Cinematic Releases: Terminator - Genisys

The Terminator is back for more time jumping fun. What did Mike think? Find out now.

"Damn it! We missed our bus!"
The hottest new trend in the current wave of sequel/prequel/reboots is "Let's just pretend the last couple of movies never happened".  It first came to prominence with fairly mixed results in 2005's Superman Returns. Last year gave us X-Men: Days of Future Past, easily the most successful attempt to date.  The latest movie to follow this trend is this week's Terminator: Genisys.  And where does this entry fall on the scale?  Basically where it falls on most scales: the middle of the road.

To reveal even the slightest plot details would violate this site's 100% spoiler free mantra, but it can be said that this particular outing puts future soldier Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney, who Hollywood keeps trying to make happen) and Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke, who has graduated from Mother of Dragons to mother of the Resistance) at the forefront.  Neither of these two is going to win any Oscars for their performances, but they at least seem to be enjoying themselves.  Clarke tries to give her best Linda Hamilton impression but never quite nails the maturity Hamilton brought to the role while Courtney manages to give his most charismatic performance to date (which isn't saying much).  Of course it wouldn't be a Terminator movie without Arnold Schwarzenegger, whose T-800 returns to the more familiar "father figure" type of role he played in T2, and he has a heck of a lot of fun with it.  Jason Clarke gives us the most unique John Connor yet. Also keep an eye out for J.K. Simmons who has a small but fun role.

"Explain this timeline to me
or I'll blow your head off!"
As far as the rest of the story, not a whole lot can really be said that's not a spoiler.  Just be ready for a truly unique Terminator experience that plays fast and loose with the saga's canon (which was always a bit askew to begin with).  It is in a lot of ways a spiritual successor to T2, but even that film provides only a very basic springboard that Genisys (yes, they explain the title) can jump off of in some pretty interesting if confusing directions.   It's a bit disorienting when it all comes to a head, but it certainly does look cool.

Director Alan Taylor brings his Marvel experience to Genisys (he directed Thor: The Dark World), and it shows throughout.  The action is very stylized with some pretty impressive set pieces (are you sick of seeing San Francisco be destroyed yet?) and some mostly cool, occasionally sketchy effects.  There is plenty of humor though some of the early Kyle and Sarah scenes are borderline romantic comedy-esque.  Still, the whole thing is reasonably entertaining as summer action movies go.  Just don’t expect anything mind-blowing or revolutionary, and know that shutting your brain off is pretty much essential to the enjoyment of certain scenes.

Truly the most disappointing thing about Genisys is how unremarkable it is.  It's by no means terrible but it never really achieves greatness either.  There's fun to be had, and quite a bit of it, but even discounting T3 and Salvation it's a weak entry in the series.  It's worth seeing, if only once, to be entertained for a couple of hours and then pretty much discard and not really think about again.  In a series known for thrilling action and a maddeningly complex timeline, is a bit disappointing.  But hey, it's fun while it lasts.

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-Mike Stec