Someone Please Terminate ‘Genisys’

Terminator_GenisysCalifornia just can’t seem to catch a break at the movies this summer. First an earthquake tears it apart in “San Andreas,” then Los Angeles is again soiled by the trash that was “Entourage,” and now it is the host of the nuclear apocalypse. And we thought a drought was their biggest problem.

“Terminator Genisys” is the fifth film in the Terminator franchise and the first since 2009. When Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) is sent back to 1984 to protect Sarah Conner (Emilia Clarke), he finds out that he has entered an alternate timeline, and must team up with Sarah and the T-800 (Arnold Schwarzenegger) to stop Judgement Day from ever happening. Alan Taylor directs.

I don’t really know where to start with “Genisys”. I guess a fair place would be with the name, which isn’t even technically a word. In the film Genisys is the name of a program, but even then they don’t explain why it couldn’t be “Geneses”. I suppose that perfectly sums up “Terminator Genisys”: is doesn’t fully know what it wants to be, and is just a rip-off of a better, more coherent item.

“Genisys” [sigh] starts off in the events leading up to the opening moments of the original “Terminator” film, which was kind of cool. We get to see the other side of the time portal and what really led to the machines sending back Arnie, and why Reese was selected for the mission. Then everything starts to go downhill.

I got the feeling from the trailers and seeing the film just confirmed it: there is nothing special about this film, on any level. By that I mean it is just a cookie-cutter, PG-13 summer action flick, filled with standard, cliché action sequences and some cringe-worthy dialogue (which makes sense seeing as one of the film’s screenwriters has spent most of his career as an editor). And when lines aren’t clunky, they’re attempts at humor that are just that: attempts.

The biggest swing-and-a-miss at a joke was when Reese is fighting the 1984 Schwarzenegger Terminator he says, “I didn’t volunteer for this”. Oh, really? Because last time I checked you signed up to go back in time and protect Sarah Conner from the very Terminator you are currently fighting.

Not helping the cause is Jai Courtney, who plays Reese. Courtney seems like a cool guy in real life, but in movies he has done little to establish himself as a charismatic leading man. He delivers each line of serious dialogue with unintentional laughs, and botches every attempt at comedic relief. You never for a second buy that there is romantic chemistry between him and Sarah, and the absolute only reason you even window shop the idea is because you know in the first film they fell in love.

Alan Taylor directs this and I want to know the name of the studio executive that watched “Thor: The Dark World” and went, “Yes! Know the guy who directed the only bad Marvel film? Get me him; he’s the man to save the Terminator franchise!” Alan does nothing inspiring with his camera or narrative, and by the halfway point of the 30 minute climax I just kept rolling my eyes and thinking “oh my God, movie, end!”

The special effects aren’t even great, and if your special effects aren’t good in 2015, you really messed up. The film has a few nice twists (even though most are ruined in the trailer for whatever reason), and almost has an interesting bit of social commentary on what led to the apocalypse, but these are all squashed under the cardboard characters and increasingly frustrating tangled web that is a plot.

“Terminator Genisys” starts off well, and for a few minutes in the middle showed a glimpse at maybe getting good, but it quickly makes a detour back into Snoozeville…Population: the audience. Seeing Arnold back in his most famous role was fun for a second, but he’s ironically said “I’ll be back” in every film he’s been in since 1985, so my face remained stoic when the line was delivered here.

If you’re a diehard Terminator fan, then watch “Genisys” (that name, man, I’m telling you) when it comes out on DVD. If you could care less about the mythology of the franchise and just want some summer fun, go see “Jurassic World” again. Or throw two robot action figures at each other for two hours. I’m sure there’s more of narrative and fun to be found doing that than watching this.

Critics Rating: 3/10

Variety

Variety

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