If you have seen “Terminator 2: Judgment Day,” you do not need to see “Terminator Genisys.” The former is one of the greatest action films of all time. The latter is a disappointing, convoluted mess. To compare the two in a review would be akin to publicly denouncing a children’s play featured at a local Sunday school because it didn’t live up to the performance of the original Broadway cast.
“Genisys” is a sort-of-reboot-sort-of-sequel to the “Terminator” franchise. It relies heavily on alternate timelines and retconning, so if you’re the type of blockbuster-goer that likes to obsess over the nuances of time travel, stay far away unless you want to spend a fortune on Advil.
Jai Courtney (“Divergent”) leads this middle school drama troupe as future-soldier Kyle Reese, likely because they already used Sam Worthington (“James Cameron’s Avatar”) in the last Terminator movie. These two sorry excuses for leading men are what happens when casting departments check the “chiseled, Australian, white” boxes rather than the oft-forgotten “talented” one. Hollywood, next time you need a meathead white guy protagonist, skip right past these charisma-barren clowns and call up Tom Hardy.
That being said, it’s not like Mr. Courtney, or either of this film’s Clarkes (Emilia Clarke, HBO’s “Game of Thrones” and Jason Clarke, “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes”) had anything at all to work with. The script relies mostly on exclamations like “What?” and “Okay!” and shamelessly re-using the good lines from “T2.” No one says or does anything interesting in this movie.
The other reason “T2” worked was that its sequences of action were logical and sensible, at least within the context of the plausible sci-fi ideas the film presents. “Genisys” is chock-full of confusing and irritating gaps in its action-film logic. Helicopters fly around like jet-planes. Guns become perplexingly less and less effective as the film goes on. The secret weapon used at the end to fry the bad guy’s robotics or sensors or whatever is pulled completely out-of-nowhere and thoroughly implausible.
Apeing another fantastic feature of “T2,” the plot of “Genisys” twists at the end of its first act, shuffling the bad guys and the good guys around. This would be effective if it weren’t so similar to the twist in “T2,” or, in perhaps an even grosser mistake, spoiled in the trailer.
There is exactly one original thing that “Terminator Genisys” brings to the table that is worth seeing, and that is some interesting particle effects used in the big bad guy’s computer-generated fight scenes. That being said, these rather cool sci-fi fisticuff scenes represent advancements made in CGI the last several years rather than act as breakthroughs themselves. It’s almost impressive how bland the rest of this film’s special effects look, and action sequences feel. That just doesn’t fly in 2015, the year “Mad Max: Fury Road” re-taught us how to make fun, powerful action cinema.
“Genysis” marks the second attempt this summer at rebooting a major 90’s film franchise, and the first, “Jurassic World,” works decidedly better. Definitely check out the dinosaur one, because as far as thoughtful, quality sequels go, “Genysis” makes “Jurassic World” look like, well … “Terminator 2.”