Review: TERMINATOR GENISYS (2015) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Review: TERMINATOR GENISYS (2015)

TERMINATOR GENISYS tries so hard to give this decades old franchise a shiny makeover, but all the bold attempt of rebooting the first two movies with an alternate timeline idea feels dull and monotonous.


So far in this year's summer movie season, nostalgia factor has successfully translated into a money-making machine. This is especially evident with MAD MAX: FURY ROAD and JURASSIC WORLD. Now it's TERMINATOR GENISYS' turn, another popular franchise from the yesteryear attempting to cash-in the popularity as well. For those who are losing count, this is the fifth instalment of the TERMINATOR series, and also the second time for reviving the franchise after the critical failure of TERMINATOR SALVATION in 2009. Unlike the fourth movie, TERMINATOR GENISYS has finally brought back Arnold Schwarzenegger to reprise his signature role as T-800. Unfortunately, Alan Taylor's version of TERMINATOR GENISYS is part reboot and part sequel that doesn't mesh well with each other.

WHAT IS IT ALL ABOUT?

The year is 2029, and the world is plagued with war between humans and machines. When John Connor (Jason Clarke) finds out the Skynet has sent a T-800 back to 1984 to kill his mother, Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke), Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) volunteers for the mission to protect her. Once in 1984, Kyle finds himself in an alternate timeline of 1984 where Sarah is not a waitress as John described to him earlier. Instead, Sarah turns out to be a tough fighter who already knew about Kyle's arrival, as well as Skynet and Judgment Day. Sarah doesn't need to be saved after all since she has his own protector in the form of a reprogrammed T-800 (Arnold Schwarzenegger), on which she nicknamed him as "Pops".

THE GOOD STUFF

During the 1984 sequence, director Alan Taylor (THOR: THE DARK WORLD) manages to re-create some of the iconic scenes from James Cameron's first TERMINATOR movie, particularly for the appearance of the malevolent T-800. Although the CGI version of the 37-year-old Schwarzenegger is far from perfect, it was convincing enough that bears an uncanny resemblance of the iconic action star himself.

Speaking of Schwarzenegger, he may have been too old to play such a physically-demanding role as the aging version of T-800, but still manages to retain some of his signature deadpan charm we used to see him in the second and third TERMINATOR movies. On top of that, screenwriters Laeta Kalogridis and Patrick Lussier did a good job giving a logical explanation about his character's aging factor. 

As for some of the supporting actors, Lee Byung-Hun is fairly adequate as the new (Asian) T-1000. Jason Clarke delivers a tense performance as John Connor, particularly earlier in the movie. Fresh off from winning the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for WHIPLASH, the usually-reliable J.K. Simmons gives his best in his minor appearance as an obsessive cop.

MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT(S)

Regardless how good or bad a TERMINATOR movie is, there's always a memorable moment. Unfortunately, I hardly found one in this fifth instalment.

THE BAD STUFF

The "alternate timeline" idea may have been an intriguing concept to explore with, but Kalogridis and Lussier fail to expand the plot beyond its novelty into a coherent whole. Problem is, the storyline feels heavy-handed with all the tedious techno talk about time travel and expository-filled dialogue. Not to mention it feels draggy in places, with the scene in the parking garage being among the prime example. You know, the kind where a character literally stood there and explained his motive for a significant amount of time. The story also attempts to establish a love story between Sarah Connor and Kyle Reese -- the element which was previously teased in the first movie. But instead of something heartfelt, both characters spend most of the time bickering at each other as if they are acting in a romantic comedy

Then there's the comedic elements, which featured prominently in the second and third TERMINATOR movies. While it's good to see comedy is making a comeback after the glum-looking TERMINATOR SALVATION, most of the jokes are either misplaced or feels forceful. Case in point is a terribly awkward mugshot scene scored to Cops theme song, and the repetitive jokey line of "old, but not obsolete" that quickly wears out its welcome.

Another glaring problem here is the action sequences. For all the busy visuals that Taylor is trying to keep us occupied throughout the course of two hours plus, none of the sequences here has the visceral impact as well as the "wow" factor seen in the previous four movies. It feels like a poor man's retread from other popular Hollywood blockbusters. And that includes the heavily-promoted scene involving a school bus chase along the Golden Gate Bridge ripping off from THE DARK KNIGHT (the 360-degree vehicular flip), RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES (the bridge setting) and THE LOST WORLD: JURASSIC PARK (the part where the characters are dangling inside the vehicle on a 90-degree angle). The nighttime helicopter chase scene, in the meantime, feels as if it belongs to a video-game movie. Yet, the scene is also unnecessarily over-the-top, especially when Schwarzenegger's T-800 dives straight into the enemy helicopter.

Apart from the CGI version of a younger Schwarzenegger, most of the special effects here are surprisingly dated by today's standard. How dated? Let's say the liquid-metal effect of T-1000 in TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY back in 1991 accomplished a better job than the one seen in this new movie.

Despite the collaboration between Lorne Balfe (best known for scoring video-game musics such as Assassin's Creed III and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2) and Hans Zimmer (credited in this movie as "executive music producer"), the overall music score is all loud and generic without a certain distinctive quality of its own. While Brad Fiedel's iconic thudding score still can be heard during the movie, the filmmakers are seemingly mocking the music during the unnecessarily second introduction of Schwarzenegger's T-800 inside the van. In fact, the same music has already made its dramatic entrance when he appeared for the first time to kill his evil younger self in the park.

From Linda Hamilton in the first two TERMINATOR movies to Lena Headey in the short-lived TV series of The Sarah Connor Chronicles, both actresses have essayed the roles well enough. But third time is hardly the charm for Games of Thrones' star Emilia Clarke. From the moment she appears in the first scene saving Kyle Reese from T-1000 in the shopping mall, I don't really see her as the tough Sarah Connor she supposed to be. Instead, she is totally miscast for the role. Don't get me wrong, she is great in Games of Thrones but this is Sarah Connor we are talking about -- one of the key characters crucial for the TERMINATOR movies. Unfortunately, her baby-faced look and petite frame suits her more as a high-school teenager rather than a battle-hardened woman who has seen it all.

Equally disappointing is Jai Courtney as Kyle Reese. No doubt he is no match against Michael Biehn in the first TERMINATOR, but even without the comparison, he still comes off as stiff and uncharismatic. Ironically, his performance also reminds me how bad he was in A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD (2013). Despite the inspired casting of Doctor Who's Matt Smith, it's a real pity to see him being wasted into a barely-there performance. This also goes to Courtney B. Vance and Dayo Okeniyi as Miles and Danny Dyson -- both characters previously appeared in TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY (played by Joe Morton and DeVaughn Nixon) and The Sarah Connor Chronicles (Phil Morris and Shawn Prince).

FINAL WORDS


Once again, this is another TERMINATOR movie that fails to live up to its first two movies' long-lasting reputation. I hate to say this, but even TERMINATOR 3: RISE OF THE MACHINES and to a certain extent, TERMINATOR SALVATION fares better than this one. Just so you know, TERMINATOR GENISYS is intended as the first part of a new trilogy. And to prove its point, there is a mid-credit teaser indicating more story to be told in the future instalment. But given how messy TERMINATOR GENISYS has turned out to be, I personally can't see the future beyond this movie.

* This review is written courtesy from UIP Malaysia IMAX 3D press screening *

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