Meet Genisys not Skynet, in Terminator 5

8 Jul

By Ed Sum (The Vintage Tempest)

Terminator_GenisysSPOILER ALERT

You can’t fight fate in the Terminator films and nor can you change it. No matter how hard the heroes try the outcome will more or less be the same. In the latest outing, Terminator Genisys is out to redefine the world and nag this modern society about the dangers of continuously being connected to the Internet. I like these points being made. They serve to remind viewers about how reliant humanity has become with cell phones, tablets, smart homes and social media. There’s a time where technology should be put away. If there is supposed to be an underlying message in this film, it’s not being hammered home.

Instead, this movie gets timey wimey in its attempt to satisfy longtime fans like me (I even enjoyed Dark Horse Comics treatment of the franchise) and create new ones. The first act pays homage to the past Terminator films and does a great job at it. In the world of the future, where the resistance is set to make its final stand and raid Skynet’s center of operations, the terrible terminator twosome that gets introduced is with establishing the protagonists: John Connor (Jason Clarke) is the leader of the resistance and he just happens to know everything that has yet to come. Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) is the clueless grunt who does not realize he has a greater destiny. He volunteers to go back in time to save Connor’s mom, Sarah (Emilia Clarke). They meet and no sparks fly between them at all, especially when there’s a T-800 that’s taken over being Sarah’s father. That’s all well and dandy, but little do they know is that a paradox is made because in this movie, everybody lives.

The fact that their still to be born child will become a charismatic leader will beg the question if that (in this altered timeline) he will become Hitler or not. If destinies are ordained, then no matter what they do, just what has happened will happen and what has changed will change. Connor will simply be a threat no matter what the time period he ends up in after Skynet’s defeat.

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The trailer gave away this plot twist and I believe that ruined the best momentum this film could have had for surprises. In watching the performances, Jason Clarke does not have the gravitas to be charming or menacing whereas the T-1000 (Lee Byung-hun) and T-5000 (Matt Smith) do. Byung-Hun is a great actor in other movies, but here, all he’s doing is mimicking Robert Patrick’s performance. Although ruthless, there’s nothing from his dance background that materializes in the stunts done. A few of the ninja moves he does feels tame in comparison to what Jet Li can do at his prime. At least Smith makes being nasty look sexy. This actor will have no trouble shedding his Doctor Who image and to see what he does next in Hollywood is worth monitoring. If Genisys does not horribly tank at the box office, then he will be back instead of Schwarzenegger.

The question of Arnold’s longevity in this franchise is debatable. Longtime fans will note that the Terminator movie is what launched his career and although he’s not required to be in every film, at least he’s going try to support the franchise. One ongoing joke in this movie is that although he’s old he is not outdated. Maybe the franchise is just as ancient too and it’s not worth reinvigorating even though it’s meant to be a continuation of what may be a convergence of conflicting parallel universes coming to head in one explosive finale. That can be exciting to follow, but not many people can wrap their heads around this movie where writer Laeta Kalogridis said in multiple interviews that this movie takes place in an alternate timeline.

The original world of Terminator as created by James Cameron still exists. I’m left wondering if all these differing realities is going to collide? That can certainly lead to moments of crisis for the logically thinking Skynet.

When this movie reveals that the trio are temporal nexus points — where their actions can cause the time-line to unwind and branch out in new directions — that is an important fact to know. Just like in other time-travel stories, only the people who do the time travelling are aware of the changes. If the next films decide to bring the original actors from Cameron’s Terminator films back, namely Linda Hamilton or Michael Biehn, that can lead to some major revelations. The question if the performers from lamented part three and four will be included can lead to one massive temporal war that has to answer which universe is the real one. That can at least finish this franchise with one massive big bang.

2 Stars out of 5

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