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I blame Linda Hamilton

"T3 without me." That was the supposed mantra uttered by Linda Hamilton on the set of T2. It was probably in jest and in response to exhausting days and nights on T2, but it became the reality once there really was a Terminator 3 on the table. She declined to reprise Sarah Connor and T3 took a new track that was, well, notoriously bad. Maybe it would've been bad anyway. Probably would have since it wasn't a James Cameron film. Without the use of TDE, we have no way of knowing. What I do know is Sarah-less T3 sucked and then T4 sucked and that path has brought us to this T5. Yes, Sarah Connor is back, but it's a new character and the movie isn't much better than the prior two, so I'm still blaming Linda Hamilton for leading us here (sorry, Linda).

Terminator Genisys

Yes, I saw it. Of course I saw it. Terminator fan that I am, I had to see it even with the vast majority of reviews warning me not to. Before I go any further and get into movie-shredding spoilery stuff, I'll give you my reaction right after seeing it, before I had time to digest:







Even after thinking about this movie and getting more annoyed by it, I still feel the same. The first 20 minutes make it worth seeing. The rest, not so much. On a scale of T1 to T4, I give it a T2.9, just ahead of T3 in Terminator fan viewing experience.


WARNING: LOTS OF SPOILERS IN HERE!
Back out now if you haven't seen the movie and don't want to be spoiled.



With most of what I'd read about Genisys being focused on the convoluted time travel aspect of it, I had this little bit of hope that it might be a good film and that the naysayers were all from the "time travel makes my head hurt" crowd. Me? I love head-hurting time travel stuff. Even if it's too complex to get in the moment, I'll work it out after the fact. Assuming it's logical, that is. Assuming the people writing it took the time to think it through and make sure it makes sense. But they didn't.

Here's my gripe: "Pops" (that's T-800 Arnold in case you've managed to avoid learning anything about Genisys over the last several months) says in the movie that there are multiple timelines. Yet in the movie, things happen as if we're dealing with a single timeline. Wha? Yeah. That's a huge problem for me. Pick one or the other please. Actually, pick multiple timelines only please and save the magical memories* for movies that aren't part of a franchise that, once upon a time, was smart (and has only gotten back to being smart for a fleeting 31 episodes on TV).

At the moment Kyle Reese is in the time bubble in 2029 (being sent back to 1984), something happens right there in 2029 that causes him to have *memories of a life he never lived. His existing memories aren't wiped out, he just picks up some new ones that fuel the rest of the story. It's dumb. And not just dumb, it's insultingly dumb. It's the kind of thing one comes up with because they're too lazy or inept (or both?) to find a logical way of getting the plot from where it begins to where they want it to go. They waved a magic wand instead and threw some nonsensical explanation at us later. In other words, they gambled that the audience would go along and think they're just not smart enough to understand.

Then they doubled-down on the stupid by wandering into silly Doctor Who territory and set our heroes to the task of making sure Kyle's magical memories have a starting point in the timeline. This happened, so we have to go make sure it does happen (even though we've altered the course of events so that it doesn't actually need to happen again). Ugh. But that's near the end and believe me, there's much more to hate about the ending than that.

Did you ever see the alternate ending for T2? It's this lovely sunny day and an older Sarah is sitting on a park bench musing about how great life is since judgment day never happened. Thank God it got scrapped because it would have absolutely ruined T2. Genisys doesn't give us a glimpse into a lovely future, but it forces an over-the-top happy ending that's just as bad. I think it's actually supposed to be a bizarro T1 ending where we get happy family Sarah, Kyle & Pops riding off into a pretty horizon instead of lone preggo Sarah riding off towards a stormy horizon. But whatever, you'll need some Tums to keep it down.

There are a lot of specific moments throughout the story I can poke just as much. There's a stupidly timed time jump, a mug shot gag (How the hell did that make the final cut?!), John Connor's nanobot purpose, an omnipresent holographic genisys boy, absurd helicopter stunts, a liquid metal upgrade... But the tragedy of Genisys isn't all that, it's that the movie actually starts out really good. I was sitting there in the theater, expecting a mediocre (at best) movie and was wowed by what I was seeing. I could not believe this was the movie I'd read such scathing reviews about. The first 20 minutes or so were fantastic — the future war stuff where John sends Kyle back, all the overlap on T1 in 1984 and the callbacks to T2. It wasn't just fun, it was well done, it was good, I was engaged and I got really excited thinking I was in for a great Terminator ride. Then it starts falling apart and there's just nothing to grab onto and no characters to care about.

Arnold was enjoyable enough and played himself well. He bordered on T3 cheese too much, though that was more a problem with the script than his performance. We need some T-800 humor here, anyone got an idea? Uh, I don't know, just make him do the awkward smile thing again or say "mate" again or "old but not obsolete" again. My favorite Arnold line was actually the "I read about this on gunsandammo.com" bit because it was delivered more as a throw-away than THIS IS A HUMOROUS LINE. The movie definitely needed a lesson in humor subtlety. Obvious gags largely fell flat on the audience I was was with.

On the serious side of things, Jason Clarke was quite good and showed a nice range from sincere to villainous. From the clips and trailers, I thought I'd dislike him as John Connor, but I didn't at all. I can understand why fanboys were put off by John becoming the big baddie, though. I wouldn't like it if Sarah became the big baddie. But since I'm not emotionally attached to John Connor, I thought it was an intriguing twist, in theory. And it amounted to little more than that. He was the new, more advanced terminator, but the fact that it was "John Connor" served almost no purpose and wasn't worth the character risk.

