This is an installment for a series on this blog where Joe Brown, Sports Editor for the Red Wing Republican Eagle, and I have a back-and-forth review of a movie. We will take turns selecting a movie — any movie we want — and review it here. For this installment, I picked “Terminator Genisys.”
WARNING THERE WILL BE SPOILERS
The Movie: “Terminator Genisys” (2015)
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jason Clarke, Emilia Clarke
Director: Alan Taylor
Plot Summary: (From IMDB) When John Connor, leader of the human resistance, sends Sgt. Kyle Reese back to 1984 to protect Sarah Connor and safeguard the future, an unexpected turn of events creates a fractured timeline.
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 26 percent
Froemming: Since last week we did a Sylvester Stallone flick, this week I figured we had to give equal time to that other ’80s action superstar, Arnold Schwarzenegger. Now, last week we saw Rocky win the Cold War, this week we watched the beloved “Terminator” franchise finally lose — to itself. That’s right, we watched “Terminator Genisys,” a film that is 20 percent winks and nods to James Cameron’s brilliant first two installments and 80 percent destroying any goodwill we had toward them. So Brown, what are your initial thoughts on this retcon mess of a film?
Brown: Can’t movie studios be happy with two transcendent films and leave it at that? Apparently not, because we now have three “Terminator” movies that had no business being made. “Terminator 3” was forgettable. “Terminator: Salvation” I thought was an OK action movie if it didn’t have the sequel baggage and the “Terminator” name attached to it.
With all that, this one may be the most offensive for trying to mess with the plot lines of the classics. I read somewhere that this was an “alternate universe” version of “Terminator.” That’s code for “Sorry guys, you’re going to be really angry.”
And, I was.
Froemming: OK, so this film starts out with a voiceover from Kyle Reese, the hero of the first “Terminator” film. I actually thought I was watching an ad for anti-depressants with the pastoral landscapes and that slight sense of doom. But then we travel (once again) to the year 2029, where we (once again) see the dystopian future run by machines. And we (once again) see a battle worn John Connor grimacing.
This acts sort of as a prequel moment, when John Connor sends his father back in time to knock up his mother so he can exist. It was one of those paradoxes that made the first film interesting, but soon we will find this film is more than ready to crap all over that. As Kyle is in the time bubble thing (don’t get me started on the nonsense logic this uses, no metal weapons or clothing can be in it but a machine man has no problem flying through time) he sees one of the Doctors from “Dr. Who” (Matt Smith) grab his son/best friend, setting forth, you know it, ALTERNATE TIMELINES. I wanted to shut my TV off right then.
Brown: Not to mention we see a bad CGI Arnold Schwarzenegger roaming the streets of Los Angeles like the first movie. This is an important point I would like to share with our audience: When one of your major plot points involves making a 30-years-younger copy of your marquee actor, DON’T MAKE THE MOVIE. This movie came out in 2015, and the effects in “T:2” from 1991 hold up way better.
After we watch John Connor get attacked by what looks like the Infinity Stone from “Guardians of the Galaxy,” Kyle Reese is transported to 1984 and I’m furious because they are redoing the first movie. As the Terminator is trying to get clothes from the street punks, we see another Terminator. Probably the biggest trailer bait you get from this movie comes in the first fourth of the film. At least after this, you really don’t have to care.
Froemming: After I watched this, I rewatched the first half of “The Terminator” and these moments in 1984 were literal shot-for-shot remakes, but slightly different. From the T-800 arriving and encountering those punks (where was Bill Paxton, by the way? He could have replayed that mohawk guy role again) to Kyle Reese flopping from the sky and stealing a homeless man’s pants, it all seemed like either an unneeded wink-and-nod or it was giving the first film a giant middle finger.
Also, Kyle encounters a T-1000 now, obviously disguised as a cop because, you know, we needed the reference to “Terminator 2.”
Brown: There’s a difference between a wink-nudge reference to an older movie and putting so many references into a film you think to yourself, “Huh, I should watch that one instead.” Guess which part of the spectrum this movie leans?
We find out why there is two T-800s when we see Sarah Connor, who is not the innocent damsel in distress that needs to give birth to the savior, but rather the battle-hardened woman she becomes in “T:2” thanks to the T-800 (known in this movie as Pops. Ughhhhh) rescuing her as a 9-year-old. I did ask in my notes why Skynet never went back and just tried to kill Sarah in the cradle. Well, at least they kind of tried to do that.
Also, they dispose of the T-1000 with barrels full of something. I assume it’s acid but either they didn’t tell me or I didn’t hear it.
