Review: Terminator Genysis

Series T-800 Robot in Paramount Pictures and Skydance Productions.

Terminator Genysis is the fifth installment in the Terminator series. Making a five of anything is hard to do and even harder in film. For every Fast Five there’s at least four times as many Seed of Chucky, Rocky V, or Resident Evil: Retributions waiting to happen. Terminator Genisys had hopes of being Fast Five, but ended up being more like Resident Evil: Retribution.

Doctor Who’s 10th Doctor once described time travel as “wibbly wobbly….time-y wimey..stuff”. That’s the perfect way to describe all the time travel/alternate universe curve balls Genysis throws. I’ll do my best to describe the plot without a flow chart – In 2029 John Connor (Jason Clarke) is leading the Resistance for one last battle against Skynet. John suspects Skynet is hiding a time travel device (from the 1984 movie) as contingency plan if the Resilience wins. Before Skynet goes down, they successfully send the T-800 (young CGI Schwarzenegger) back to 1984 to kill Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke). John decides to send Kyle Reese (Divergent’s Jai Courtney) back to 1984 to prepare his mom for Judgment Day. As Kyle is getting zapped up in the way-back machine, he sees John attacked by a new model terminator (played by the criminally underused Matt Smith).

The T-800 that arrives in 1984 is met by an older T-800 (older and not as much CGI Schwarzenegger) and Sarah Connor who are working together like Pippen and Jordan to dispatch killer robots form the future. Kyle drops in an alley and we’re treated to an almost shot-for-shot remake of Kyle’s entrance in the original. Anyway, Kyle is met in the alley by an officer. Wait! That’s no officer; it’s one of those melty T-1000s, played by Byung-hun Lee, who chases Kyle through a store. Kyle is rescued by Sarah and old T-800 also knows as “Pops” and is told they are planning to travel to 1997 to stop Judgment Day. Kyle remembers his time travel fever dream and tells them the real problem is actually in 2017 and Cyberdyne scrapped the name Skynet and is now calling it Genysis. “When Genysis goes live, Judgment Day starts”.  Apparently when Terminator Time Lord Matt Smith aka the T-5000 gave John some robot chloroform, he changed the timeline. Judgment Day 1997 is now 2017 and Skynet is now Genysis.

Still following?

Kyle and Sarah time travel to 2017 while Pops has to wait 33 years to meet them. When they arrive, they learn John’s attack didn’t kill him, but turned him “something more” aka the T-3000. John’s traveled from 2029 to 2017 to orchestrate the destruction of humanity via an app.  Cyberdyne is being run by Danny Dyson (The Spectacular Now’s Dayo Okeniyl), the son of this guy from Terminator 2: Judgment Day. Danny is launching Genysis as an app to connect the world but has no idea John is prepping him to destroy the world.

Kyle, Sarah, and Pops must fight off evil John Connor and stop Genysis before it launches.

Got it? Ok.

The story is as ridiculous as it sounds and the filmmakers don’t do themselves any favors. The spend time trying to recreate iconic moments form the first two films and trading off classic lines like “Come with me if you want to live”, or “ can’t be bargained with. It can’t be reasoned with. It doesn’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear.” It wouldn’t be Terminator if Arnold didn’t say “I’ll be back!” That’s in there too.

I was really looking forward to Byung-hun Lee as the T-100. I was ready to see someone as talented  as Lee dispatching pesky humans as a terminator. How cool would it be to see a liquid T-1000 doing martial arts as his body morphed into different shapes?  Instead we’re treated to more liquid metal arm swords and gigantic bullet holes in the head. Lee is great when he’s onscreen, but if you went to the bathroom you might have missed him. I can’t believe they had him sitting the sidelines in an action movie.

And why? It’s not like Genysis is a great display of acting. The two leads don’t really have any chemistry together. They look like two middle school kids having awkward conversations at a dance in their scenes together. Schwarzenegger is purposefully acting like a robot; I’m not sure what their excuse is. The only threads that hold are together is Schwarzenegger and J.K Simmons hilarious performances, but even those aren’t.

The special effects are very well done, but there isn’t a scene that really jumps out. The final fight with the John T-3000 looks great. However, whenever the big bad villain can be beat by a household item I can’t take them seriously.

Genysis is almost too ridiculous for words. Why is the T-800 drawing pictures and why are they are so bad if he’s a robot. Did he not see Ava’s skills in Ex Machina? Why does Genysis have to wait to go “on-line”?  Just blow up people already! Why does Kyle pretend Sarah isn’t the most beautiful woman he’s seen? There can’t be that many women left in 2029. And why isn’t he tripped out by all the people and the smell of food? He should be on sensory overload. WHY ISN’T MATT SMITH IN THIS MOVIE MORE? Seriously, why? Why even cast him if he has nothing to do. A guy credited as Punk #2 has as many lines as Matt Smith. MATT FREAKING SMITH! Did they even say who sent the T-800 back to 1973 to protect Sarah? [Sid note: I would watch a Netflix series with young Sarah Connor being raised by a T-800. Let’s make this happen.]

Terminator Genysis is a bad movie, but trading on classic films for fan appeal makes it even more appalling to watch. I thought for sure they’d show more of the war between the Resistance and Skynet, instead we’re treated to a messy time travel film with alternate timelines and un-watchable characters. Everything you need to see is in the trailer and the ending is pretty standard for an action movie – the good guys stop something from blowing up and something else blows up. Can we travel back to 2012 and make sure this movie never gets a green light? That’s a time travel story I can get behind.

Grade: D-