Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jason Clarke, Jai Courtney, Emilia Clarke, Byung-hun Lee
The 2009 film Terminator Salvation – besides being robotic – got flak from fans for not having Schwarzenegger revive his famous role. Genisys clearly shows why that was actually a good decision.
Other than that, the promise that the Terminator series has made in the three films since 1991’s Terminator II: Judgment Day is that it’s going to get stupider, more convoluted, and less entertaining. This is a cash-grab franchise that won’t die, one that keeps its commitment of diminished return.
Terminators fool us into thinking they’re human. By reliving the original and by looking really slick, this film hopes to fool us into thinking it’s good. Its computer graphics and elaborate chase scenes may distract some. In the end, this is exactly what’s wrong with summer popcorn flicks: brainless, heartless retreads pumped up with expensive effects.
It’s just past Judgment Day in the future, the day Skynet wipes out just under half of the earth’s population. Rebel John Connor – this time played by Clarke of Rise of the Planet of the Apes – learns that Skynet has sent a terminator back to 1984 to kill Mom, Emilia Clarke of Game of Thrones. So Sonny Boy sends back sexy Courtney, who doesn’t know he’s the daddy.
Sounds familiar – exactly like the first flick? Unfortunately, a terminator is already waiting for Dad. Genisys soon turns the entire mythology on its head. Handsome Courtney, naked as a jaybird (yay!), hears Mom yell the deathless line, “Come with me if you want to live!”
It seems that an aging Schwarzenegger – creakily reprising his most beloved role – is here in 1984. Aware that his mom was in danger, Sonny Boy sent a reprogrammed terminator back to earlier. Well, Schwarzenegger keeps promising, “I’ll be back.” Maybe, this time, we’d rather have been lied to.
Also, right now, we’re asking ourselves why both teams just don’t send back millions of machines. The film spends airspace spouting out science-like gunk as to why this is impossible; it’s completely unfathomable, action-killing dialogue.
Director Alan Taylor (Thor: The Dark World) really does a brilliant job recreating James Cameron’s original 1984 look. When they re-render the younger Schwarzenegger, it’s a pretty cool effect, just as wooden as “Ahnuld” was in the first. The fact that this recreation – and everything that comes afterwards – feels unoriginal is really the problem with this flick.
Not that bland-but-pretty Emilia Clarke and bland-but-hunky Courtney can help. They cannot seem to raise their characters above pounding on the one note they’ve been given to play.
This leaves most of the work in this film to Schwarzenegger. Unfortunately, Arnold’s age seriously shows – in the 30 years since the first film. It’s in his movement, in his voice. “I’m old, not obsolete,” he says, and I wince; it’s a reflection of an actor asked to go back three decades and reprise a role best left in the past – with its menace and muscle intact.
I do think Schwarzenegger isn’t obsolete, but he needs new parts, not this refurbished crap from his glory days. So, no more Expendables, don’t bring him into Predator XXIV, and please-dear-God, don’t remake Kindergarten Cop!