Monday, July 6, 2015

Movie Review - Terminator Genisys

Terminator Genisys - An action packed movie that lives up to its proud legacy

  I went with Kathy Friday night to see ‘Terminator Genisys’ at the local movie theater. We were joined by 23 other movie goers for the 2D screening, which included the 60 year old married couple and their 35 year old son who lives in their basement sitting right behind me. The basement dweller spend most of the movie kicking my chair while the patriarch shamelessly put his psychic abilities on display by loudly proclaiming he knew one of the characters would say some of the movie’s iconic lines like ‘I’ll be back’ or ‘Come with me if you want to live’ moments after they said it. I always wondered why 2D and 3D versions of popular movies are in the theaters at the same time and now I know – most people are willing to shell out a few extra bucks to get away from the 60 year old loudmouth couple with the 35 year old child that has lived in their basement for 20+ years already and won't leave until they die unless he kills them and hides them in the attic wrapped up in plastic and tells the neighbors that they are on a trip around the world. I would like to point out to the people who are thinking that I am just being intolerant that we were the 5th and 6th people in the theater while ‘The Dysfunctionals’ arrived 15 minutes after we did and had a choice of good seats other than the ones in the row behind me. I also want to point out that ‘Terminator Genisys’ was so good that after a short while I forgot all about the basement dweller and his psychic parent...almost.

The Terminator franchise has left a number of catch phrases embedded in the American culture...

  ‘Terminator Genisys’ is the fifth movie in the Terminator series. The first three movies showed the struggles of Sarah Connor and her son John to save mankind from being eradicated by the worldwide computer system known as Skynet. In the world of the future John Connor is the leader of the rebel resistance and Skynet tries to eradicate this threat by sending killing machines known as ‘Terminators’ back in time to terminate Sarah Connor before John is born and to terminate John after he is born. The first Terminator was played by Arnold Schwarzenegger and like many things Arnold became an instant classic. The second movie (Terminator 2: Judgement Day) was an even bigger hit as Arnold returned to the present from the future as a good guy Terminator that has been reprogrammed and tasked to protect Sarah and John from a new and improved model of Terminator. Arnold returned yet again for Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines in which the future mankind is spared from in T2 became reality as Skynet takes control of the world's computer systems and wipes out most of humanity in a nuclear holocaust. T3 was another big hit but not at the level of T2.

  Arnold moved on to become the Governor of California but the Terminator franchise continued with 2009’s Terminator Salvation which was set in the future with no time travel or Arnold and featured Christian Bale as John Connor leading the resistance against Skynet. The movie grossed less than Terminator 3 and the franchise went dormant until Arnold stopped being Governor of California and went back to making movies. Out of the first four 'Terminator' movies my favorite is far and away 'Terminator 2: Judgement Day' which stars a teenage John Connor as a little hoodlum whose antics and relationship with Arnold provide great comic relief to contrast against the deadliness of the first of a kind never seen before liquid metal Terminator.

  Genisys is a continuation and a reboot of the franchise. It starts just before the beginning of the first movie but instead of being set in 1984, the movie starts in 2029 with an adult John Connor leading the resistance to its final victory over Skynet and sending his confidante Kyle Reese back to 1984 to save his mother from the Terminator that Skynet sent to kill her. Connor doesn’t mention to Reese that in the first Terminator movie Reese and Connor create the child that becomes John Connor so Connor is sending his father back in time so he (Connor) can be born. I hope you got that because that’s the easy part.

Paradoxes collide when Arnold meets Arnold!

  The original Terminator (a CGI young Arnold) appears in 1984 and the script runs the same as the original movie with Arnold walking through the streets naked until he tells a gang member to give him his clothes. But instead of the 1984 movie continuing with the young Arnold getting his clothes, the 60+ year old real Arnold shows up and incapacitates the young Arnold. It seems that the 60+ Arnold has been sent from the future to 1974 to protect a nine year old Sarah Connor from another Terminator sent by Skynet and prepare her for the attempt on her life ten years later. When Reese gets sent back to 1984 everything runs according to the first movie for him until he runs into a new improved Terminator also sent to 1984. Reese, Connor, and Arnold all get together and realize that the future has been so altered that they must travel to 2017 to stop Skynet from ending humanity in this new future. Connor and Reese head to 2017 while Arnold stays behind to prepare for their arrival 33 years later. When Connor and Reese get to 2017 they meet none other than John Connor who has traveled from 2029 to 2017. SOOOO we have John Connor as an adult meeting his mother and father who haven’t conceived him yet in a battle to prevent the third attempted nuclear destruction of humans by Skynet.

  When I saw the movie promos I was afraid that it was going to be an old Arnold vs. new Arnold marathon or a couple of hours of Arnold saying ‘I’ll be back’ and ‘Hasta la vista Baby!’ My fears were unfounded. Terminator Genisys is as good as any of the Terminator movies, I'd rank it at #2 behind Judgement Day. This was a movie that had a very thoughtful use of time travel with Reese bringing the plot along by having memories of events that hadn’t yet happened but do happen in the course of the movie. The studio revealed months ago that John Connor was going to be a cyborg of some kind in the movie but he ended up being the ultimate Terminator. He asks his parents to trust him so I can’t be sure that he didn’t have a grand design to take over Skynet from the inside or was just another Skynet minion but his character was so well writtten I can't believe he won't be in the planned sequels.

  The actions scenes are first class and very believable as long as you can accept liquid and powder shapeshifting robots in humanoid form in the first place. There is a classic car chase, a bus chase across the Golden Gate Bridge, and a helicopter chase through the streets of San Francisco. The Terminators are all typically scary. I never understand how humans can survive when facing one much less form an organized resistance against hundreds of these killer robots.

  In addition to the action scene, what I liked best about this movie was that Sarah Conor, Kyle Reese, and John Connor are the stars with Arnold’s aged Terminator role relegated to comic relief (Sarah’s nickname for him is Pops) and moving the action along whenever pontification about the past, future, and present attempt to turn the movie into a dialog fest. Arnold plays the Terminator role in his familiar understated way, letting his bulk and robotic persona provide the humor of his lines and his robotics provide the action. I found Jason Clarke to be pretty robotic and one-dimensional as John Connor but since he was a robot after all that may have been the plan. Jai Courtney was sufficiently action oriented as Kyle Reese and I enjoyed his confused interactions with Arnold as he learned to accept the un Terminator-like Terminator. Emilia Clarke was great as Sarah Conor. She was every bit the action star as Linda Hamilton but didn’t bring the psychotic take to the character that Hamilton did.

  The movie grossed a fairly disappointing $44 million in the US over its five day holiday weekend opening but Arnold is still such a worldwide star that I expect the worldwide gross to be big enough to continue the planned trilogy reboot. What will the next Terminator bring? Skynet could certainly send more Terminators into the past to kill Sarah Connor or maybe even her parents or John Connor could show up again to prevent his grisly end or perhaps he found a way to escape the quantum space traveling device that seemingly blew him up at the end of Genisys. There’s also the question of whether Sarah Connor and Reese will even conceive John Connor. As so often happens with time-travel premised movies all things are possible. I think the only sure thing is that if Arnold is breathing and not the Governor of some state he will be in the next Terminator movie.