Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Terminator Genisys Review

The Terminator franchise. Being honest, before this past week, this was a franchise that I was fairly unfamiliar with. I've loved watching movies my whole life, but I haven't been a huge movie buff until the past five years or so. Because of this, there are in fact plenty of movies that I haven't seen. For one reason or another, the Terminator movies are ones that I just missed. This is something that I've always wanted to fix, but never got around to doing so. The release of Terminator Genisys provided the necessary motivation for me to finally go on a Terminator marathon. I meant to get that marathon done BEFORE the movie was released, but I missed that goal, so that's why you're getting this review late. Sorry. But now I have completed my goal which was topped off by me seeing Terminator Genisys in 3D IMAX, so now it's time to give you my review of this movie. I hope you appreciate the unique prospective I will give on this whole franchise as one who hasn't grown up on these movies.

Terminator Genisys starts off in the year 2029. John Conner has led the human race to near victory over the machines, whose goal is to completely wipe out the human race. This all started on August 29, 1997, a day known as Judgment Day wherein an artificial defense system known as Skynet was put into place. Skynet was created to defend the human race, but this went horribly wrong and instead wiped out most of the human race on that day. When John Conner is finally on the brink of victory, Skynet, in a move of final desperation, sends one of these machines, known as a terminator, back to the year 1984 to murder John's mother Sarah Conner before John is born. To counter this move, John in turn sends one of his soldiers named Kyle Reese to that same day to protect Sarah and stop the terminator. Now if you're like most people and have actually seen The Terminator, you'll realize that this plot sounds awfully familiar. This is because Terminator Genisys starts off pretty much the exact same way as the original film. The catch, though, is this time around Sarah Conner is ready for him because she actually had a terminator sent back to when she was nine years old to protect her and prepare her for this day. Thus begins what is essentially a reboot of the franchise as they go the same route that the X-Men and Star Trek franchises did by using time travel and alternate time lines to reboot the series.

Before I give you my thoughts on this specific chapter, I feel it's necessary for you to know how I felt about the previous four. Now I could write a long review on each of these movies because I do have a lot of thoughts, but I'm going to do my best to just give a brief summary of my opinions because I do want to focus more on Terminator Genisys with this review. I knew that the first two movies were considered some of the best action movies ever made, especially the second movie Terminator 2: Judgment Day. When I sat down to watch these two movies, I was prepared for an insanely fun ride and that is what I got. But I also got a LOT more. I got two movies that were some of the most well-written action/sci-fi movies I've ever seen. The story in both movies were very smart, intriguing, and thought-provoking as they dealt with issues of time travel and fate in possibly the smartest way I've seen. Both movies were also full of well-written, well-acted characters that you easily became attached to. And they weren't afraid to stop the action for long periods of time to develop these characters. In fact, I got a lot less action that I was expecting and I loved that. Brainless action movies are fun at times, but smart action movies are even better and both of James Cameron's Terminator films were extremely smart action movies. When the action did happen, holy freaking cow was it epic and fun. I was very impressed.

Then I watched the third movie. This one actually had slightly better reviews than the fourth movie, which even included a positive score on Rotten Tomatoes, so I was expected some enjoyment out of it, but wow. Not only did that movie not give me even an ounce of entertainment, it felt blasphemous and offensive to the previous two. Here's the biggest issue I had. In Terminator 2: Judgment Day, they ended things. They stopped Judgment Day from happening. Sarah Conner grew up to be an old grandma and John Conner ended up as a politician. It was over. Done. Finished. If they wanted to bring it back, at the very least come up with a smart way to bring it back that is consistent with the first two. This movie was possibly the worst attempt at a franchise revival/continuation that I've ever seen. Suddenly we started out with John as a 20-something-year-old guy and we are supposed to believe that his mom dies in 1997 from leukemia? It completely ignored the end of the second movie as if they just expected people to forget what happened at the end of that movie. I didn't understand. But that wasn't the only problem. The characters sucked. The story was awful. The action wasn't that fun. The villain was lame. Everything that made the franchise great was gone. Even Arnold's character was dumb and boring. I was shocked at how bad it was. I don't even really want to talk about the fourth one because that was absolutely useless. Didn't even feel like a Terminator movie.

