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Monday, July 6, 2015

Terminator GENiSYS Review.

Terminator GENiSYS review.

Warning, there will be spoilers.

You have been warned.

Still here?

Ok, let’s begin.

Let me just say, that despite it’s many flaws, I love the Terminator franchise.  I have ever since I saw the original Terminator, when I was far too young to be allowed to see an R-rated movie mind you, but hey it was the 80s and my grandparents slept in late.

I still consider the original Terminator to be one of the best sci-fi-action-thrillers ever put on screen.  It is a tightly written causal loop time travel story, that is made even moreso by the scenes cut from the theatrical release.  In those scenes we see Kyle Reese dealing with being a man out of time, cliché, but was well done and showed that Michael Beihn had some real acting chops.  The other key scene was at the end where an employee at the plant where the Terminator is destroyed shows the damaged arm and chip to his friend, who then tells him to hide them, shuffling his friend out of frame in time to show the cybverdine systems logo behind them.  Had the franchise ended there all would be right with the world.  Terminator did not need a sequel, nor did anyone really want one.  Some people call the movie’s ending bleak, but they forget that while Judgement Day was coming, the war was won thanks to John Connor, otherwise Reese and the Terminator would never have been sent back in time, and John would not have been conceived.

There is a funny scene in the later half of the movie where they compare the heights of all the actors.  Funny but not right for a Terminator Movie.

I’ll discuss the other movies later, but let’s jump to GENiSYS.  (Yes I am writing it that way for a reason, will get back to that later).  On the whole, it was a fun summer action movie, with plenty of cheesy one liners, explosions enough to make Michael Bay’s mouth water, and gunplay to satisfy your post July-4th need for action.  It lacked the tension and the sense of unrelenting doom that original Terminator brought to screen.  On the whole, this soft reboot of the franchise (which relies heavily on the viewer having seen the previous movies) is what I would call a missed opportunity.
The movie opens with Kyle Reese’s Monologue about how his future history, including Judgement Day and how he eventually meets John Connor (played by Jason Clarke, he does a great job BTW for the most part).  This is well done, but feels very much like a book prologue, and on the whole, I prefer how the original handled this.  It also throws out the continuity established in Terminator Salvation for how John and Kyle meet.  When John kills an early terminator, saving Kyle, it is great, the Terminator in question doesn’t look like Arnold, reinforcing that they don’t all look alike.

We then continue into the future war all the way up to the final battle, where John Connor leads an assault on a Skynet work camp, instead of the assault on the Skynet main core in Colorado.  Kyle questions this, but John assures him that there is a reason.  All looks hopeless when suddenly all the Terminators, Hunter Killers, etc… all shutdown Phantom Menace style with the destruction of Skynet over a thousand miles away.  But it’s too late, and a T-800 model 101 has been sent back to 1984.

The resistance then takes the base and Kyle is sent back in time. Ladies the following scenes are for you, naked Jai Courtney and CG naked Arnold.  However I must point something out here.  Michael Biehn was a wirey guy, that fit the role of a man fighting for his life in the post-apoc, Jai Courtney is a beefy bruiser, while he handled the role well, he had far too much muscle mass for the role.  This is where things start to change.  *** SPOILERS HERE ***  The biggest surprise, which wasn’t shown in the trailers happens here.  The Doctor, I mean Matt Smith, or an all new terminator type, played by Matt Smith, attacks John Connor just as Kyle begins to travel back in time.  Kyle then proceeds to see two different possible timelines, the one he grew up in, and one where Judgment day was postponed 20 years.  In the process, the Kyle sees two pivotal events that will help him later.

Your Four John Connor's to date:
Wheres the Beef, Chicken Sandwich, Whopper Junior, In 'N out 4x4.

Kyle and the T-800 arrive in 1984, much like the original.  Only in the case the T-800 is intercepted before getting his snazzy punker duds by an older T-800 who it proceeds to get into a brawl with before someone with a Barret M82 50Cal Sniper rifle drills a special round through the chest of the T-800.  How they got hold of a gun that was only introduced 4 years earlier is left unstated.  The CG Arnold is not terrible, and in most shots looks pretty good, not entirely convincing, but close enough.  In too many shots it still looks very claylike with some serious uncanny valley, which kind of works for the character.
The image on the left is from the trailer (it looks better in the final film) and the right from the original Terminator.  Close, but not close enough.

Meanwhile Kyle finds himself pursued by a T-1000 while he steals some clothes from a homeless man.  He is arrested by two uniformed police officers during the chase.  One is killed, while the other releases him just before Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke, rocking more the T-2 Linda Hamilton look that the T-1 poffy 80s hair) smashes into the clothing store in an armored truck and saves him.  “Come with me if you want to live!”

I know which Sarah Connor I prefer.
Two Games of Thrones Actresses play Sarah Connor, I wonder if they ever joke about that.
Kyle is left obviously confused as to why meek little Sarah Connor just saved him and has a Terminator guardian.  There is a brief fight about this and a chase by the T-1000 before they lead it back to a trap they’d been setting for it since 1973.  Seems that the older T-800 was sent back in time, by person’s unknown, to protect Sarah and raise her into being a warrior woman.  “Pops,” as she has named him, has even briefed her on whole Kyle Reese will be to her, the father of her future savior son, John Connor.  She has some very awkward talks with Pops  about why she doesn’t immediately jump Kyle’s bones, and there is definite tension between Kyle and Pops, not just because he is a Terminator, but also some father-suitor issues going on.

