sort of chance against Linda Hamilton. She’s much softer, which goes along with the lighter tone of the film, but is a stark contrast to where Sarah was in T2. Granted, Judgment Day Sarah Connor didn’t grow up with a T-800 bodyguard.

The main miscast comes in the form of Courtney playing Reese. Reese is a battle-hardened soldier who would do anything for Sarah Connor – which he does back in the original film. While you have to give an actor a chance to make a role his own, Courtney never comes off as serious, and his love for Sarah seems incredibly forced.

Again, the tone of the film calls for someone a lot more talkative and less tormented than the original Kyle Reese; however, to hear the producers all talk about how Courtney instantly impressed them to the point where they said, “That’s Kyle Reese,” after a joint read with Clarke makes me wonder who else was up for the part, as it’s hard to believe that this was the best fit for such a demanding leading role from a storytelling perspective.

Jason Clark is solid as John Connor, really demanding the viewer’s attention when he’s on the screen. J.K. Simmons also has a fun, supporting role, though it feels like there should have been more to his character with how long he followed this time traveling case.

Which brings me to the fact that there are still questions that remain unanswered, that were clearly going to be answered in the studios planned sequels in 2017 and 2018. But for now those questions will go unanswered, as the film failed to appeal to audiences domestically, and while the worldwide box office brought in a tidy sum, it’s unclear if the studio wants to risk any more money on future installments.

While some things are still unclear, and maybe the convoluted time travel plot would become a little less so if the sequels ever cleared things up (though they could just as easily muddy the storytelling waters even more, so who knows!) Terminator: Genisys can technically be seen as its own movie that doesn’t need potential sequels.

Much like what the Alien franchise is doing by creating Alien 5 as a direct sequel to Aliens, thus negating Alien 3 and Alien: Resurrection, Terminator: Genisys creates an alternate timeline that can allow viewers to choose to follow the path of T2: Judgment Day, or Genisys in terms of what events follow the original film.

While Genisys is good, light-hearted, action packed fun that will keep you entertained throughout, its convoluted story hinders it from being overly memorable. This is one to pick up for fans of Arnold, as he really shines stepping back into the role that helped solidify him as a movie star. And with the future of the franchise in limbo, you best enjoy his terminating ways now, as it’s unclear if he’ll ever be back.

Paramount continues to impress with its audio and picture Blu-ray transfers. The audio mixes sound fantastic, as the music, sound effects and dialogue all come out sharp and sounding beautiful together. The picture is crisp, and this CGI-heavy film comes off smooth, and never distracting.

Special Features:

Family Dynamics – This feature comes in at just under 16 minutes in length and sees the cast and crew talking about the characters in the film, and what it was like taking on such iconic roles.

Infiltration and Termination – This is the biggest feature on the disc, coming it at almost 26 minutes long. They talk about shooting in New Orleans and San Francisco, recreating the original 1984 scenes, as well as the future action sequences.

Upgrades: VFX of Terminator: Genisys This one comes in at 15 minutes in length and focuses on a lot of the film’s crazy visual challenges, including creating a younger Arnold, the new T-1000 liquid metal effects, and other shots from the future scenarios.

Paramount Pictures Presents Terminator: Genisys. Directed by: Alan Taylor. Written by: Laeta Kalogridis, Patrick Lussier. Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Emilia Clarke, Jai Courtney, Jason Clark, J.K. Simmons. Running time: 126 Minutes. Rating: 14A. Released on Blu-ray: Nov. 10, 2015.

Tags: , , ,