‘Terminator Genisys’ Review: Old and obsolete
MANILA, Philippines – If there is one thing that Terminator Genisys proves, it is that the film franchise owes a whole lot of its longevity to Arnold Schwarzenegger. The professional bodybuilder turned movie star was just fresh out of having portrayed Conan, the very famous barbarian, in two feature length films when he was recruited by James Cameron to play a cyborg from the future whose only mission is to rid the world of a certain Sarah Connor who will give birth to a revolutionary figure.
Schwarzenegger, with his extremely thick accent, gigantic frame and a curiously charming lack of acting sophistication, owned the role. He is the film’s grandest spectacle, that Cameron had to have him back in the sequels, not as a nemesis but as a hero.
Terminator Salvation, the only Terminator film without Schwarzenegger, felt uncomfortable and naked, relying primarily on the series’ unstable lore to maintain a semblance of being connected to the staggered storyline. Schwarzenegger, for better or for worse, was the rugged soul of the Terminator films. Without him, the Terminator reveals how it is really nothing more than bad science fiction, one that assembles all the easiest tropes of the genre to create an illusion of complication worthy of a medley of sequels.
Back to the future
Terminator Genisys again opens in the dreary future ruled by robots. The rebels, headed by John O’Connor (Jason Clarke), are about to win the war against their lifeless overlords when a cyborg (Schwarzenegger) is sent back to the past in a last ditch effort by the robots to ensure that John and his rebellion will never happen.
John sends his most trusted lieutenant Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) back to the past to thwart the cyborg’s intentions of killing Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke), his mother.
Kyle arrives in the 80s thinking that Sarah would be the standard damsel in distress who is totally clueless of the threats to her life. However, Sarah arrives, with another cyborg, but aged and a little bit more wizened, with her.
Writers Laeta Kalogridis and Patrick Lussier frame Terminator Genisys within the narratives that have already been established in the past film. Considering however that since the franchise deals with time travel and the ability to change the future by messing with the past, they are given a huge leeway of molding an alternate timeline, one that would not necessarily have to make sense since there is always an excuse for the events of all the Terminator films to not converge.
Interestingly, the film borrows certain scenes from previous films, which totally betrays the clean slate concept that time travel espouses. In other words, the film is grounded on a pile of weird science, one that is conveniently utilized to stretch a franchise that is not really worth stretching.
Sadly, the film takes all this lame science too seriously, relying on it to give itself some sort of complexity that does not really translate well within the context of a summer blockbuster. Director Alan Taylor finds himself in an uncomfortable place where he has to juggle the demands of producing action sequences that are brimming with spectacular visual effects and making sure that things do not get too confusing.
Father of the bride
Surprisingly, the most entertaining and authentic part of Terminator Genisys is not the lengthy action sequences or the convoluted sci-fi. It is the fascinating dynamics between Kyle, Sarah, and her cyborg she named Pops.
Romance between Kyle and Sarah is more than suggested, although Taylor could have infused the same with more than a hint of sensuality. Pops plays third wheel. He is the stern father of the bride, the man Kyle has to woo to his side to be able to get it on with Sarah.
Taylor and his writers at least had the good sense to utilize Schwarzenegger’s age to enunciate certain dramatic and comedic components that work very well amidst the relationship that they try to emulate. It is quite affecting to see Schwarzenegger and the character he has portrayed for decades succumb to the inevitability of growing old or getting obsolete.
Blast from the past
Terminator Genisys is far from being successful at anything it sets out to do. Although Schwarzenegger gives the film that essential blast from the past to lift it from being just another attempt to mine on collective nostalgia without even understanding why there is nostalgia in the first place, the film still succumbs to the afflictions of the generic blockbuster, which is to give importance to brainless pageantry rather than actual entertainment.
The film goes with the philosophy of bigger is better. Its villain is more ferocious. The destruction it depicts is more vicious. Its plot is more long-winded. In all its efforts at upgrading everything, it forgets that its most pleasurable moments are the quiet ones, the ones where rusty Schwarzenegger reveals some humanity within his metallic frame. Terminator Genisys is a film where noise triumphs and sincerity is obsolete. – Rappler.com
Francis Joseph Cruz litigates for a living and writes about cinema for fun. The first Filipino movie he saw in the theaters was Carlo J. Caparas’ 'Tirad Pass.' Since then, he’s been on a mission to find better memories with Philippine cinema. Profile photo by Fatcat Studios