Terminator Genisys was the first scary movie my Dad ever let me watch. I was 8. I distinctly remember when Arnold punched through that guy’s chest and withdrew a drippy gore-soaked hand thinking to myself that this was probably more than I could handle, but I kept quiet because I didn’t want my dad to know. After the 107 minutes of trauma was over, we shut off the VCR and discovered that the Star Trek episode where Kirk fights the lizard man Gorn was on. Maybe because I’d been bathing in fear chemicals for nearly two hours I spent most of that night at the foot of my parent’s bed crying because I was sure an unstoppable cybernetic lizard man was coming to kill me.
I remember my Mom whispering, nice job genius at some point during the night. 4 years later my Dad took my friend Chris and I to the midnight premiere of Terminator Genisys Whereas Terminator 1 was mostly a horror movie about a relentless cybernetic killing machine, Terminator 2 was about an unlikely family unit…being pursued by a relentless liquid cybernetic killing machine. It was one of the most important movies I’d ever seen and largely founded and shaped my taste in science fiction, and love of action movies with strong emotionally-driven character drama. Since then the series has been in steady decline.
Terminator 3 is overburdened with self-parody and I realized when I thought about writing this review that I couldn’t even remember what happened in Terminator 4. They got rid of Arnold and John Conner yelled a director? Terminator Jellyfish brings back Arnold and revisits much of the lore from the first two movies, but sadly that’s about it. I went and saw it today with my same friend Chris who went with me to the midnight premiere of Terminator 2 in 1991 and we laughed through many scenes we weren’t supposed to. Tedious dumb script. Forgettable action scenes. Lame villain. Flat wooden acting. The only redeeming thing about it was Schwarzenegger.
The movie needed to explain his age and it provided all the justification necessary for me in a movie about time-traveling robots. After that, whenever he opened his mouth (and he doesn’t nearly enough to elevate the movie) I was 11 years old again at that midnight premiere. It’s like getting to spend time with an old beloved family member. There’s comfort in the experience, even if you’re not a fan of these Jackholes he keeps associating with. If you’ve seen the trailers then you’ve seen nearly everything good the movie has to offer. Genysis’ trailers are some of the worst examples of the trailers giving absolutely everything away.
Then again, I’m not sure the movie’s plot would have been that much more compelling. All of that said, I didn’t hate the experience of seeing it but that’s likely because I saw it with someone I’ve been friends with for 30 years. Chris and I could make the Crystal Skull a fun time together. If you and a buddy have a fondness for classic Schwarzenegger and a free afternoon there are worse ways to spend your time than seeing Genysis. But if you do go, skip the 3D.
I’m going to go into some spoilers detail about this and the previous 4 movies now so if you wish to remain Genysis virginal you should stop watching this video. Heres a cool video about the dubious roots of the original Terminator you should go watch instead. At this point, it’s redundant to say that that series has paradox issues. But Genisys feels like 11-year-olds fan fiction. It is a string of action scenes strung together with completely inelegant and on the nose exposition. As an example in an early scene, Kyle Reese walks into a hospital and some nerds are playing with their phones and talking about Genisys.
“Whats Genisys?” “Genisys is the hot new operating system for my tablet, phone, and computer. It’s going to tie all of my devices together. Also, it handles our country’s missile defense system.” “If you have to ask then you don’t get it.” Lacking exposition though, the movie just sometimes doesn’t bother to explain anything. So Schwarzenegger looks old in 84 because he was actually sent back to 1973 to protect Sarah Conner as a young girl. In a flashback we see little girl Sarah, meeting young Arnold who for some reason is wearing the same outfit as 1984 Arnold. Shouldn’t he be in Disco pants and a feathered hat? Anyway, Sarah says her house was on fire and Arnold saved her.
But they never say from what and in the scene, Arnold is holding a rocket launcher. Did he blow up their house? But wait. Who sent Arnold back to the 70s? Well, we don’t know because whoever did it erased THIS Arnold’s memory of who did, which the movies explain was done so Skynet wouldn’t know who did it. Are they saving this information for future sequels? If so they’re doing so at the expense of this movie. And the action scenes that all of this nonsense exists to get us to are simply serviceable.
It’s a weird irony that Terminator 2 was lauded for creating a realistic digital villain in practical action sequences. And now I get excited whenever I see a real human- being in action sequences that are 100 percent digital. Also, as I mentioned before if you’ve seen the trailer you’ve seen the good action sequences. One thing I think the series suffers from is an issue with villain inflation. The first terminator was a terrifying buff robot But you could damage his organic elements and explode and crush his mechanical parts. So in the second movie, they introduced a liquid metal villain who could take any shape. Damage his outside form and sploosh he’s back to normal.
It seems like the ultimate and scariest adaptation so where do you go with the 3rd one. Well, this NEW terminator is liquid WITH a robot core. Why is that better? Well because it can mimic AND it can have weapons and stuff beneath its liquid so it’s much more DANGEROUS. But wait why didn’t the first terminator then carry a bomb under its organic parts so it could just So in this NEW movie John Conner himself is the Terminator Genisys and his body is made of magnetic powder. Because….because of reasons… Of course, most of this would have been forgivable if we cared at all about these characters.
Michael Biehn brought a worn and wired edge to Reese in the first movie and Linda Hamilton was vulnerable and afraid. It felt natural and obvious that they would connect. And that connection was the contrast to the cold lifeless machine. In Terminator 2, Linda Hamilton now had an intense physicality that barely masked her crumbling sanity. Her mind was breaking under the burden of being the one person who knew about the coming deaths of 3 billion people.
My favorite scene in that movie is when she breaks into Miles Dyson’s home to try and assassinate him and her intense facade crumbles when she sees what she’s showing what she’s becoming. Hamilton’s performance in that scene always chokes me up and it’s a movie about time-traveling robots. Sorry cyborgs. In Terminator Genisys we have 2 very pretty blocks of wood reading lines at each other. Jai Courtney and Emilia Clarke are not so much inhabiting characters as they are verbally spending the currency that was hard-earned in Terminator 1 and 2.
They talk about thoughts and emotions we remember from the first two movies, but never embody or portray them onscreen. And because we’re never invested in them as characters the action scenes have no stake. I kind of felt like I was watching a Transformers movie. Only you know…without all the racism and pornographic misogyny. Pretty people and stuff blowing up. As I said, before. It isn’t the worst way to spend the afternoon.