Monday, July 6, 2015

Summer Movie Season: Terminator Genisys

Will there be humor as the Terminator learns emotion? You betcha!

The words are iconic. “I’ll be back,” spoken in a heavy Austrian accent. Said by a robot that had previously said very little, but slowly became more and more heroic as the actor that played him became more and more of an icon. But let the depressing truth be spoken: despite the fact that there was a giant explosion setting forth a new future, the fact that this is the fifth entry into the Terminator franchise, I’m led to believe that Terminator: Genisys is not going to be the last in the franchise.

(This is going to contain spoilers. More than what the trailers give away. Of course, it didn’t give away anything so… plot, I guess.)

Terminator: Genisys is the fifth entry into the Terminator Franchise, which started as a fun science fiction/horror movie that dared to ask the question: What if someone went back in time to kill the mother of a great leader, and ended up starting the whole war to begin with? Of course, these brutal killing machines have yet to kill a waitress, a young boy, and the young boy’s future wife, so you just have to wonder how effective they are at their jobs. But I digress. In an effort to reboot but not really reboot anything because we can use time travel (re: Star Trek, the 2009 reboot but not really because… Spock!), Terminator: Genisys tells the story of Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) who’s sent back in time by the leader of the human resistance, John Conner (Jason Clarke) to fight an evil robot played by Arnold Schwarzenegger (Henchforth known as Arnold, because I’m only spelling his last name once.) sent to kill his mother, Sarah Conner, played by Emilia Clarke. (no relation to Jason Clarke. In real life. In the movie, they’re actually mother and son.) If this sounds familiar, it should, because it’s the plot of the original Terminator

But there’s a twist!

As soon as Kyle shows up in 1984, he’s attacked by an evil T-1000, the robot from the second movie who wasn’t invented until CGI caught up with his superpower of being liquid metal. And the evil Arnold Terminator Robot, using some impressive special effects, ends up being attacked by an older Arnold Terminator Robot (codename: Pops) and is immediately destroyed. It turns out that Sarah Conner was attacked when she was nine by a T-1000 robot, and saved by a good guy Arnold Robot, thus preparing her even earlier to be a soldier/mother of the resistance. 

For the record, this now means this evil race of robots can’t destroy a nine year old girl, either. And yet they’ve enslaved humanity. 

Anyway, there’s more time travel where they go even further ahead to 2017, because things have changed, and they learn that Skynet is going to take over the world thanks to our dependence on Apps, and the person who’s leading the charge is (twist again) an evil version of John Conner who has been taken over by Terminators. Will they be able to beat him? Will they destroy the evil App? (Yes. If you say no, you haven’t been watching any of the other movies.) 

Overall, I enjoyed this movie. It wasn’t wonderful, a lot of the innovativeness of the first two movies has been undone by countless attempts to do something with the timeline. Quite frankly, the whole timeline is a mess when it comes to Terminator movies, and the fact that these killer robots don’t just wage war on the past is a little laughable at this point. Also the fact that the Arnold version of the terminator is still in use, as the default is “hey let’s reprogram it.” 

The real problem with this movie lies in it’s most interesting twists that get hand waved over. One is the inclusion of Pops, the good Terminator sent back to Sarah Conner when she’s a nine year old girl. There’s a real mystery of who sent him back in time, who programmed him, and why he’s helping out so much, even forming an emotional attachment with her. It’s a big departure from the series, where a lot of the tension came from the fact that she was a simple waitress who didn’t realize she was going to become the mother of the leader of the human race, who later did train herself to fight the robots. A lot of that is left off screen. But the mystery is raised only briefly, and then we get the Austin Powers look at the screen moment, “it’s best not to think about it too much.” 

The second twist, also spoiled by trailers… I’m going to take a moment to defend the spoiling of these twists by the trailers. On the one hand, yes, the trailers spoiled these moments. On the other, another version of “we have to go back to stop Skynet and save Sarah Conner and oh by the way here’s another good Terminator played by Arnold” is a tough sell. Basically it’s the same movie as the original Terminator, mixed with Terminator 2, and ignoring all the other Terminator movies and T.V. Shows. It just threw the changes out there.

Anyway, the second twist involves John Conner… becoming a Terminator himself! This was another wasted potential, something that should have happened earlier in the film. It turns out that he’s a mix of man and machine now, and is actually somewhat anti-Skynet, despite the fact that he was trying to build Skynet. He was also, for unknown reasons other than we need a way to blow things up, building a time machine. So, there’s a big mystery as to why he was building one, along with the fact that this new technology upgraded machines to the point that they were integrated with humans. It’s an interesting idea that needed to be explored a little bit more. 

Overall, not a terrible movie, but I felt it left a lot of it’s best bits on the cutting room floor. It’s actually an odd combination of a movie, trying to stuff in a lot… hey we need to reboot the franchise! But we’re doing a sequel! But we’re using time travel to change everything! But we’re going to throw in all these new ideas! And frustrating mysteries that seem to say, “hey… we know you’re going to see this… we’ll start working on the sequel now.” 

Seven out of Ten.

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