In the past, the most vocal critics of the Terminator franchise have said that I’m not exactly a great source of “assessment” of these films. That’s their position because when it comes to the adventures of the local and extended Connor family I tend to subscribe to that old axiom, “Even bad sex is good sex.” What this means for the cyborg flicks is that I’ve found even a bad Termie film basically has something to offer … and, yes, that even applies to the kinda/sorta bloated TERMINATOR SALVATION. While I didn’t much care for critical darling Christian Bale in the John Connor role, I thought director McG’s film fleshed out a terrific supporting cast, including the reliable Sam Worthington, Bryce Dallas Howard, and (especially) Moon Bloodgood. In fact, I’d argue that the strength of these lesser characters kinda quashed the need to explore another take on John Connor, and perhaps that singular player would’ve been better served with less narrative focus.
(Yeah, yeah, I know others who’ve said Connor never had enough screen time, so – opinions being what they are – let’s just say “it is what it is.”)
Like many, I could easily malign the whole idea of “Genisys” (think the Apple Watch on steroids for a civilization that lives its life only for social-media awareness) as being a bit too passé and predictable for the larger themes that have made up the broader Terminator franchise. In the ConnorVerse, things like choice, destiny, life, death, fate, responsibility, and (oddly enough) family have always been near and dear to the main story – whether that be any of its films or even that occasionally maligned TV incarnation, TERMINATOR: THE SARAH CONNOR CHRONICLES. Instead, GENISYS largely placed those ideas on the backburner, favoring the up-close-and-personal angle of star-crossed-love (Kyle Reese and the lady Connor) while basically bashing anyone with a SmartPhone and web access. (Isn’t there an APP for that?) This lightweight premise has already provided so much fodder for plenty of other franchises that I’m kinda/sorta surprised this particular story earned what I’ve been told was the ‘thumbs up’ from Terminator’s creator, Mr. James Cameron. Methinks it was probably the whole “resetting of the timeline” that he favored and not so much this thematic angle … though now that I think about it, Cameron’s AVATAR did look at awful lot like 1992’s FERNGULLY so I could be wrong.
However, GENISYS did (thankfully) bring Arnold back into the fold – that’s “Arnold Schwarzenegger” for those born on an island – and I do believe in being thankful for small miracles. It was nice to have the ultimate big guy back, and it was even a pleasure to see how the film allowed him to age somewhat gracefully in this role.
Also, I’d argue that the reliance on CGI heavily killed GENISYS’s pacing. When so many of the stunts are performed using post-production trickery, it’s hard to visually capture any real sense of jeopardy for the real live actors audiences are supposed to care about. Granted, this isn’t the case with every picture (thank you, Peter Jackson, for at least upping that ante properly with your Tolkien interpretations); but when a major stunt sequence done digitally in GENISYS ends up resembling a major stunt sequence done with practical photography from JURASSIC PARK – a film 22 years old already – someone made an error, folks … and it wasn’t me for noticing it.
Lastly: those who’ve criticized the casting of Emilia Clarke as the key player in our melodrama, Sarah Connor? They’re spot on. Clarke was all wrong as Connor, never effectively conveying any sense of dread over her life’s circumstances. Sadly, she’s even less believable as an action star: too small, too plain, and too blah. Granted, not every franchise role looking for the tough young female can land in Jennifer Lawrence’s capable hands, but what about The Walking Dead’s Lauren Cohan? Or maybe even The 100’s Eliza Taylor? Or maybe even The American’s Keri Russell? I just find it so gobsmackingly impossible to believe that Emilia Clarke (who does a terrific job on GAME OF THRONES) read the part best for producers. It smacks of ‘vanity casting,’ but what do I know: I’m just an internet schlub.
Sure it is. TERMINATOR: GENISYS offers up a few nuggets of warmth even though much of the rest on the plate looks and smells like leftovers. Jason Clarke (again) proves he’s big star material; Arnold gets comfortable with one-liners again; and the future’s so bright you gotta wear shades. It ain’t perfect … but – as promised – even bad sex is good sex.