I can’t stand not talking about this. I was excited to see this movie, as I always am with any Schwarzenegger or Stallone film. This being a new Terminator movie, I was double excited.
The experience while watching it was bittersweet.
Let’s get a few things clear before we get into the nitty gritties. Terminator 2 was one of the best films ever made. It easily makes my top ten best-movies-ever list. (Hmm. Good idea for a future blog post here.) So I don’t expect any Terminator movie to be even close to Terminator 2, nor should anyone else.
The first terminator movie was also utterly fantastic. Terminator 3 was, despite what people say about it, a good movie, but nowhere near the first two. The fourth film (Terminator Salvation) was not a good movie, but it wasn’t terrible, and it is perfectly watchable if you’re a big Terminator fan (otherwise you should pass on that one).
Terminator Genisys, taken as a whole, falls just below Terminator 3 but well above Salvation. This is hard to say, because much like Casino Royale, Terminator Genisys is actually two separate movies, one of them fantastic, the other somewhat boring. I will explain. Beware; this review contains spoilers.
What I Liked
1. The first 25 minutes. The first act of this movie is so goddamn good I could barely contain myself. It’s one of those rare times where you can really see the filmmakers were making this for the fans rather than to fit a specific demographic or formula.
In the first 25 minutes or so, this movie takes everything awesome about the Terminator series and throws it all at you in one giant glob. And what a great, tasty glob it is. You see shot-by-shot remakes of key scenes from the first Terminator movie, only with fun and unexpected twists thrown in. They explain minor details of the first film that were previously unexplained. (Why did the terminator appear perfectly sitting and calm while Kyle Reese impacted harshly on the street?) You get to see an old Arnold terminator fight the young 1984 Arnold terminator. You get to see a liquid T-1000 kick ass. You get to see a T-800 skeleton go into full-on killer mode. You get to see future humans battle HKs and new spider-like robots. All of the CGI looks really crisp and realistic too.
All of that is covered in the first 25 minutes. If you’re a Terminator fan, it’s one long nerdgasm, and it’s utterly fantastic.
The problem is that once all that goodness is done, the film slows down into something very standard and typical. It almost becomes a completely different movie. (I should start calling this “casinoroyalis”.)
2. Arnold. He’s great. In movies like the Last Stand, his acting clearly needed work and he was clearly out of practice. In Terminator Genisys, he’s absolutely perfect. I’ve loved watching this guy my entire life and this film was no exception. Seeing Arnold being the terminator again would be enjoyable for me even if the movie completely sucked. Great job, Arnie. We’ve missed you.
3. Emilia Clarke is ridiculously attractive. Not an important thing to like in a movie, but technically it’s on my “what I like” list. I had some problems with her too, and I’ll get to those in a minute. She’s certainly a “type,” but she’s definitely my type. Many women I’ve dated have looked like her. Every time she was on the screen I was feelin’ good.
4. Terminator vs terminator. There were several scenes throughout the movie where a terminator battled it out with another terminator. Crashing through walls, bashing each other with large, heavy objects, etc. I love that stuff and it was fun to watch.
What I Didn’t Like
1. Too convoluted. I’ve discussed time travel before, and when you do time travel, you need to make sure to be very consistent with your rules and explain what you’re doing. If it’s too confusing, you damage the movie. Terminator Genisys achieved about 75% of this. They certainly explained things, but there were parts where it didn’t make any damn sense. You simply cannot do this in a time travel movie. You must be more careful.
2. No good vehicular action. Every Terminator movie has at least once action scene, usually several, where big, clumsy vehicles are used in interesting ways to strong effect. Genisys didn’t have this at all. There was a scene with a bus and later a helicopter, but both scenes were very brief and boring. Even Terminator 3 had a fantastic car chase involving multiple police cars, ambulances, a pickup truck, a fire truck, and a crane truck. The entire time I was waiting for Genisys to do this, and it really sucked that it never appeared.
3. Jai Courtney. Wow. For some reason no one can explain, this boring bastard shows up in Tom Cruise movies, Die Hard movies, and now Terminator. WHY? He’s not a bad actor, but he’s the most blah boring guy you’ve ever seen. He was Kyle Reese in this film, a very, very important character. He made no attempt to act like Kyle Reese (or the actor, Michael Biehn) nor was the character written correctly. In the first Terminator movie, Kyle Reese is a hard-edged, battle-hardened soldier. In this movie, he is just the typical young wisecracking guy.
What a fail.
Hollywood, if you cast Jai Courtney in anything important ever again, I’m going to kick your ass.
(Oh wait…he’s going to be in Suicide Squad…oh shit…where are my brass knuckles…)
4. Emilia Clarke. I said she was hot, and she is. She’s also a good actor. She also, unlike Jai Courtney, made at least some attempt to act her part, the Linda Hamilton Sarah Connor. The problem is that Emilia is a horrible choice to be Sarah Connor. Emilia is way too short, way too cute, and way too sweet and young-looking.
Both Linda Hamilton (in the movies) and Lena Hedley (in the TV show) were tough-looking, intimidating, serious Sarah Connors, which is who Sarah Connor is. They were still women so they were small, but they were tall enough and men didn’t tower over them. Emilia Clarke, barely 5’2” looked like a little kid standing next to Jai Courtney or Arnold. Not only did it look wrong, it actually looked funny. Sarah Connor is not supposed to be funny. As much as I love her, and as skilled as she is, Emilia Clarke was a bad choice for this important role.
5. The personification of Skynet. (Spoilers.) This is a minor thing, but it still bothered me a little. In this movie, they chose to represent Skynet by an actual person, Matt Smith of Dr. Who fame.
Personifying Skynet is a cool idea, and I like Matt Smith, but they didn’t do it well here. One of the few things I really liked about Terminator Salvation was how they personified Skynet by using Helena Bonham Carter. The scene with her was actually creepy and threatening. I liked how they kept her as a huge, emotionless face on a giant screen instead of a normal person walking round. Matt Smith is just a normal, smiling person in Genisys and he didn’t seem threatening at all.
Skynet is the “big bad” of the entire Terminator series. If you’re going to make it a person, you’d better make damn sure that this person is truly daunting and intimidating. Not Dr. Who.
6. The trailers ruined everything. You probably already know this but all the trailers and posters for this movie gave away all kinds of important spoilers, like John Connor being a terminator. This movie would have been a much more fun experience had I not known this. The trailers gave WAY too much of this movie away, to the point of damaging the film.
The bottom line is that I loved the first 25 minutes of Terminator Genisys but was disappointed with all the rest. I liked the first 25 minutes so much that I’ll probably get the blu ray when it comes out, but man, they really screwed up this opportunity to make a really fantastic Terminator film.