Release Date(s)2015 (November 10, 2015)
Studio(s)Skydance Productions (Paramount)
- Film/Program Grade: D+
- Video Grade: A-
- Audio Grade: A+
- Extras Grade: D
In the year 2029, John Connor (Jason Clarke) leads the final Resistance assault on Skynet, the AI that destroyed most of the human race in a nuclear Armageddon back in 1997. With his trusty lieutenant Kyle Reece at his side (played here by Jai Courtney), the attack succeeds and all is well. There’s just one final bit of business that Connor must tie up: Sending Reece back in time to protect his mother, Sarah Connor (now played by Emilia Clarke, better known to audiences as Khaleesi from Game of Thrones). But just as Kyle is whisked away by the time machine, he sees John being attacked by a Terminator. When he then lands in 1984, it’s fair to say that things don’t play out as he expects them to. You see... Kyle discovers that Sarah is already a robot-busting warrior and she’s already being protected by none other than the original Terminator (played by Arnold Schwarzenegger, who she calls “Pops”). It’s Sarah and Pops who end up saving Kyle, instead of the other way around… and that’s when things start to get weird.
About thirty minutes into Terminator Genisys, I found my attention wandering to the point where I began trying to figure out exactly why this was happening. And I think it’s this: Genisys is trying too damn hard to be clever for its own good. The film essentially forces itself into the story of not just the original Terminator, but Terminator 2: Judgment Day as well, and I’ll admit it’s intriguing the way it attempts to do so. But in the process, all of the threats from those films – the very things that made those original films so tense, edgy, and compelling in the first place – are handily dispatched in short order. Meanwhile, your attention is drawn to things other than the story. You find yourself thinking, for example, “Oh, look – how neat the way they’ve de-aged Arnold Schwarzenegger.” As a result of all this, for most of the film’s first act, there’s almost no dramatic tension whatsoever. Then Genisys missteps again, slowing down for a bit of obligatory character service. Unfortunately, the performances of Courtney and Clarke (as Kyle and Sarah) are as one-dimensional as can be, with just a single emotional note shared between them. And that’s roughly when my attention detached from the whole exercise like the soul of a hapless moviegoer killed by boredom. To its credit, once the film starts trying to tell its own story, it actually does get a little bit more interesting. But Genisys never becomes more than a mere paint-by-numbers exercise in plot-driven digital whiz-bang – a convoluted mix of bluster, blasts, and bullets.
Paramount’s Blu-ray release of the film is fine, delivering a splendid video and audio experience. The 1080p HD image is near reference quality, with deep blacks, lovely contrast and the usual blue/orange coloring we see in so many CG action films these days. The Dolby Atmos mix (core 7.1 Dolby TrueHD) is spectacular, offering plenty of sonic sturm and drang. The staging is huge, the surround play and panning are lively and smooth, and the bass kicks in with much gusto at just the right moments. Note that a Blu-ray 3D Combo version of this title is also available (see this link at Amazon.com).
Unfortunately, the disc’s extras suck. You get three featurettes, plus DVD and digital copies of the film. The featurettes are Family Dynamics (15:51), Infiltration and Termination (25:29) and Upgrades: VFX of Terminator Genisys (15:07). They’re all in full HD but who cares? It’s boring EPK filler that you’ve seen a million times now. The instructions for putting in attic insulation are more interesting than this. What’s worse, every time the film’s writers and producers open their mouths you just wonder why in God’s name these people were put in charge of reviving the Terminator franchise. Because seriously.
Frankly, the Terminator franchise is on life-support at this point, and that’s a blasted shame. It deserves a lot better. But I think the recent attempts to revive it all suffer from the same problem as the Alien franchise: Everyone keeps trying to tell the same damn story, just in ever more clever and convoluted ways, rather than working to really break new ground. (As for Ridley Scott’s Prometheus, well... that film failed because it tried to tell the same story and break new ground at the same time, and didn’t do either very well. You can read my post-mortem on that disaster here.) In any case, I’m starting to wonder if the best way to revive Terminator isn’t to create a new TV series out of it. Because frankly, the most compelling storytelling we’ve seen set in this universe since T2 was Fox’s The Sarah Connor Chronicles, which the network killed just as it was getting interesting. It certainly isn’t this hot mess.
- Bill Hunt