Terminator Genisys Reviewed

For a fan of the franchise, especially one who saw the originals in the theater, the first half hour of this movie is worth the price of admission.  Seeing shot for shot remakes of some of the opening scenes, being able to mouth the dialog along with the incidental characters, watching it all done in top-of-the-line, cutting edge tech actually brought a lump to my throat and made me, however temporarily, remember the magical feeling of going to the movie theater.

The trailers have spoiled most of the big reveals that would have made this a real blast so I don’t have to warn you about spoilers in this review because there was nothing left to spoil.

It’s a good conceit for a reboot.  Much in the same way JJ Abrams threw away the old rule book with his Star Trek reboot by altering time, we very quickly discover that the past has been changed and Kyle Reese will not be saving a reluctant hero/mother-figure of the future.  She even gets to say the famous line, “Come with me if you want to live.”

Question: Seeing as how they were able to create an Uncanny Valley version of a young Arnold for the opening fight scene, could they not have done the same with Bill Paxton’s ersatz punk?

After the fun, creative and thoroughly enjoyable opening half hour, the movie settles into the usual for Terminator movies. It runs and, half out of breath, drops exposition bombs all over the place as our heroes try to evade the cyborg-du-jour.

That’s a lot of fun, too, but mostly because of Arnold’s older, wiser performance as Pops.  I don’t watch Game of Thrones (or at least I don’t yet) so I’m not familiar with Emilia Clarke’s work in that series, but I found her portrayal of Sarah Connor to be humorless and noninflected. That may just be me cementing myself nostalgically to Linda Hamilton’s performance but I was unable to make an emotional connection with her over the course of two hours.

Question: Why is Matt Smith in this movie?  Was there a Dr. Who crossover I wasn’t informed about?  That was the first thing that popped into my mind when I saw him standing in the background with a bunch of nameless Resistance characters.  Even once his role in the movie was fully revealed I continued to wonder why they had chosen him.  Had his character been cut mostly out of the movie?

More Questions: Who sent Pops back? Who targeted Sarah at age 9? Why can Reese see two timelines?

If you ask the producers, they will answer the same for every question: We’re setting up stuff for the sequel.

Pointedly leaving out information critical to understand the plot does not make for a fully realized story telling experience. Though it does explain the profoundly stupid happy ending they grafted onto it.

The way it’s supposed to work is like this: Wow, that was a really good movie and the story was complete and I feel like the team that produced it folded it up nicely like a great, big origami swan and handed it to me.  Then, when the sequel comes out, you go, “Oh!  Of course! That’s how they tie together!”

The original Terminator ends ominously with Linda Hamilton telling us that a storm is coming just as she heads out into the desert to prepare her son for Judgement Day.  That ending closes that chapter of the story and we felt satisfied with it right up until we saw the trailers for Terminator 2.  And that one ended with headlights traversing an unmarked road and a voice-over telling us that the future was unknown.  Again, chapter closed, that part of the story complete.

With this film, you leave the theater with your head filled with questions.  It’s like when a musician stops in the middle of a chord progression or someone knocks “Shave and a haircut…” on the door and then just leaves without completing it with “…two bits.”

That’s not a feeling of wanting more.  That’s a feeling of frustration.

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