By Jonathan Decker (Family therapist, film critic)
WHAT'S TERMINATOR: GENISYS ABOUT?
This sequel seek to reboot the franchise, establishing an alternate timeline in this man vs. machines tale. The plot is far too complicated to summarize here beyond that.
IS IT ANY GOOD? (GRADE: C)
Imagine that, in your fridge, you've got leftovers of a once delicious meal. They've long-since expired, but instead of throwing them out you mix in some new spices to cover the smell (and taste) of rot. How is it after reheating? It might taste okay, reminiscent of the past meal with some exciting new flavors, but heaven help you with the digestion.
Such is the case with Terminator Genisys, which has enough nostalgic elements from the original two films to feel like a new serving from that universe. It then mixes in plot twists galore, Arnold's screen presence, attractive new actors, and big action at such a furious pace that, while it's happening, it's an enjoyable experience. It's only afterwards that, with only minimal questioning, it all falls apart and registers as a disappointment.
The original films had plot holes, certainly, but they also kept their narratives lean and simple; this one's a convoluted mess. There's a section set during the first film's 1984 that is by far the most inventive part of the movie, with a fun attention to detail, but it's downhill from there. The big plot twist, spoiled relentlessly in the film's marketing campaign, registers as more and more of a misstep once the film is over, especially considering the series' previous mythology. I'll give the writers credit for trying something bold, even if it's unsuccessful.
Arnold, while far past his prime, is actually quite good here. Much like Harrison Ford in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the CrystalSkull, he's better than the movie he's in (and Genisys, to its credit, smartly addresses his aging). Emilia Clarke is solid as Sarah Conner. She's not as gritty or tough as Linda Hamilton, but she brings a likable humanity to the role. Jai Courtney, perfectly unlikable as villains in Jack Reacher and Divergent, lacks charisma as good guy Kyle Reese here. He gets the job done as the hero, but has little chemistry with Clarke.
Terminator Genisys aims for a balance between heart, brains, humor, and action, but is only wholly successful at the latter. In the other areas it's hit-or-miss. While it has enough firepower to function as summer entertainment in the air-conditioned multiplex, it's far-removed from the edge and impact of Jim Cameron's first two films, and is likely soon to be forgotten.
IS IT OKAY FOR YOUR KIDS?
Terminator Genisys is rated PG-13. There is one f-word and a fairly regular stream of other profanities (sh*t, g*d-d*amn, etc). There's obscured read nudity, and a male and female embrace in the nude in order to time travel (her breasts are obscured somewhat). A robot repeatedly asks a woman if she's “going to mate” with a man. There's a lot of action violence, mostly towards machines, but with some people impaled and shot bloodlessly.
ANY WORTHWHILE MESSAGES?
We all determine our own futures and destinies. Enemies can become friends, and friends can become enemies.
For a superior time-bending thriller, try Frequency starring Dennis Quaid and Jim Caviezel.
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Licensed marriage and family therapist. Husband. Father. Film critic.