It’s hard being a Terminator in the age of Ultron. Even though your movie has the same pounding music as the Transformers and Avengers movies have, your robot parts don’t dazzle the audience anymore and the liquid metal effect looks cheap to make. At the least you need to invent a new kind of robot, shiny and chrome, to rise above the rest, but it is an uphill battle when your script carries the baggage of past movies.
The Terminator “universe” is not something that I particularly care about. The only reason that this is a “franchise” is because Hollywood wants to play it safe by reaching back to classics, and not because the first movies offer such a rich world of characters and settings. Because they don’t. Films 1 and 2 were nice end-80s classics with rather simple stories and limited world-building.
After hearing that a new Terminator movie was made, I thought: “sigh, not again” and when I saw the weirdly spelled word Genisys I sighed even more. I don’t think that the original movies really needed sequels, and then Part 3 and Terminator Salvation weren’t worth much. Then after the watching the trailer I actually got a bit excited and I didn’t mind the spoilers that much because the trailer really had to win me over with action to give this a chance.
In a valiant effort to tie all the plotlines together from past movies, the screenwriters have created such a convoluted story that it hardly makes sense anymore. All the time, you have the feeling that you almost get it, if only you had an hour to pause the film and sketch the timelines in an infographic. I’m sure the screenwriters made that graphic, but they should have distributed it along with the 3D glasses. Maybe display it in the upper right corner.
Let me say first what I liked about the movie. The old Arnold Schwarzenegger. He is the one element of humor and spice. Most of what he says and does brings a spark into the movie, and really he is the best reason to see it. If I ever see this movie again it will be because of Arnold, and perhaps the special effects in the second half.
The film starts off well. Say, the first half hour is quite entertaining, but then it gets more and more chaotic and unfocused. In the second half of the film, the special effects go up a notch, but in service to the action the logic breaks down more and more until not only the plot is beyond comprehension but little things don’t make sense anymore. Characters survive stuff that they shouldn’t survive, robots don’t use their gifts properly, corporations have flat screens everywhere in odd locations just for the audience. Little things that pull you out of the movie.
There are two types of dialogue in this movie. First, the twisted plot requires the characters to explain to each other what the hell is going on all the time. They make speeches to each other about what has happened and will happen, and they say things like “you know this” all the time. The second type of dialogue is what I’d like to call the “human element”, which is only about a fifth of the movie altogether. You know, they crack some jokes, say a one-liner, and of course the romance between Kyle Reese and Sarah Connor is forced into it. All of this falls flat. The human element fails completely, as Reese’s jokes aren’t funny, and there is no chemistry at all between Kyle and Sarah. The inevitable kiss at the end feels so unexpected that it’s shocking.
I wished the Terminator directors did some more out-of-the-box thinking. There must be more characters in this world than John and Sarah Connor. There must be other interesting stories to tell instead of endlessly messing around with the Connor timeline. Endlessly referring back to the same material of the first movies is like wringing out a towel until no drop of interest remains.