The next report card is for the fifth film of the Terminator franchise, which takes place after the events of the previous films as well as before the first film and alongside the first film, but in an alternate universe, but the same universe....ah screw it, we're talking about Terminator Genisys.
Terminator Genisys—directed by Alan Taylor; written by Laeta Kalogridis, Patrick Lussier, James Cameron (characters), Gale Anne Hurd (characters); starring Arnold Schwarzenegger (Guardian), Jason Clarke (John Connor), Emilia Clarke (Sarah Connor), Jai Courtney (Kyle Reese), J.K. Simmons (O'Brien) and Matt Smith (Alex).
Essentially, these characters are all the same as what we've seen before, but as there is a different timeline in effect, they're also different. This time around, they exist as shells of their former selves. Sarah Connor used to be an average woman who went through fire and was forged into steel, but she's now just a stereotypical bitchy "strong female character who can totes shoot the guns too and doesn't have to rely on a man because she can get her hands dirty." Likewise, Kyle Reese was originally a dedicated soldier who travels time to protect the woman he loves and develops an even stronger bond to her to the point where you believe it. Now, he's that guy that did all that stuff in that other movie, but is just forcing it in this one. Does he love Sarah? Sure. Do we see any emotional connection? Hell no. He just keeps saying that he loves her. The most we get is that his childhood self thinks she's beautiful.
The heroic T-800, dubbed "Pops" in the film and "Guardian" in the credits, is something that I'm positive about, though. It was an interesting choice to go with the "old, but not obsolete" storyline, because we haven't seen what it's like for a Terminator to start breaking down. His characteristics are similar to the one from Terminator 2: Judgment Day, and actually, one can argue that his story arc is what would have happened had that unit (dubbed "Uncle Bob") not been destroyed. It would have helped raise John Connor as a surrogate father and followed the same path of growing an emotional attachment to its surrogate child. That character was above and beyond the best part of the film, while others like John Connor have been neutered or at best, are just not up to par with what came before it.
Just as the characters are a step down, so is the acting. A lot of people give Jai Courtney flack no matter what, but I'm not going to jump on that bandwagon and say he's horrible in everything. Granted, he's the worst actor in this film and I definitely won't sing his praises, but that's not just out of blind dislike. For the record, I think he could end up being a really cool Captain Boomerang in Suicide Squad (even though I think that movie is going to be crap).
Emilia Clarke is no Sarah Connor. She's pretty, but so what? She looks like she's 17 and if you look at how Linda Hamilton transformed herself from the first film to the second, this version of Sarah Connor should look more like the hardened badass rather than someone who would get ticketed to see the films back when they were rated R.
Jason Clarke is someone I'm not too sure how to judge. He's great at playing the emotionless version of John Connor, as I believe him being a machine. However, he's the exact same character when he's the real human John Connor, so that means he lacks the emotional core. This guy is the leader of the HUMAN resistance, but has no humanity. Thus, Clarke gets a 50/50 split of a score.
Matt Smith is okay. J.K. Simmons is fine. Byung-hun Lee was pretty cool for the most part.
The big guy himself, Arnold Schwarzenegger, is the standout just as everyone intended him to be. In a way, it can't be that hard to pull off this role after playing it multiple times and the bulk of it being emotionless action and just staring, but what can I say? If you liked him before, you'll like him again.
VISUALS (FX, MAKEUP, COSTUMES, SETS): B+
A friend of mine complained about the effects after we saw this, but I really have no complaints except for the endoskeletons looking a little fake. The stop motion animation of The Terminator is bad and the horrible CGI of Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines during the future sequence is inexcusable, so when you look at the opening shots of Terminator 2 and they still look the best, you have to downgrade this a little.
That actually brings up another point, though. This T-1000 doesn't look any better than the one portrayed by Robert Patrick over 20 years ago! In 1991, it was revolutionary. In 2015, it's just standard.
What most of the visuals boils down to is a simple pass or fail in that they aren't offensive, but they should be better. What does bump this up considerably, though, is the attention to detail in replicating the scenes from the previous films. Casting people that looked very similar to the homeless man ("Hey bud, did you just see a real bright light?") and the punks ("Wash day tomorrow. Nothing clean.") put a real smile on my face, along with seeing Kyle put on some Nike shoes.
MUSIC & SOUND: B+
Thank God they still used the main theme. The rest of this music was completely forgettable, but the very beginning of the film struck a chord with me (no pun intended) because that music is just perfect for this series.
Per usual, the sound quality is good to me, as I don't try to pass myself off as someone particularly knowledgeable about the intricacies of the job. However, I'd like to nitpick something that I didn't like about Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, in that there are jokey sounds that don't need to happen. When Uncle Bob smiled, there weren't sounds of gears shifting to pounce on the comedic moment like in this film. The joke either sold itself or it didn't, rather than trying too hard. Am I being a little harsh? Possibly. That's what you get when you present something to a hardcore fan.
TONE (ACTION, ROMANCE, COMEDY): D
ACTION: The action was okay, but nothing memorable. There wasn't anything more exciting in this film than what we haven't already seen done much better before. Given how action was the biggest emphasis, that shouldn't be the case. Arnold using himself as a projectile to take down a helicopter was the only thing people will likely take away from this, and it was shown in the trailers (along with too much else) which rendered that not as effective as it should have been.
COMEDY: I don't think I laughed at any of the jokes, or if I did, I just mildly chuckled. That's a shame.
ROMANCE: As I mentioned before, there's no real thread of romance.
FINAL GRADE: C+
This franchise is one that is near and dear to me, so some of you might be thinking that I'm a little too rough, but in my mind, it's justified. You don't give me filet mignon and then expect me to think Steak-umm is gourmet. While this is not as bad as I expected it to be, that's not exactly a great compliment, as I completely thought I would be twitching in my chair and leave the theater with a headache for how much things would bother me. It's not a good movie, but it isn't the worst movie of the five. It's the second worst. I'm happy that it wasn't even more problematic, but I'm still grossly underwhelmed. The best way that I can describe this is that it was interesting enough if I had never seen the other films, but what separates it from the others is better execution, better direction, better acting, better effects, etc. It's a worse film because it's made by less talented individuals, and most importantly, it lacks the art and the heart that the first two had.
If you want to hear our opinions about the previous films, check out the June edition of the 4 Reel Movie Club podcast!