‘Old but not obsolete’ in ‘Terminator Genisys’

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Ron and Leigh Martel Movie Reviewers, The Friday Flyer

Ron and Leigh Martel
Movie Reviewers, The Friday Flyer

Ah-nuld! That single name used to be synonymous with big-budget action flicks and heroes of the strong silent type. It’s been almost 30 years since the original “Terminator.” Schwarzenegger uttered few lines in his very mechanical performance, but found his niche, while writer-director James Cameron found a money making franchise.

Over the last several decades, a lot has happened through the four prior “Terminator” films as well as in the life of its star; not all for the good. Recently, under similar circumstances, “Jurassic World” overcame its baggage and became wildly successful. Unfortunately, “Terminator Genisys,” in 3D, misses opportunities at every turn.

Arnold’s Terminator cyborg is now called, The Guardian. Several times he states, “I’m old, not obsolete.” As this was intended to be the new “I’ll be back,” the line falls as flat as a pool of molten metal. Worse yet, we remember this robot was designed with minimal intelligence purely as a single-purpose killing machine (thus the typecasting).

Now, the “governator” flip-flops to pro-life and is committed to protecting Sarah Conner, instead of killing her. Okay, we can buy that. But now he is somehow the thought leader explaining theories of relativity and quantum physics to his co-stars. There was a reason they never gave Arnold a lot of lines in the past; now we know why.

Rising star Jason Clarke (“Zero Dark Thirty”) stars as John Conner, leader of the resistance against advanced machines that rule the world. Clarke is the fifth actor to play John Connor in as many films. Emilia Clarke (no relation), from “Game of Thrones,” is John’s mother Sarah, target from all sides. Jai Courtney (“Divergent”) is now Sgt. Kyle Reese, sent from the dystopian future to save Sarah from the evil Terminator.

The premise and primary characters remain as in the original, while some scenes are reshot (Paramount’s rival owns the original footage). When Kyle arrives from 2029, everything in 1984 has changed. Skynet is still trying to kill Sarah, but apparently, another time traveler fractured the timeline, creating multiple parallel universes.

Instead of rescuing a scared little waitress, Kyle sees a warrior and says, “This is all wrong! John sent me here to save you!” Sarah replies, “The girl you came back for no longer exists.” Together, they will fight new adversaries and travel to yet another time and place (1997 and/or 2017) so they can eventually go back to the future. Got that?

With mild comic relief, a suspicious cop, Sgt. O’Brien (J.K. Simmons), asks what is happening. Sarah explains, “We’re here to stop the end of the world.” O’Brien replies, “I can work with that.” Other than that, veteran writers Laeta Kalogridis and Patrick Lussier offer tedious monologues and convoluted discussions explaining what has or will happen in each alternate universe. It is difficult to track and repeatedly gave us an ice cream headache. Fortunately, enough guns, bombing and chase scenes keep it entertaining.

The most memorable characters are Sgt. O’Brien and the T-1000 cop, played by Korean actor Byung-hun Lee. Paramount passed on the initial script, as then unknown James Cameron insisted on directing the $6 million picture. Now that Paramount owns the rights to this $135 million blockbuster, Cameron passed on them. They tried for Justin Lin, who chose “Fast & Furious 6” and settled for Alan Taylor (“Thor: The Dark World”).

“Terminator Genisys” is 126 minutes and rated PG-13 for sci-fi violence, gunplay and strong language. It’s not really a sequel or a reboot, but in fairness, it’s better than the last two, although still not worthy of the once great franchise. Paramount is committed to release two more sequels before they relinquish the rights back to Cameron in 2019.

Movie robots seem to become more human over time, so Schwarzenegger tries to create an amiable and empathetic character. Unfortunately, as noted in the film about his T-800, he is “nothing but a relic from a deleted timeline.” Before giving way for his son Patrick to take the role in the trilogy finale, it is rumored Arnold will return for the next film. If so, for us, it will be “Hasta la vista, baby.”

Ron’s Rating: C   Leigh’s Rating: D

 

 

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Ron & Leigh Martel