Sunday, November 15, 2015

Terminator Genisys


  Terminator 2 is one of my favorite movies, ever. Easily in my top three of all time. It's predecessor, is in my top ten. Terminator 3, and it's successor aren't even in my top 250. The short answer? Neither is this one. Except... it's still better than 3 and Salvation. I don't hate the casting but it's generally pretty bad. I think at this point you could've actually had Edward Furlong come back as John Connor and it would've been okay. But Jason Clarke? Really? The guy is about as threatening as a sitcom. He's arguably a worse casting choice than both Christian Bale and Nick Stahl. Of course, this is me- Terminator 2 fanboy arguing that nobody is able to live up to the standard set by a preteen from the early 90's. In fact, that's my whole attitude towards this whole movie.

  All you can even do is pick apart the story and report on how well the characters are casted. Well, Jai Courtney does alright with what he's given, but he's nothing special. Emilia Clarke is the one stealing the show, and even though she is way too pretty and young looking to play Sarah Connor, she's the one turning in the best performance. She's a tragic character and if nothing else, the movie seems to understand that. Byung-Hun Lee has the most minor of roles totally maybe less than five minutes of screentime but for anyone who doesn't think that's enough to make an impression, let me refer you to J.K. Simmons' character. A cop who has had a crazy theory about time travellers and robots ever since he ran into our main characters back in the 80's, and then again in the near future of 2017. He's fantastic. He's all heart and brings a lot of welcome humor into the mix.

  Again, he's only around for maybe five minutes, but he's one of the most memorable characters in the movie. Not that that's a gigantic accomplishment, the movie is entertaining but nothing wholly special. Sarah, Kyle, and their terminator ally- (a role Arnie could perform in his sleep at this point) have good chemistry and their scenes as a unit save the movie from being a total waste. It's plot, it's story- both are kind of garbage. The story is ludicrous and the plot is so convoluted that even the characters in the movie seem to be aware. There's a not-so-fine line between complex and complicated. A complex movie is a movie that will make sense if you take the time to decipher and understand it's intricacies, whereas a complicated movie is one that just doesn't really know what to do, so it does just about everything.

  Thus...

  There's a scene in which a character remembers a memory of his childhood that never happened from an alternate timeline, and uses that as the basis for his motives throughout the movie. That's beyond thin, that's absurd. Off the top of my head I could've come up with a better story, and I did. Multiple times. Terminator Genisys knows that it's story is bullshit, so it smiles and chugs along at a breakneck pace to keep you entertained enough to not care. And, Jesus Christ- the pacing. Holy shit. For a two hour movie, this felt like 90 minutes, if that. They crammed so much in there that the quiet and reflective moments that mark some of the most emotional moments of the franchise are barely afterthoughts here. There's... bits and pieces, but more detail was paid to the special effects and the general over the top absurdity of the action scenes that they forgot we need to care about what happens.

  That is why T2 is one of my all time favorites. We care. That movie made us care, to the point of having "allergies" in our eyes, about a big clunky robot, a bratty-ass teenager, and his psycho drill sergeant of a mother. Somehow, the most emotional moments of Terminator Genisys happened in time frames we don't get to see. A core concept of the movie is that a terminator was sent back in time to protect Sarah Connor when she was a child. This would've made for a more compelling story overall, even if it is a retread of T2. A terminator raising a child? Come on! Where was THAT movie when we needed it? Protecting Sarah through the years from who the hell knows what? That was the sequel to Judgment Day nobody can admit they'd love to see.

  It would've been total fan service, sure, but it would've been great. It's what we wanted to see happen with John and his terminator. Instead, we had our hearts crushed (in a hydraulic press?) as the T-800 explained how he can't cry, and then lowered himself into the molten steel. This movie has a moment like that, but we get to have our cake and eat it to because when Arnie says he'll be back, at this point... we should just believe him. Terminator Genisys isn't bad enough to be offensive, nor is it good enough to redeem the franchise, but it actually does give me a bit of hope. They got enough of the tone and the feel right to warrant a watch, and maybe even more movies.

  There's enough interesting concepts in this movie to sustain the franchise for years to come. A biquel (bi-pre-sequel?) about the terminator raising Sarah perhaps? I'd watch the hell out of that. When all is said and done, Genisys never let me get bored. It's a slick and well packaged movie that knows it can't be taken too seriously. They play up the emotions where they can, amidst lengthy action scenes brimming with CGI, slow motion, and lots of explosions. There's plenty of wink-wink references for longtime fans, and enough clever bits that you'll have enough to stay interested. I enjoyed it, I can't say I didn't, but it didn't affect me in any significant way.

  Terminator 2 was one of three movies that literally changed my life. One could say my standards and expectations for the franchise are unreasonably high, but if you can't meet those standards... you're not doing anyone any favors making a new Terminator movie. I had a fun time with Genisys, but it really wasn't great. It's not as bad as it could've been, but it's ultimate Achilles heel is the story. Too convoluted to make sense, and that's not okay. Otherwise, it's fun in a shut-off-your-brain kind of way, but little else. Come for Arnie shooting stuff again, stay for Emilia Clarke being amazing. If you're watching for any other reasons, you're likely to be let down. Somehow I'm hoping for a sequel though. How weird is that?

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