Imagine a ten-year-old bratty kid of a multi-billionaire whose favorite movies are The Terminator and Terminator 2, who decides to use the 200 million dollars he got from daddy as a birthday present to make his own Terminator movie. He takes his favorite moments from the first two films and awkwardly inserts them into his film, not having any idea what those moments in the original movies meant to the story as a whole and not realizing that the excellent build ups and the great screenplays around those moments are what made them special to begin with. Watching Terminator Genisys is such an experience; the whole torturous ordeal feels like we’re watching the most expensive YouTube fan film ever made.
Laeta Kalogridis and Patrick Lussier are credited for the screenplay, because whenever I think of rebooting a delicate billion-dollar franchise that already suffered from two crappy sequels, I think, "Get me the team behind Drive Angry and the My Bloody Valentine remake". Of course we’d need a daring director to put such an ambitious project together while single handedly pulling the franchise out of the muck of mediocrity it has been stuck in for over twenty years. So let’s get the visionary director behind Thor 2 and a handful of Game of Thrones episodes. I know I’m just babbling at this point, because none of those assigned credits really matter, this is obviously a product micromanaged and focus grouped to death by an army of soulless executives who wanted nothing more than to make away with a buttload of cash by pressing specific nostalgia buttons on the audience they see as a bunch of lucrative lab rats.
The soft reboot premise of Terminator Genisys begins with a wholly original idea: "It worked for the Star Trek reboot, why don’t we copy and paste it over to The Terminator?" Yes, ladies and gents, we get the alternate timeline crap once again. The story begins with the audience finally getting to see the moments before Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) is sent back in time by John Connor (Jason Clarke) to protect Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke) from being killed by a Terminator in 1984. I have to admit, it’s kind of fun to see the rebels’ final battle against Skynet right before the time travel takes place, a scene only hinted at via dialogue during the original Terminator, even though the entire future sequence is so awash in overtly clean CGI that it looks like an Asylum flick with a slightly bigger budget.
The first couple of moments in 1984 present a shot-by-shot remake of the original Terminator; they even found a poor soul to replace Bill Paxton and his ridiculous Mohawk. However, the three punks get away with their lives intact this time around because a T-800 (Arnold Schwarzenegger) with older skin (Wait till they explain this one, it’s a touch of genius) have been "waiting for" the original Terminator, and the two duke it out until the young Arnie CGI abomination is no more. To be fair, he looks slightly more believable than the similar CG Arnold in Terminator: Salvation, but that’s hardly high praise.
It turns out that the old Terminator has been training Sarah Connor since she was a child and she’s now the badass from T2. Well, not completely, since her badassery is mired by Emilia Clarke’s inability to keep her eyes open while firing a gun. During all action scenes, she’s twitchier than a crack head in withdrawal. Where’s Linda Hamilton and her hairy biceps when you need them? Anyway, Sarah and the old T-800 nicknamed “Pops” (No, I’m not kidding) rescue Kyle from the poly-alloy crutches of yet another T-1000 in a cop uniform (Byung-hun Lee). Where the f—k did this T-1000 come from, and who the f—k sent it? Also, why not dress him up as a firefighter this time around? You know, for variety’s sake?
Sarah’s plan is to use their version of the time machine to go to 1997 and stop Judgment Day. However, Kyle had a vision during his first time travel, and is convinced that Judgment day will now happen in 2017 via a smart phone app called Genisys. Thus begins the franchise rights holders’ pathetic attempt to bring The Terminator into millennial territory, since no one’s afraid of a simple nuclear annihilation anymore. That’s, like, so 80s. Of course there has to be a new evil Terminator to chase down our gang, whose identity was unceremoniously spoiled by the most recent trailer when it was obviously meant to be a shocking revelation in the finished film. Oops. If you haven’t seen the trailers, I won’t spoil it here. All I can tell you is that this twist doesn’t add anything to the already thin story besides bringing to the table the most simplistic and lazy shock value imaginable.
Half of the film’s dialogue is spent on clunky exposition where the screenwriters struggle to write themselves out of the plethora of plot holes created by the alternate timeline conceit. The story and the execution are already so silly, that you just want to move on to the mediocre time filler action sequences anyway. It would have been tonally incompatible, but I wish the characters took a page out of the second Austin Powers movie and directly told the audience not to worry about all that time travel hullaballoo and try to enjoy their cinematic equivalent of pink slime. The other half of the dialogue centers on Kyle slowly finding out that he’s supposed to be John’s father, where the underlying question in each scene attempting to build some form of romance between the two attractive protagonists who have zero chemistry with each other is, “So, does that mean we’re supposed to f—k?”
Terminator Genisys is beyond bad, it’s an embarrassment. And you thought we hit the bottom of the barrel with Terminator 3 and Salvation? Apparently, that barrel is deeper than we could have imagined.