Terminator: Genisys Review

I have seen Terminator: Genisys and I have some thoughts on it.

I don’t want to spoil anything for you, so you’ll have to click through for a even just a spoiler-free review.

Below that, I’ll dive in a bit more in a very spoilery way.

Terminator: Genisys is the best Terminator movie since T2. This is, admittedly, not saying much. Rise of the Machines was pretty meh, and Salvation was written with such contempt for the audience I have to wonder if it was made to punish people the filmmakers didn’t like (i.e. everyone who wanted to see it).

Mercifully, Genisys has none of that. In fact, all the eye-roll worthy scenes in the trailer (if you haven’t seen it, don’t), are actually logically reached in the universe of the movie. There was a lot of flack on the web after people saw the trailer, and I can understand why. Many of the moments that make a good trailer, out of context, look ridiculous. But as the movie progresses, everything has an internal logic that works pretty well.

There are even a few moments where Terminator: Genisys seems like it’s going to be an actual sci-fi movie dealing with time travel.

I admit, after the first few scenes, I let my guard down and got absorbed in the movie. I LOVE T2. I think it’s one of, if not the greatest action movie of all time. After the pathetic whimper of RotM and the aggressive slap in the face of Salvation, I was ready to hate this movie. I enjoyed it.

OK, that’s my spoiler-free review. T:G far better than the trailer makes it seem.

Normally here I’d embed the trailer to separate out the spoiler-rich section of the review. But since that clearly isn’t a good idea, instead I’ll embed the trailer for the first movie because why not.

Below this trailer there be spoilers.

Terminator: Genisys is good. It was almost awesome. The first 2/3rds are fantastic. It’s got great action, mixed with a good story, and believable characters. In so, so many ways it picks up where T2 left off.

Basically, if you’re still reading this because you’re incredulous that it could be better than how bad the trailer makes it work, the logic of the movie is that the timeline is massively messed up, which is exactly what you’d expect to happen with a malevolent remorseless AI in charge of a time machine.

So it makes sense that there’s a T-1000 fighting the T-800 who’s protecting Sarah Conner. Mercifully, the Terminatrix of the third movie is absent. No longer cannon? I’m sure everyone’s fine with that.

The interactions with the T-800 and Sarah are the logical extension of the best parts of T2. So for a while, I was flat out loving the movie.

Then it turned stupid. It was as if the filmmakers had crafted this excellent sci-fi action movie, and the studio said “this is great, but can you make it suck?”

That’s only sort of a joke. The movie nearly lost me with a pointless chase scene with two helicopters. It’s astonishingly horrible. The movie up to this scene had featured some excellent CG (young Arnold is shockingly realistic). It had some big fight scenes, but all looked and felt pretty real.

Then here comes the magic frigging helicopters. The movie world, up to this scene, was based on lightly warmed over, but still realistic, physics (well, Newtonian physics anyway). Suddenly these two helicopters start doing maneuvers that would be laughable in a video game.

All the tension and believability of the movie was shot. The building frisson in the theater vanished. It was as if the director himself had stepped into the frame and shouted at the audience “Hey, you’re watching a MOVIE.”

I was so angry. It was as if someone had taken a piss on my steak and called it sauce. What made it so, so much worse, was that the scene was completely unnecessary. The characters needed to get from one place to another. A cut would have been weird. Also, Arnold needed to say his line. All that was required was for the other Terminator to shoot up the hero’s chopper, and make the situation dire, and then Arnold could do his thing. Same tension, same use, none of the stupid crap.

Basically, this one scene nearly ruined the movie for me. That may sound ridiculous, but it really was that bad. It was that far out of place in the movie in terms of stupidity and quality. I want to blame it on the studio, the need for “one more big chase scene” because the rest of the movie is so well done that this one scene sticks out so horribly.

Well, in fairness, the ending was so predictable a child could have written in. As soon as you see the liquid metal production line, I think feeble minded dogs could have figured out where the movie was going. So maybe the helicopter chase scene was merely the moment I noticed the movie had gone stupid.

Oh well. What could have been great, maybe the second best movie of the summer, was merely good. Such a swing and a miss. Oh well.

canman4pm's picture

This is, without a doubt, one of the best reviews I've read since the death of Roger Ebert. Granted, it doesn't go into heavy detail about the acting, direction, screenwriting, etc. But it definitely has Ebert's flair and wit. The "It was as if someone had taken a piss on my steak and called [it?] sauce," line killed me. And I have to agree. How badly does it suck when the first three quarters of what seems to be a new classic get ruined by a retarded ending? I'd rather watch a movie that is overall not as good, but Is a fun mindless entertainment.

It brings to mind "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen." Nice buildup (if a bit long) introducing us to all the characters, Peta Wilson, disappointingly clothed in Victorian prudery. We're then left with only 30 minutes of actual, conflict and action fighting the bad-guy, PETA Wilson, finally, in a sexy outfit for about 7 seconds of screen time. Between the cast, the concept and much of the filmmaking, a potential great movie. But the beginning was too long, the ending too short (and too easy for the heroes) and I walked away feeling short changed. It felt like the Pilot for a potentially great TV series. Even worse: the Ending of the Tom Cruise "War of the Worlds." His son (after disobeying his father to do something so incredibly stupid, my 10 year old - who has driven a bicycle into a tree, set fire to a carpet, made art with his own poo, among other crazy, dumb-ass things - said, "Dude's an idiot") is found to be alive at the end. It took the beautifully built bitter-sweet victory and turned it into "Independence Day." Nothing wrong with the latter movie, but it was a fun romp-type action movie all the way through and deserved its feel good ending. "War of the Worlds" was not and deserved better. Plus there was no need or point to his survival. He bit it so early in the movie, we were over it, used to it, moved on. Forgotten, even.

So endeth the rant.

Geoffrey Morrison's picture
Ha! Thanks. League was another one of those huge missed opportunities. I'm sure we'll see a reboot someday... Also, I fixed the missing word. Thanks for the catch.
Jonasandezekiel's picture

See Geoffrey? Not everyone thinks your reviews are completely off the rails. Just the non-sensical among us.