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Movie Review: Terminator Genisys


Terminator Genisys is the fifth installment of one of the greatest action movie franchises in history. But how does the new movie stack up to the standards set by the original and cemented by Terminator 2: Judgement Day?

**The following is an in-depth review of "Terminator Genisys" and does contain spoilers.**

The Terminator franchise began in 1984 as the brain child of visionary filmmaker James Cameron. Cameron himself returned to direct the first sequel, subtitled "Judgement Day," considering the story complete after that. Hollywood, it would seem, had other plans.

Two other sequels followed, yet neither of them were as well received as the original two films. The latest, "Terminator Genisys" really doesn't do anything to redeem the franchise.

"Terminator Genisys" begins with the defeat of Skynet. We are introduced to the leader of the human resistance against the machines, John Connor, and his right hand man Kyle Reese. In a last-ditch effort to reverse its own defeat, Skynet sends a cybernetic warrior known as a Terminator back in time to 1984 to kill Sarah Connor so that her son, John, will never be born. John sends Kyle Reese back as well to keep Sarah safe and ensure victory for the resistance.

Does any of this sound familiar? It should. This is the plot to the original Terminator film. In many ways, "Terminator Genisys" suffers from one of the biggest failings that derailed both "Superman Returns" and "Star Trek Into Darkness" - toxic nostalgia. Superman and Star Trek were both unable to separate themselves from what had gone before and do their own things with familiar material, and "Genisys" definitely falls into that category.

When the original Terminator arrives in 1984, he is soon greeted by another, slightly older, T-800 model 101 Terminator who claims to have been waiting for the first Terminator's arrival. What follows is probably the most iconic scene in the entire movie - Schwarzenegger vs Schwarzenegger! The two Terminators fight hard, but the fight is short-lived. Probably a better way to go would have been to allow the 1984 Terminator to survive to the end of the film, but the movie chose not to go that way and we get one very cool, if short, fight between the two.

It's revealed that in this new, alternate, 1984 timeline that Sarah Connor has been in the care of a T-800 Terminator - whom she affectionately refers to as "Pops" - since she was nine years old. It was Pops who trained her to be the warrior who would later give birth to John Connor and teach him those same skills, which would make him the great military leader destined to take down Skynet. Reese is soon rescued by Sarah and Pops, with Sarah saying to Reese the line he had said to her in the original film - and which has become one of the iconic lines from the series - "Come with me if you want to live."

Reese is understandably wary of Pops - since, from his perspective, that was the Terminator he was sent here to protect Sarah from - but he is soon forced to accept him as an ally. For some reason, which remains unexplained throughout the film, Reese is having visions of yet another alternate timeline where Skynet has not yet become active before his birth, and is about to become active in 2017 when Reese is 12 years old. Sarah and Reese soon time travel to 2017 to destroy Skynet at its creation.

While "Genisys" does have an interesting set-up, the audience soon comes to the realization that there is no second act. You keep waiting for the film to take off, but it never does. It has an extraordinarily long first act and then moves straight into the third act, which is a unique, if jarring, experience. Unfortunately, when you do get to that third act, you're left with an empty feeling, wondering how it was you got here. This film has a beginning and a destination, but there is no journey.

The third act revolves around John Connor, who has been sent back to 2017. We soon discover that John was assimilated, Borg-style, and is now a Terminator himself. The climax is pretty exciting, but it's lost due to the lack of no real middle to the film. The twist of John being a Terminator also suffers from having been spoiled in the trailer for the movie. A similar marketing fail happened in the trailer for "Terminator Salvation," when the twist that Sam Worthington's character, Marcus Wright, was revealed to be a Terminator.

The film's overall special effects were quite good, but that's never been an issue with any of the Terminator films. The entire Terminator franchise was built on finding new ways to bring things to life, especially with the early CGI work done for the T-1000 in "Terminator 2." The acting for the most part is fairly solid. Emilia Clarke gets off to a rather rough start in her performance, but it improves as you get further into the film. Schwarzenegger, as always, is Schwarzenegger.

The film is visually stunning, and everything you could hope for out of a Terminator film, but the movie really suffers from that lack of a second act. Much like the last film in the franchise, "Genisys" is rated PG-13, as opposed to the R rating the first three films got, but that doesn't diminish film's quality all that much. You never sit there wishing for more graphic violence or strong language, you just wish there was more meat to the story.

Much like "Superman Returns," "Terminator Genisys" is a direct sequel to the first two installments, largely ignoring the events of the third and fourth films, as well as the short-lived television series. Had the director and the producers cared enough about the film to make sure it told a complete and developed narrative, it definitely had the potential to live up to that legacy. Instead, audiences are left with a completely unfulfilling, if aesthetically pleasing, movie going experience.

If you're a die hard Terminator fan, "Genisys" is worth a look, but I would definitely recommend waiting for it to come to Netflix or home video.

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