A dumb, unoriginal movie made by dumb, unoriginal people. Terminator: Genisys (2015) has received well-earned negative critical reception and press. This latest from a franchise well past its tether is the summer blockbuster equivalent of nails meeting a chalkboard.
That its sheer awfulness was entirely predictable makes Terminator: Genisys even more disappointing. Worse, it is insulting on multiple levels. It reportedly did not perform as well as hoped for on opening weekend, and that is partly because it caters solely to the formula-craving fanboy audience it inherited. It seems to care not one bit for creating a new audience.
Ultimately, it offers nothing new, although there is a half-assed effort on the part of its hack writers (Laeta Kalogridis and Patrick Lussier) and director (Alan Taylor) to inject convoluted rehashes masquerading as new plot developments. This they do with the standby alternate timelines, which we have seen a lot recently in franchise reboots, such as J.J. Abrahms’ Star Trek (2009). The resume of the production team should have indicated, to anyone but an executive, that they simply were not up to this challenge. Predominantly, however, the blame must go to Paramount for ordering this unnecessary mishmash and handing it over to a pedestrian team. Studios might be financially savvy, but one is tempted to ask aloud if production executives actually go to movies, and whether they have anything better to produce with their money.
Humphrey Bogart once said: “The industry hurts itself by making so many lousy movies. It’s as if General Motors deliberately put out a bad car.” Terminator: Genisys is Paramount’s shamefully intentional lemon, counting solely on star Arnold Schwarzenegger and hoping the movie will just make itself.
It does not even succeed at that. The plot, for those who inexplicably care, features John Connor (Jason Clarke) who defeats Fascist machines that create a holocaust which wipes out most of humanity. In retaliation, the machines send a robotic terminator (Schwarzenegger) back to 1984 in an effort to kill John’s mother, Sarah (Emilia Clarke) to prevent John from being born. John gets hold of another time machine and sends his daddy, Kyle (Jai Courtney) back to 1984 as well, so he can save and impregnate Sarah. If that sounds overly familiar, just wait for alt timeline plot twists.
This time around, the 1984 version of Sarah is already an apocalyptic warrior, as opposed to the clueless, helpless waitress of the original. She keeps the company of an old, gray-haired terminator (Schwarzenegger), who protects her from the new terminator (a digital Schwarzenegger). A nearly seventy-year-old Schwarzenegger can hardly compete with a CGI Schwarzenegger. Old Schwarzenegger does get a clever/cute line: “I’m old, not obsolete.” The only thing more grating than macho attempts at clever/cute (think of Arnold’s cringe-inducing ‘thumbs-up’ finale of the hopelessly overrated Terminator 2: Judgment Day) is geriatric macho attempts at clever cute (think William Shatner in Star Trek: The Final Frontier).
Nor can Clarke and Courtney compete with the original Sarah and Kyle (Linda Hamilton and Michael Biehn). Oh, what to do if the actors are just as lacking in personality and originality as the director and writers? You throw in lotza “character revelations” and even more CGI car crashes with exploding terminators.
The theme behind Terminator: Genisys is one that has been used since Beethoven’s “Fidelio”: the rights of the individual supersede the collective, which is hypocritical given that the film was dictated to the principals by Paramount.
Although original Terminator director James Cameron was not involved with Terminator: Genisys, he has been canonized by Taylor and company, which the previous two franchise entries failed to do. Naturally, when young sycophants kiss a veteran’s ass and stroke his ego, said veteran is ready, willing, and able to stamp the film with his endorsement, which is precisely what Cameron did.
That might be fine for undemanding fans, but not for the rest of us. Reportedly, the terminators will be back for two more lemon sequels straight off the assembly line.