Froemming: This film suffers from making every damn thing confusing. I did not have to map out alternate timelines with the first two films with a white board and calculators — those movies were just ridiculous fun. This one tries to way over-think things to the point that it loses the viewer pretty early on. If Skynet is sending Terminators to kill Sarah at age nine, why not go back further and kill her parents, or grandparents, ect., ect. If this movie expects us to follow its line of logic, then there would never have been a Connor bloodline because Skynet would have figured it all out.
Brown: Or the one point I could not get over: Sarah has free will now. She’s no longer tied to her destiny of the first two films. And through the movie, her and Kyle Reese are squabbling like teenagers and not exactly planting the seed of love. What if she decides now, no, I don’t want Kyle and doesn’t have sex with him? Shouldn’t John Connor’s existence be put on hold until they conceive a child?
As for the time travel parts, I dismissed it. At the end of the day, the last person I need explaining how time travel works is a 68-year-old robot Austrian man.
One part I did like was the flashback where a T-1000 tries to kill Sarah Connor as a 9-year-old. It tried attacking her at a lake. I legitimately thought it jumped out after her in a canoe like Jason Vorhees in the first “Friday the 13th.” That wasn’t the case but a man can dream.
Froemming: Perhaps my biggest complaint of this film is Kyle Reese. Michael Biehn played the original character and wasn’t a whiny millennial who bickered and had no concept of the world around him. Jai Courtney plays the role as a meathead who is so thick-headed he could probably stop bullets with his skull. They should have just CGI-ed Biehn like they did Arnold.
Brown: So we are off to destroy a company called Genisys, and this made me laugh so hard as a child of the 90s that I was hoping their mascot would be a chili dog-loving hedgehog that never actually made a good video game (mic drop).
It turns out Genisys is Skynet and in the year 2017, they are going to launch an app that begins “Judgment Day.” And Genisys encompasses everything: Phones, TV media, social networks, etc. Basically, Genisys is Apple.
Kyle and Sarah are arrested after their time travel escapades (ending up naked on the highway in the process) and we all of a sudden get a JK Simmons appearance? Did his character do anything for this film? Did he need photos of Spider-Man from Pops?
Froemming: It did for me because I love Simmons and him showing up gave me a brief respite from the garbage I had been seeing up to that point. I have been a fan of Simmons since I first saw HBO’s “Oz,” where he played a terrifying neo-Nazi who burned swastikas on the butts of his prison “property.” I can never really divorce him from that role, but he is a fantastic actor.
Brown: JK Simmons is a fine actor, but what was the point of his character? He remembers these two from 1984, so it’s added more to the “Hey, don’t you wish you were watching the first two movies” mindset. But hey, keep gettin’ ‘dem checks, JK.
Froemming: His character had no real point. His goal was to prove he saw time travelers, but he only proved that to himself. He saw a bunch of weird stuff go down in 1984 and has been an alcoholic conspiracy nut in the department ever since.
Also, when they land on the freeway in 2017, Kyle gets hit by a car going at least 35 mph, which is the equivalent of being lethally punched by Ivan Drago from “Rocky IV.”
Brown: Oh yeah, a naked Kyle Reese and Sarah Connor should be all sorts of dead after the car accident.
And now, we get our biggest reveal of the movie: John Connor is still alive. Only now, Skynet got to him and he’s now a Terminator. He’s not quite a T-1000 liquid metal type, and he’s not a full skeleton like the T-800. Instead, he’s made up of metal shavings. Honest to goodness, he’s one of those Wooly Willy toys you’d buy at a Snyder’s for $2 as a child. I wanted to make mustaches from John Connor’s body.
Froemming: He became a T-3000. I know that because Wikipedia offers more information about this movie than the actual movie does.
And now comes perhaps the most baffling aspect of this movie: John is trying to kill his parents before he was conceived, and there is not much of an explanation as to why. I swear, once John Connor starts going on a man hunt for his parents, this film completely lost me.
Also, Skynet is a little digital child for some terrible reason. And they say it ages. Stephen Hawking couldn’t figure out the mess of this plot.
Brown: I kind of got the plot (well, not really) because they ripped off a video game I played. This is “Mass Effect 3.” John Connor is not quite a robot, but not quite human. He’s a synthetic. Just like the end of “Mass Effect 3.” And then there is a child built from machines that is trying to explain things. Just like the end of “Mass Effect 3.” And this whole convoluted mess made me very upset. Just like the end of “Mass Effect 3.”
