Editor’s note: Please welcome Rob (a.k.a. dexterity83), the newest member to the Back Row team!
“Bad boys, bad boys. Watchya gonna do? Watchya gonna do when they come for you?” Yes, this song actually plays in this movie when the characters are getting their mugshots. That should give you an idea of the tone of the movie. This feels less like a new Terminator movie and more like the first episode of a TV show, or maybe a big-budget version of The Sarah Connor Chronicles for those who actually watched that show. Also, this one completely ignores Terminator 3 and Salvation (for those who want to do a little dance, that time is now). For nostalgia-seekers, the first 30 minutes of this movie are for you, particularly the parts set in 1984. And speaking of big budgets, I’m amazed that the 1984 sequences feel so cheap, and less impressive than most student films. At least they got the camera angles right.
After the 1984 problems are solved, the characters travel forward (yes, forward) in time to 2017 where a new “killer app” named Genisys (secretly Skynet) is about to launch. And that’s when the overseer, none other than John Connor, shows up. Now we have Sarah Connor, Kyle Reese, and John Connor, all born at different times and all around the same age here, hanging out and doing terminator stuff together. But there’s a twist: John Connor is now an unholy union of man and machine. As he says it, “Not man, not machine. More.” What follows is a series of overly-brief chase sequences to stop Judgment Day (yes, again). It’s amazing how every new terminator since the T-1000 feels less threatening than the one before it, and John Connor’s whatever-the-hell-he-is is no different. It mimics voices, shape-shifts, and heals itself. The only thing really different is the look underneath. Less liquidy, more staticky. How does that work, you ask? Let me remind you this movie is NOT written by James Cameron, so to quote T2: “Don’t ask.” But that’s not the worst part. Where Salvation had no clear villain, here John Connor is a villain who cannot (repeat: CANNOT!) kill the heroes, because the heroes are his parents, and they haven’t conceived him yet. Threat: terminated.
Arnold’s terminator is still the best. Probably why they keep bringing him back. He fills the role like he never left, and his terminator trying to smile will always make me laugh out loud. His one-liners this time leave a little something to be desired. He may be old, but his presence is ageless. I just wish they’d have him DO more cool things instead of just keeping him busy between one-liners.
As for the rest of the cast, or MISCAST, neither Emilia Clarke nor Jai Courtney feel like Sarah Connor or Kyle Reese, and I’m not just comparing them to Linda Hamilton and Michael Biehn either. Neither one of the new actors makes the character their own. Emilia Clarke (who looks way too teenager-ish here) is constantly doing a Linda Hamilton impression, and Jai Courtney sort of just tags along once he realizes 1984 isn’t what it’s supposed to be, never being more than a soldier helping Sarah with her cause. And then there’s the romantic subplot, which is somehow the least interesting part of the movie. For those who’ve seen Terminator 1, you know that Kyle Reese is already in love with Sarah Connor when he meets her. But there’s a problem: the feeling isn’t mutual, and she feels like she has to force herself to love him in order for John Connor to be born. And the whole subplot feels exactly the same way: a FORCED forced romance. They have no chemistry, they don’t make a good team, they’re just dragged around from place to place and occasionally talk about how they’re supposed to make John Connor happen. Even the awkwardness is awkward.
Is there any good in this movie? Yes. Arnold for one. J.K. Simmons for two. And the pacing never lets up. It is an action movie after all. There are a few MINOR surprises I liked, but if you’ve seen all the trailers (or read this review), then the major surprises are already ruined for you. But you will be entertained, for better or worse.
To sum up, it’s not the worst Terminator movie, but when it’s at its best, it’s still only “Meh”. Not unlike Terminator 3, I guess. But I remember a time between 1991 and 2002 when the Terminator franchise was comprised of two 100% flawless movies. That time has long since passed. This fifth entry tries too hard to start something new but not hard enough to let us know what it is. It’s style over shoe-horned substance.
2 out of 5