‘Genisys’ reviews: Terminator Genisys Reviews

Published: July 3, 2015

‘Genisys’ reviews: Terminator Genisys Reviews, One of the best things ever said about time-travel movies is from a time-travel movie itself. “I don’t want to talk about time travel,” Bruce Willis says to his younger self in 2012’s Looper. “If we start talking about it then we’re going to be here all day talking about it, making diagrams with straws.” Despite coming in the middle of a movie that actually handled its paradoxes well, it’s a complaint that can be levied against the vast majority of the genre. And I’ve got some bad news, friends: Terminator Genisys requires some very bendy, Big Gulp-sized straws.

After three decades of movies (and TV), the franchise is simply a briar patch of timelines, and the work required to untangle them is going to test even the shrewdest screenwriters. But here’s their stab at it: After yet another assault on a Skynet facility by Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) and his friend John Connor (Jason Clarke), someone must travel back in time to 1984 to save John’s mother, Sarah Connor (Game of Thrones’ Emilia Clarke), from a Terminator. So far, so familiar. However, this time Sarah Connor isn’t a waitress carrying humanity’s savior in her womb. No, this time she’s been living with a Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger), who was sent back even earlier to protect her from another T-800 (also Arnold Schwarzenegger)—one who had been sent to kill her exactly at the point Reese travels back to in the Genisys timeline.

There are a couple big Terminators-face-punch-each-other fights and the Mother of Dragons is there to regulate a whole new bout of Eye-Rolling While Men Fight Over Me Like I’m Not There not unlike the ones she enjoys on Game of Thrones, so that’s nice.

Confused yet? Even Reese himself laments “time travel makes my head hurt,” so you’re not alone. But self-aware dialogue doesn’t excuse the cat’s cradle of storylines you have to keep up with to follow this reboot. However! If you walk into Genisys with a healthy distaste for canon, and are ready to jettison everything you ever knew about the franchise, it’s at least more fun than Terminator Salvation. Is it great? Obviously not. But there are a couple of big Terminators-punch-each-other-in-their-Terminator-faces fights, and the Mother of Dragons is there to roll her eyes while dudes fight over her, just like on Game of Thrones, so that’s nice.

But that also may be the problem. Back in 1984, Terminator’s mix of time travel, artificial intelligence, and dad-friendly action was smart and exciting. Terminator 2: Judgment Day took it even further. But now time travel and AI are commonplace, and even sweet-looking liquid metal robots are run-of-the-mill. Genisys makes up for that with fan service (Sarah Connor bra shot? Check) and destroying San Francisco for the umpteenth cinematic time, but the tricks in its bag just aren’t novel.

There’s also the problem that director Alan Taylor’s movie has to do too much work explaining itself. Being part of a 30-year-old franchise means there are superfans walking in with encyclopedic knowledge of everything that’s come before—but there are also probably going to be some Game of Thrones fans who just want to see Dany Targaryen kick ass, and trying to satisfy both crowds is next to impossible. While it’s a hoot to listen to Schwarzenegger explain time travel and whatever a “nexus point” is, each time the action stops to remind you what year it is, what year it was, and why this time this tactic is finally the thing that’s going to stop Skynet, it loses steam. (The grand plan this time is to stop Genisys, the global Google-on-steroids that becomes Skynet, before it goes online.)

Granted, the timeline Gordian knot and hamfisted exposition aren’t unique to Genisys—Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines went off the rails, too. Any Terminator film, or really any time-travel film, is going to have its share of MacGuffins and “just go with it” explanations. And if anything saves Genisys from itself it’s that it plays it right down the middle by just giving people what they want in a Fourth of July popcorn movie. The results may be cliché when they’re not confounding, but it’s not boring.

A lot of fans probably won’t be happy with the new John Connor—even more aren’t jazzed that his new storyline already got spoiled by the trailer—but there are bright spots. Emilia Clarke brings a certain baby-faced badassery to Sarah, and Schwarzenegger seems wonderfully self-aware now that he’s back in his T-800 skin. (Oh, and Doctor Who’s Matt Smith and Oscar-winner J.K. Simmons are here. They’re completely underused, but it’s still nice to see their faces, even if they should’ve been given more to do.)

Should you see Terminator Genisys this weekend? Probably. It would be unpatriotic to not go watch the former governor of California shoot things for two hours. Is it also fine if you forget it the minute you leave the multiplex? Yes. After all, the timeline will probably be completely different for the next movie anyway. And even if it’s not, there’ll be a character making little straw men to help explain things.

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