So now after two completely awful and offensive movies, I was suddenly not excited for the Genisys at all. Not to mention the trailer showed the whole movie. I went in ready to absolutely tear this movie to shreds in my review. I did choose to see it in IMAX 3D, but that was only because it was the same price as a normal ticket on that specific day, which was only $5. The 3D was useless as usually and even the IMAX wasn't that great compared to other movies I've seen. But hey, it was cheap, so it's whatever. However, after going into this movie ready to rip it to shreds, I actually was taken aback at first. If they were to do a sequel to Judgment Day, this is the way to do it. In the first one a terminator is sent back to kill Sarah as an adult shortly before John is born. In the second one, a terminator is sent back to kill John when he's a kid. In this one a terminator is sent back to try to kill Sarah when she's a kid. Thus when Kyle Reese comes to her in 1984, he is totally taken aback because she's ready for him and knows everything, she has a terminator there protecting her which confuses the heck out of him, and there is a T-1000 (the type of terminator from the second movie) there in addition to the original terminator. For a moment I was wondering if this was going to be a movie that I was going to enjoy.

Nope. Had they stayed simple with this movie and stayed there in 1984 with the three terminators (one bad, two good) as well as Sarah and Kyle, this could've been a fun movie. I would've still taken issue with it because of how perfect the second movie ended the franchise, but I may have come out of the movie with a fairly positive outlook. The biggest issue here is that the movie quickly gets very confusing. Time travel is a subject that needs to be used with extreme care because if you get too carried away things start getting messy and convoluted. That's exactly what happens here. I don't want to spoil what happens, especially because the trailer already does plenty of that, but I will say that Kyle Reese travelling back to 1984 is not the only moment of time travel in this movie. Thus when I try to look at the current timeline of all four movies that feel like Terminator movies (Terminator Salvation being the one I'm not counting), this timeline is really hard to explain. There's a few other things in the second half of this movie that make things even worse, but I won't spoil things. I will say that they tried to include suspense halfway through, but it wasn't suspenseful one bit because I knew everything that was going to happen. When are we going to learn to NOT spoil the movie in the trailer? Stupid.

Another positive with this film are actually the characters, the best of which being Arnold returning as the terminator. He was not in Terminator Salvation (another one of the many reasons this movie is useless) and he wasn't very good in Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines. This time around he's back in more ways than one. I'd argue that he's back to his former glory that existed in Terminator 2: Judgment Day. I loved him in that and I loved him in this. I also actually liked Emilia Clark and Jai Courtney as Sarah Conner and Kyle Reese respectively. Are they as good as Linda Hamilton and Michael Biehn in the original? No way. Did they have the chemistry that those two had? Absolutely not. But yet they aren't bad in this movie. They are good in their own individual ways. A lot of people like Emilia Clarke from Game of Thrones and although I don't watch that show, I can see why they do. She made for a great strong female character in this and I appreciated that. Jai Courtney is an actor that I do like, although I'm still waiting for him to have a breakout role. I feel that's going to happen here soon. That's not the case here, but it's not a bad role. I also even think that Jason Clarke did a decent job as John Conner. I hated the way his character was written, but he did the best with what he was given and he made for a better adult John Conner than Christian Bale. Sorry Batman. I don't think you fit as John Conner in Terminator Salvation.

Yes, I did go into this movie expecting to rip it to shreds, but I started as surprised. But the further and further we got into this movie, the more it just derailed. The characters were good in this, so they won't get partial blame for this movie like the characters from the third and fourth movies do. The problem here is the writing. It's just not good and once again I am convinced that the Terminator franchise should've ended after the second movie. It was the perfect ending. If you are going to bring it back, be smart with it and justify your existence as a sequel. I can now say that we have had three straight Terminator sequels that have failed at this. Thus what was once a grand and glorious franchise with the first two movies has now become the textbook example of what is wrong Hollywood today. Sequels can be good. I am not inherently opposed to sequels. But I am super frustrated with poorly done sequels made just to cash in. Can't we just learn to leave certain franchises alone? Apparently not. As far as grades go, I would give The Terminator a 9 or 9.5. Terminator 2: Judgment Day definitely gets a 10. Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines and Terminator Salvation would be somewhere between 3 and 5. I was actually ready to give Terminator Genisys a 6 or 6.5 because it's not as bad as the previous two, but then there was a mid-credits scene that basically said yet another sequel is happening and that made me so frustrated that I am now giving Terminator Genisys a 5/10.

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