*WARNING* Spoilers Ahead
"I'm old, not obsolete"
As an unabashed Terminator fanboy since elementary school, the developments of this newest Terminator entry were anxiety-ridden. Negativity reached a point where the internet and movie message boards had written this thing off as a turkey months ago. Regardless, it was imperative to track this production, feast or famine and see how much more convoluted the new-age writers could twist the mythos.
The last two installments were hardly worthy of the Terminator moniker but here we are with a new microwaved attempt to reinvigorate the franchise. Many things worked beautifully: the future war, the presentation of the legendary time-displacement equipment, mimicking the tone of the original films in a new timeline and the recreation of past Arnolds. Several ingredients comprising Terminator: Genysis were total misfires: the casting of Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) and Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke), the failure to evoke the inherent emotion of the Terminator series and the poorly mishandled marketing decision to spoil the nano-tech alteration of mankind's savior, John Connor by Skynet.
The familiar Terminator theme, originally composed by Brad Fidel is put to good use early, the audience once again is shown the nuclear missile launches of Judgment Day, the infamous actions of August 29, 1997, Skynet coming alive.
Arnold returns as the T-800 Model 101 , looking aptly spry and convincing for an aging cyborg with metal endoskeleton. Here he acts as Sarah Connor’s protector, sent to intervene while she is a young girl. Schwarzenegger is certainly not a top notch thespian and without the micro-managed direction of James Cameron, do not expect a T2 performance but Arnold can still get it done as a programmed skeleton from a hellish future. Even if some of his dialogue and situational obligations were corny as hell.
When Kyle Reese first utilizes the time-displacement equipment in the loop of the '84 original, he finds that things aren't what they seem. A T-800 Model 101 has retroactively been sent to the 1950s to protect Sarah Connor as a child (not very original). Skynet's destiny, if you can call it that considering the Terminator mythology, is assualted with a massive monkey wrench; The freshly engineered Arnold of Cameron's original is confronted by 'Pops', an organically aged T-800 with the same hyper-alloy chassis as his oppoent. The ensuing melee that endured was a dream sequence for any Terminator nerd.
However, the same passing grades cannot be given to Emilia Clarke and Jai Courtney. If their characters, Sarah Connor and Kyle Reese were not such iconic, methodical American movie landmarks, the criticism wouldn’t surely be as great. The timeless romance of a war-ravaged soldier and an unassuming student-waitress had none of the organics that Biehn-Hamilton brought to the screen. In fact, Courtney and Clarke were often whiny and bratty in their exchanges. This dynamic was a total letdown, an abject FAILURE.
Kyle Reese lived in depravity his entire existence, fearfully roaming the nuclear fallout to hunt rats and scour for scraps. He possesses a wild demeanor and intense eyes that have scene the harshest realities imaginable. He does not suffer from PTSD, his entire life has been living hell…until John Connor gave him a glimpse oh hope, to come back from the brink.
Jai Courtney possesses none of these traits. He comes off vapid and frankly, like a meathead. Kyle Reese grew up malnourished, not with a proper gym regimen and frat boy haircut. The mark was heavily missed with his casting; Anton Yelchin projected a much better Kyle Reese in an even inferior film. Sarah Connor was written to be the strongest female character of all time. Linda Hamilton displayed some of the finest dynamic method acting from the original film into Judgment Day. Emilia Clarke simply didn’t have it in her to match the Cameron-Hamilton powerhouse symbiosis of the original films. Her chemistry with Courtney was awkward and childish; they failed in their attempt to recreate one of science fiction’s most tragic love stories.
Simply put, this movie could have been much stronger if Reese and Connor were played by different, better, thespians. Courtney, specifically, was a shot so far off the mark, the lead slug is somewhere lodged in Antarctica.
As with Jurassic World, the attempted reinvigoration of this sci-fi franchise executes many call backs to older films, to the point of nausea. Most of them were well-received but after yet another lazy copy and paste from the Cameron films, it got to be a bit much. One of the more face-palm worthy moments occurs at the end where a heroic Model 101 sinks into a vat of heat. However, in this movie, he not only lives but emerges with the liquid poly alloy upgrades of a T-1000. Yeah, that happened.
Director Alan Taylor and his crew did a marvelous job recreating the horrific, nuclear winter future that Michael Biehn’s Reese emotively described in the original Terminator; the visual tone and atmosphere evoked the future Terminator fans always wanted to see more of in a film. Getting to see fleshed out mythos of the times that Michael Biehn described was thrilling.
New plotlines, like the spoiled twist of John Connor being a Skynet pawn, were ballsy enough. Although jarring to a Terminator purist, the further perversion of the original Terminator vision were sleek as the evolution of Skynet from world class, cutting edge mechanical engineering to anamorphic nano-technology; yet new age flash cannot be a substitute for the elbow grease of a practical Cameron endoskeleton.
Overall, this is a fun enough movie that is not to be dissected to the respect of classic films in American history. This film's programming is shallow enough as a modern day blockbuster but with the grown appearance of a serious Terminator film, which it is not. It is merely a fugazi in that respect. The film's ending did not do well to set up any future installments so if this latest group of Terminator property owners wishes to keep milking the series, they had better enlist extremely creative writers. There were definite thrills to be had; Old Schwarzenegger intercepting his 1984 counterpart proved to be a great sequence; even if this film gave off a 'high-budget fan-fiction' work, it's good that these ideas exist. We will always have the originals.
There is no fate but what we make for ourselves.