Sunday, January 24, 2016

Terminator: Genisys (2015) Review:

Arnold Schwarzenegger was one of the most popular actors of his time during the 1980s. His ability to rack up the body count and spew out catchy one liners was uncanny to say the least, especially for a foreign born actor. Fans love to recount his most famous roles but if there's ever one that he will forever be remembered for, that is his portrayal of the terminator throughout James Cameron's Terminator franchise. Unfortunately like all original movies with sequel after sequel, the franchise began to show its age. Fans of series were far from impressed with Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003) and McG's Terminator: Salvation (2009). To be honest, they were not terrible films. What viewers didn't enjoy about them was they did not follow the same vein as the first two. The problem was that it was difficult to surpass the second act. Finally, fans saw Schwarzenegger return as the T-800 to this sequel that even creator James Cameron himself proclaimed to be the official sequel to T2 and the best sequel yet. So it was said.

Courtney & Clarke
There is no doubt that the crew behind this looked to satisfy the large fan base. Yet, there were certain decisions that were made that seem careless. The biggest problem that outraged many fans was the trailer, which immediately spoiled the film by revealing John Connor was a terminator. This drops a lot of buildup to a surprising reveal. The plot to this story takes place during 2029. John Connor (Jason Clarke) and Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) just about defeat Skynet when the cycle begins all over again and a terminator is sent back to 1984 to kill Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke). Reese is sent back but learns that things have changed and has leaped into another timeline where everything he thought is the exact opposite. The script was written by Laeta Kalogridis (Alexander (2004) and Shutter Island (2010)) and Patrick Lussier (Drive Angry (2011)) and for the most part it works. Even the John Connor spoiler was fine, that fault is on marketing.

A component of the writing that is harder to come to grips with is the timeline element. The movie tries to sound sophisticated by having Arnold state scientific facts and information, but the whole idea sounds convoluted. However this can be skimmed over because no one knows for sure if this is really true, so audiences could suspend their disbelief. Here's where it gets confusing though, Cameron clearly stated that this is the 3rd official sequel to that of Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991). So why is it that some of the plot points within this movie's script have references to that of Terminator: Salvation (2009)? The film even deliberately ignores the events of McG's movie yet still indirectly references it? Which is it then? One other part of the writing that wasn't completely needed was unnecessary added roles. Specifically, J.K. Simmons and Byung-hun Lee play characters that are just there for convenience or nostalgia and not much else. There's no need to cram in everything.

There is still a good amount of enjoyment to get in return though. Even with script's occasional overbloatedness, viewers of the film will have a nice ride surfing the wave of nostalgia the film provides. This wave is big; it has both auditory and visual references to the older films and even switches up the role of who does what (since it is an alternate timeline and all). The dialog equally matches the scenes filmed and the actors play off each other well. Schwarzenegger returns as the T-800 and continues to perform at his best. The dialog he's given feels no different than it was back in T2. Jai Courtney and Emilia Clarke have amiable chemistry, plus their development in their relationship isn't forced either. Even with all the flack Courtney has gotten for other films, he sounds like he's legitimately doing his best. Jason Clarke does his best too and although his role lost the buildup it could have had, he too acts like John Connor would. His scar makeup is grizzly looking.

"Do my scars scare you?...."
With the passing of special effects wiz Stan Winston in 2008, this second Terminator film does not receive his personal blessing. However, the special effects still look decent in action. Perhaps the only part that doesn't look right is the fully robotic T-800. They do not have the same tangible appearance like the others from past films. The cinematography is well lit, clear and has plenty of wide scope shots to boot. The director of photography for this sequel was Kramer Morgenthau who also worked on Thor: The Dark World (2013) with director Alan Taylor (who directed this sequel). Producing the film score is Scottish composer Lorne Balfe. Thankfully, Balfe continues to reuse Brad Fiedel's main theme from the original films and has the right emotional cues for the softer moments as well. The executive music producer was none other than Hans Zimmer and anyone who follows scores should be able to pick where Zimmer influenced it. It could be worse but it isn't.

The writing can get a bit confusing and it also has some unnecessary role casting but it doesn't bring it down too much. The main cast works very hard, the action is entertaining and the music sticks appropriately to its roots. Now if only the marketing department left out the huge John Connor spoiler in their trailers.

Points Earned --> 6:10

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