Tuesday, August 11, 2015

'Terminator Genisys' Wastes a Brilliant Reboot Concept

Terminator Genisys is the fifth installment of the Terminator franchise.  It was an attempt to drag the fallen franchise out of the muck.  Unfortunately, Genisys further dragged it deeper into it instead.

The plot of Genisys reboots the Terminator timeline.  Just the same with the first movie, Kyle Reese is sent back in time by John Connor to ensure his existence by protecting his mother, Sarah Connor, from a Terminator that is sent back in time intending to assassinate her, as well as to make his conception possible (since, as everyone familiar with Terminator mythology knows, Kyle is actually John’s father).  However, in this new timeline, an enemy T-5000 has infiltrated the resistance.  And Kyle sees it attack John Connors while he’s about to be sent back in time.  Moreover in this new timeline, a reprogrammed T-800 – the good guy Terminator – has been sent back further back in time to protect a 9-year-old Sarah.  This Terminator, which Sarah has affectionately named “Pops”, serves as her father figure while growing up.  When the original bad guy T-800 arrives in 1984, an adult Sarah and “Pops” are ready for him and destroys him.  Meanwhile, a T-1000 is also sent back to 1984 by Skynet to kill Kyle Reese, but he’s rescued from it by Sarah and “Pops”, who has also prepared for it.  With the events of the prior movies now negated, the three of them – Sarah, Kyle, and “Pops” – now has a new objective: to prevent “Judgment Day” from happening in this altered timeline, now set on 2017 instead of 1997, which Skynet would bring about through an app named “Genisys.”  Unfortunately for them, the T-5000 that attacked John Connor has infected him at the cellular level, transforming him into a T-3000 Terminator.  John is then also sent back in time by Skynet to protect its own development from being sabotaged by Kyle and Sarah.  (In my opinion, John Connor as the villain would have been a cool plot twist if marketing didn’t spoil it.)

Terminator Genisys is not that awful as I thought it was going to be.  I think it’s fourth in quality among Terminator films (Salvation is still the worst, and I actually enjoyed Rise of the Machines).  Maybe because I was already prepped of its mediocrity that I didn’t have any big expectations about it to be disappointed about.  Hence, knowing what I’m getting into allowed me to actually find chunks of enjoyability in it.   And it does show some brief flashes of how it could have been a fresh and smart movie.  However, they’re exactly just that – flashes.  Nothing more.  It lacks the well-thought and cohesive narrative to make them concrete.

Genisys has a lot of stupid things going in its plot (for starters, the Genisys app isn’t that kind of app everyone will be excited about in real life).  Several things don’t hold up well.  Even if one doesn’t take time to think about them, these are pretty noticeable.  The convoluted story leaves an uncomfortable amount of dumb plot holes and problematic plot questions left unanswered (which, to be fair, might be revealed in a sequel).  And even if logical sense can be achieved if one would put an effort to sort the narrative out – which I doubt – the chore isn’t worth it for such story that I found unrewarding.

Maybe if one is able to turn his brain off and be capable to let these plot problems go, there’s some degree of satisfaction to be found in the story.  Unfortunately, I was unable to do such thing.  The story’s problems bugged me.  A lot. 

Besides, the Terminator franchise shouldn’t actually just be a series of dumb action movies.  It shouldn’t merely settle with brainless, passable fun.  The first two movies are deep science fiction masterpieces.  Being just purely “dumb but fun” isn’t good enough.

Heck, Genisys isn’t even interesting as an action movie.  The thing about the Transformer films is that, though they are generally awful movies, they do have eye-popping action going for them.  Genisys doesn’t even have that.  The action sequences are uninspired and badly shot.  Those who still remember the thrill given by the action sequences of Judgment Day will find the action in Genisys boring.

I sincerely hoped Terminator Genisys would have turned out to be good.  A revitalized Terminator franchise is something that would have been nice to be excited about.  The whole “alternate timeline” thing actually has the potential to be awesome – it was a brilliant reboot concept.  But the concept is wasted by using it on a film consisting of a problematic, messy, and flat story; terrible dialogue; unlikable characters (with the exception of the Terminator, who has his badass reputation to thank for this goodwill); unexciting visuals; and casting Jai Courtney in a big role.

I don’t really hate Genisys.  Again, seeing it this late helped for I wasn’t expecting much from it anyway due to what others have already said about it.  So I was entertained at least.  Nevertheless, it’s a forgettable movie that I will not deliberately seek to re-watch.

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