(US - 2015)
Directed by Alan Taylor. Written by Laeta Kalogridis and Patrick Lussier. Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jason Clarke, Emilia Clarke, Jai Courtney, J.K. Simmons, Byung-hun Lee, Matt Smith, Courtney B. Vance, Sandrine Holt, Dayo Okeniyi, Michael Gladis, Wayne Bastrup, Griff Furst, Afemo Omilami. (PG-13, 125 mins)
The fifth entry in the TERMINATOR franchise also functions as a reboot that eliminates the third and fourth films from the series continuity. That's too bad, since the middling TERMINATOR: RISE OF THE MACHINES (2003) and TERMINATOR: SALVATION (2009), about which I recall nothing except Christian Bale's on-set meltdown with cinematographer Shane Hurlbut, look like neglected, misunderstood classics compared to the ill-advised TERMINATOR: GENISYS. The best thing GENISYS has going for it is the return of Arnold Schwarzenegger. Fans will no doubt get a kick out of his re-introduction but that joy quickly fades into a blurred rubble of narrative incoherence, CGI histrionics, and post-Michael Bay destruction porn. Indeed, TERMINATOR: GENISYS represents the TRANSFORMERS-and-Marvelization of the franchise. James Cameron's THE TERMINATOR (1984) and TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY (1991) look like quaint, quiet relics compared to the garish stupidity on display here. Story and character are sacrificed in place of so much computer-generated mayhem that half the film looks animated. There's no need for a CGI'd Arnold to be bouncing around the frame like a pinball, and good and evil Terminators hurling one another around like WWE stars. It's THE TERMINATOR reimagined for gamers who don't have a problem with the way movies look today in yet another attempt to make Schwarzenegger matter to teenagers and millennials, when it's clear from his recent box-office grosses that, while his aging fan base might come out to see him, younger fans don't give a shit, and GENISYS isn't likely to change that. To them, Schwarzenegger is a relic whose films they've occasionally seen their dads watching on TNT. GENISYS resorts to cheap references and groan-inducing pandering to the lowest-common denominator because it has nothing to say and no reason to exist. Don't believe me? Then justify the scene where the Terminator, Sarah Connor, and Kyle Reese get arrested to the tune of Inner Circle's "Bad Boys." Yeah, that's right...the COPS theme. Do you find that funny? Yeah? Then by all means, go see TERMINATOR: GENISYS. And thank you for being the reason blockbuster movies are as dumbed-down and generic as they are.
MAGGIE, the most out-of-left-field project of his career since directing a 1992 cable remake of CHRISTMAS IN CONNECTICUT starring Dyan Cannon. Not everything in GENISYS is awful, but the worthwhile moments are few and far between, and by the time one character's true nature is revealed in a midway twist (actually spoiled by some of the trailers), the film becomes too confused with itself to care. It doesn't use Arnold to its best advantage, instead relegating the Terminator to basically being a sideline character (much like THE EXPENDABLES 3 left a tired-looking Arnold babysitting the parked chopper) and talkative exposition machine, as he was conveniently implanted with all of this knowledge prior to being sent to 1973 in the alternate timeline. When was the Terminator ever this chatty? While the iconic star gets a few decent moments, none of the other actors fare as well. Emilia Clarke is OK as Sarah, but Jason Clarke is stuck with an unplayable John Connor, and it doesn't help that the film is never really sure what it wants the character to be. Fresh off of his Best Supporting Actor Oscar for WHIPLASH, J.K. Simmons, in the most inconsequential post-Oscar role this side of Michael Caine in JAWS: THE REVENGE, plays a laughingstock L.A. cop who believes Sarah's and Kyle's time travel story before vanishing from the movie. Former DOCTOR WHO Matt Smith is a holographic representation of Genisys in a plot development that in no way reminds one of RESIDENT EVIL. Worst of all is Courtney, apparently the go-to guy when you've decided to drive your franchise off a cliff (A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD), who's a complete black hole as Reese, emoting like a lunkheaded jock and demonstrating none of the desperation and humanity of Michael Biehn's performance in the first film.