The “Terminator” franchise has spawned four feature films – one good, one terrific, two disposable – and a TV series that ran two seasons and was nominated for four prime-time Emmys.
So you may wonder what’s left to say on the subject in “Terminator Genisys,” and the answer is: not much. To hide that fact, writers Laeta Kalogridis (a Davidson College grad) and Patrick Lussier wrap wild action sequences in pseudo-scientific gibberish and a plot I’d bet a paycheck even they can’t clarify.
Once again, John Connor (Jason Clarke) sends Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) back to 1984 to protect Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke) from attacks by a Terminator. If she dies, John will never be born, and the humans fighting an army of machines in 2029 will lose their great leader.
So far, so sensible. But Reese lands in an alternate universe where Sarah has a machine she calls Pops (Arnold Schwarzenegger) guarding her, and nothing looks like Kyle expects. “He was exposed to a nexus point in the time flow when he was in a quantum state,” Pops non-explains.
Sarah wants to go to 1997 to stop the Skynet force that runs the machines. Kyle knows better, now that he’s in the “wrong” world; he wants to go to 2017 to destroy Genisys, a computer system that will link all devices in the world and turn them against humans by becoming Skynet. I wanted to go into another theater to watch “Inside Out” again.
Director Alex Taylor has a way with car crashes and gunplay – and how tedious it is, film after film, to apply that same compliment nowadays – but anyone with an IQ above a doorstop will be frustrated by the story.
Sarah’s not pregnant in 1984 and never gives birth to John, yet middle-aged John exists in 2029. Kyle can be in the same time and space at two ages simultaneously; he even has a conversation with his younger self, warning little Kyle that Genisys is Skynet after Genisys has been destroyed. Say what?
The filmmakers prudently turn the tale into Terminator’s Greatest Hits to amuse us. Big Arnie steals a guy’s clothes, says “I’ll be back” and crashes a vehicle through a plate glass window. A relentless, shape-shifting T-1000 (Byung-hun Lee) dresses as a cop and gets roughly the same comeuppance as Robert Patrick in “Terminator 2.”
Schwarzenegger, weathered and ironic, strides through the film with old-fashioned authority. Except for Clarke, who walks an ambiguous line between heroism and sinister monomania, only Big Arnie leaves the slightest impression after the credits roll.
“I am old, not obsolete.” Pops says so twice and has it said about him once. In Schwarzenegger’s case, it’s true, but this franchise is both. If we really do get another sequel in 2017, I’m going to have to find a nexus point in the time flow when it’s in a quantum state.
John Connor sends Kyle Reese back from the future to 1984 to protect Sarah Connor, but he finds himself in an alternate universe. I wish I had.
C- STARS: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jason Clarke, Emilia Clarke, Jai Courtney, Byung-hun Lee.
DIRECTOR: Alan Taylor.
RUNNING TIME: 125 minutes.
RATING: PG-13 (intense sequences of sci-fi violence and gunplay throughout, partial nudity and brief strong language).