But hey, there’s still some movie to trudge through, so let’s go to Pops’ underground bunker to load up on weapons.
Froemming: OK, now Pops ages in this film because his synthetic skin is made to do that for whatever reason. And they try so hard to give Arnold a catchphrase that’s on par with “I’ll be back” and “Come with me if you want to live” (both are used in this film, by the way). This time, he constantly says “I’m old, not obsolete.” The first time, sure I thought it worked. But he keeps on saying it as if I forgot one of his best lines in the film. Now I hate that line.
And Pops has been amassing a weapons depot that would make any paranoid survivalist jealous. And he has kept all the pictures Sarah drew of them as a little kid. I think they wanted to show he has somehow figured out nostalgia, but I chalked it up to him being a literal killing machine who is not Sarah’s maid. Pick up your garbage, Sarah.
Brown: Wasn’t Arnold picked to be the original T-800 because he conveyed emotionless and robotic so well? Why are we trying to make him have feelings? Why is he smiling? It’s a T-800 and he’s old. Robots will not learn emotion organically.
So John Connor finds the bunker and shoots a grenade launcher into Pops’ horde of weapons (smart move, guy). Pops, Kyle and Sarah all escape outside and in a scene where we see a bunch of cars and motorcycles, they pick a school bus… the slowest vehicle by a country mile. With this choice, clearly Pops is obsolete, and Kyle and Sarah are idiots that should have died when the bus flips. Especially Kyle since school buses don’t have seat belts, save for the driver (in this case, Sarah).
Froemming: And they get arrested AGAIN! Along to the tune of the “Cops” theme song of “Badboys.” Because that’s relevant.
But we also see that John Connor is building yet ANOTHER TIME MACHINE through
Apple Genisys. I don’t know how many times I shouted “Come on!” at this film, but it must have hit well more than 100 at this moment.
Brown: We also see child Kyle Reese observing time-traveling Kyle Reese in his jail cell. And look, I’m not entirely up on my time travel laws, but shouldn’t the universe have imploded on itself or something? Like, this is what we tried to avoid in “Back to the Future 2.”
But why think when we had a helicopter gun fight to put into the movie? I swear, this movie is one video game trope after another. The future has no-name space Marines like “Halo.” We have the “Mass Effect” plot points I mentioned. And now, this helicopter scene is straight out of “Grand Theft Auto” games.
Froemming: How, in the dystopian future of which he came, did John teach Kyle to fly a helicopter? Nope, everything I’ve seen of these films has shown the soldiers in the future as ground troops. This made no sense at all.
But John Connor shares a weakness with the Insane Clown Posse, both are troubled by magnets. I just wanted to put that out there, because it was just there for no good reason. Wouldn’t all the Terminators share that weakness then? I’m getting a headache just thinking about this.
Brown: In this final showdown, I was more confused about how Wooly Willy had such a tough time with old-ass Pops. The T-1000 in “T:2” presented more of a challenge and that was 25 years ago.
From what I can remember (I checked out, I’ll admit it), the group destroys the time machine and the Genisys launch by putting John Connor in the time machine and letting it tear him apart.
The universe is saved and during the final fight, Pops fell into a vat of liquid metal and is alive. In fact, he’s upgraded.
This is where I lost it.
They’re just making stuff up as they go along. Your movie needs consequences. The T-800 didn’t waltz out of the molten steel in “T:2,” the T-800 was destroyed in “T:3,” but Pops lives because they are clearly going to be sequels. They’re just going to milk this over and over and over and over…
Froemming: Remember folks, the whole point of these films is to make sure Skynet can never happen. Yet, Kyle and Sarah allow Pops to live, thus making this whole movie a pointless, rambling mess. I’m glad the studio put a stop to the proposed sequels of this, because it is garbage. And James Cameron praised it! I’m fairly certain James Cameron has no idea what makes a movie good these days.
Let’s time travel over to recommendations and put an end to this.
WOULD YOU RECOMMEND?
Froemming: This movie was garbage. I was kind of excited to see this at first. I loved the first two “Terminator” films, and still stand by that “T:2” is perhaps the greatest action movie ever. This, I have no idea how anyone could have read the script and said “this is great! Make this into a movie!” It is a giant mess and I think at this point, let’s not return to this franchise again for any reason. Just enjoy the first two and leave it at that.
Brown: I recommend watching “Terminator” and “Terminator 2.” Then, never visit the series again. If you want to see Old Arnie fight CGI Arnie, OK, find that on Youtube. But don’t actually watch the rest of this movie.