Emilia Clarke was just okay and Jai Courtney was just okay. Their problems were a combination of bad dialog, forgettable performances and ZERO chemistry. Someone needed to bring some intensity to the screen and neither one of them had it. I really think Kyle was the more crucial role here because this was apparently his story anyway. He's got the narrative voice at the beginning and end and we don't even meet Sarah until he does. If Kyle had been played by a stronger actor, I think it would've made her, and perhaps their relationship (though there really wasn't one), work better too.

Despite Sarah being all gun-toting and knowledgeable about the future, this is still a youthful Sarah without the T2 emotional baggage of sketchy living and apocalyptic obsession who had to protect her son from a constant threat of killer robots. She's sort of just innocent T1 Sarah with skills. But unlike T1, this story requires no growth from her (or from Kyle either for that matter). There's a half-assed attempt at giving her some emotional turmoil about Pops, but because their backstory was so glossed over, it was impossible to empathize the way we could with John about Uncle Bob in T2. And in an odd way, I felt like Pops and Sarah is really where the heart of Genisys should have been (it certainly wasn't with Sarah and Kyle).

I do think Genisys was trying to go for some sort of father theme because Sarah had her Pops and Kyle had his father figure in John. In fact, when Kyle learns that John is actually his son, it messes with him because of the father figure thing. Unfortunately that happens when John is super villain nanobot!John and the story was getting too contrived. So Kyle feeling conflicted about stopping his Skynet-laced killer nanobot father figure son didn't work on an emotional level any better than Sarah's devastation about Pops sacrificing himself getting "upgraded". I don't think the John-Kyle story would've had much to offer anyway, but the Sarah-Pops story could have easily been expanded into something compelling.

Ridiculous story turns, clunky exposition and too many damn 'splosions aside, Genisys should have at least taken more time to develop its characters. It's a movie, not a TV show, I know, but its lack of heart and lack of any emotional build, was the biggest failure. If it had been better grounded in its characters, it could've made me care and perhaps been a reboot with a rocky start but a glimmer of promise. There wasn't enough there, though. It was just a hollow caricature of Terminator.

Can I have more Sarah Connor Chronicles please?



ETA:





Comments

( 2 comments — Add a comment )
Jayne Cullen
Jul. 5th, 2015 01:17 pm (UTC)
And they stole from the best, too...
Hi Roxy!

Thanks for the review - great stuff, as usual.

I haven't been able to bring myself to see TG yet, and probably will wait until it's On Demand (because OD has that necessary FF feature), but I've seen enough previews to know that the TG writers were TSSC watchers... and TSCC thieves.

Examples: Terminator head through the car window, followed by droll terminator comment. Energy bubble that appears on a busy highway. Alternate timelines. A future John Connor who's actually a terminator. Gee, where was that concept raised before?

Cameron: "Telling me is the same as telling John."
Jesse: "What the hell are we fighting for if telling you is the same thing as telling Connor?"

And those are just the thefts I picked up from the previews.

Too bad that TG's writers and producers didn't steal, you know, any of the good stuff. All they missed was the soul of TSCC. And, the perfect casting. And, the smarts. And...

Oh well. Is the TV-series followup to TG still slated to happen? I wonder, with the lousy box office returns. Not sure I'd wanna see it make it to air anyway, even for a laugh. It'd be like watching the great Garret Dillahunt go from Cromartie/John Henry to Burt Chance again. Grrrrr...

Edited at 2015-07-05 03:56 pm (UTC)
roxybisquaint
Jul. 5th, 2015 05:35 pm (UTC)
Re: And they stole from the best, too...
Hi Jayne!

Yeah, I'd wait for Netlfix or something. I'll see it again on the small screen just to see if I still feel the same about it.

More TSCC bits I'm thinking of:
- A power cable got used against a terminator in a fight (didn't cause it to short out and have to reboot, though)
- One T-800 Arnie scanned the other T-800 Arnie and saw his endoskeleton (like Vick seeing Cameron's before their chase)

If Genisys had spent half as much time on its own story as it did on nods to past work it maybe could've been a better film. But probably not because they just didn't *get* Terminator.

With the the apparently disappointing box office, the new TV show is very unlikely to happen. The next movie in the planned trilogy might not even happen. Terminator might really be dead this time.
( 2 comments — Add a comment )

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roxy burglar
roxybisquaint
Roxy Bisquaint

Roxy Bisquaint...

Is self-indulgent. Over thinks everything. Tweets too much. Looks really good in these jeans. Wants to eat butterscotch. Makes herself laugh. Obsesses about aging. Does some crunches. Lives with two ghosts. Procrastinates daily. Measures once, cuts twice. Hates Foo Fighters. Drinks lots of coffee (keep it coming). Puts spiders outside. Brings balance to the force. Draws a perfect curve. Enjoys dark chocolate. Bangs on the drums. Always gets in the slow line. Orders from a menu. Hopes to be reincarnated. Speaks fluent Sarah Connor. Cooks tasty crack theory. Loves a good storm. Dances like a dork. Picks some locks. Tips well. Refuses to share the popcorn. Dreams about the future. Ignores the clock. Sings off key. Has a superpower. Shoots the paper bad guys. Needs some eyeliner. Goes to bed at dawn. Can't resist good smut. Quotes movie lines. Eats whipped yogurt. Lets the story tell itself. Maintains a rich fantasy life. Knows all the mysteries of the gods and of the universe.

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