The trio defeats the T-1000 by raining acid on it.  I liked this bit, it was well done.  They also melt down the younger T-800 in the acid.  Pops is damaged in the fighting though with several facial scars and the flesh of his right hand melted away before Sarah can treat it with an acid neutralizing Base solution.  This hand was also damaged when fighting the younger T-800, and will come back into play later.

Sarah and Pops then reveal their plans to Kyle.  They have constructed a one-time use time machine that will send them forward to 1997, so that they can destroy Skynet before Judgement Day.  Kyle  correctly points out however that they have now altered the timeline, and that now Skynet will go online in 2017 using a Trojan Horse program called GENiSYS.  This was the first message he received from his younger self, the second is a hand gesture he shows Sarah, one that only comes about because of the 1973 intervention of Pops and the T-1000 (it had been hunting her for 10 years).  This convinces her to jump forward to 2017 instead.  Ladies more naked Jai Courtney, gentlemen, it’s PG-13 so we get some above the butt backside of Emilia Clarke only, go watch Game of Thrones if you want more.

Kyle and Sarah arrive in the middle of the San Francisco freeway, disrupting traffic, a callout to  the Sarah Connor Chronicles.  Pops was supposed to meet them there, taking “the long road” and waiting for them for 33 years preparing.   He, unfortunately, gets caught in traffic and they are arrested, and taken to a local hospital.  There two detectives are told to process them before homeland security arrives, but another detective, an older drunk detective (JK Simmons) insists that there is something more about these two, he recognizes Kyle.  He even bursts in on the interrogation and after revealing that he was the surviving beat cop from 1984, Kyle starts a ruckus and the detectives leave when told that Homeland has arrives. 

The Homeland Security agent turns out to be John Connor.  He helps the pair to escape as Pops arrives at the Hospital with a giant teddy bear, and accidentally reveals that he Kyle is his father.  The quartet meet back up in the parking garage where Pops attacks John with no explanation before John gets back up and reveals himself to be, you guessed it a Terminator (come on it was in the previews).  John is an all new type of Terminator created by Skynet at the very end that replaces every cell in the person’s body with magnetically adhering nanobots.  A fight ensues and the trio escape thanks to trapping John with an MRI machine.

I won’t spoil the rest, or reveal too much more about the plot.  Needless to say the heroes fight to stop skynet going online.  Cyberdyne has created an app/OS called GENiSYS that links all electronic devices, phones, tablets, computers, cars, even military hardware (HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA) and it goes online in less than 24 hours.  Once that happens, and everyone downloads it, Skynet will come online and start Judgement Day.  The heroes eventually prevail and destroy the Cyberdyne HQ, stopping GENiSYS from going online, and averting Judgement Day, happy ending.  I was told later that there is an after credits scene with a server node  comes back online and the holographic Skynet is shown to be alive (can we please stop these stupid after credit’s scenes?).

All in all it was fun and as a straight action movie (with too much comedy) would give it a Shield Rating of 77%.

The PG-13 rating really hurt this movie in a lot of ways, and no not because of the lack of nudity or cussing.  The PG-13 rating pushed the humor and forced the removal of the blood and gore that made the earlier Terminator movies feel so much more real and gave them that sense of dread.  In all the earlier movies blood dripped off the T-800s when they took damage.  The scene in T-2 when the Terminator rips the skin off its arm to reveal the blood soaked metal beneath sells the scene.  There is none of that here and it hurts the movie as a result.

Look at all that gore.
Bloody, bloody, bloody.

Umm, that looks awfully clean for having half a face torn of 2 seconds ago.

As a Terminator movie, and a time travel movie, I give it a Shield Rating of 42%.
I was hoping this would be a full on reboot of the series and it really could have been.  Keeping just the primary elements of the story this could have been done very well and could have formed a nice Causal Loop story.  The Comedy in it, while funny, was in appropriate to the tone of what a Terminator Movie is supposed to be.  T-2 started introducing the Comedy, but it was delivered in an uncomfortable way that reminded the audience of the dire nature of the situation.  The whole tone of the movie was too light hearted to be Terminator.

That Smile is pretty terrifying though.

The movie could have easily been made into a true reboot with just some minor changes:

#1.  Erase the original timeline, just throw it out, no more 1984 attack, no more 1997 Skynet.  Done, kaput, no more.  The Star Trek reboot should never be taken as the format by which to reboot all franchises.  The New Battlestar Galactica had it right, start fresh, make some slight nods to the original and move on.

#2.  Modernize the whole thing.  There is a great line in the movie about how they can find nothing the system on Sarah Connor, no fingerprints, no facial recognition through Social Media, etc…  Take that idea and run with it and incorporate that into some good social commentary.

#3.  Keep Pops, I liked him actually but send him back to 2007 to rescue young  Sarah Connor, right when Social Media was starting to come into being and before the pervasive use of smart phones.
#4.  In 2017 Sarah Connor come back into play, she is spotted on Social Media when she and Pops come out of hiding and start their bid to take down Skynet.

#5.  Multiple Terminators are sent back to stop her and ensure the creation of Skynet as well.

#6.  The resistance still wins in the future and sends back Kyle.  Once Kyle is sent back John then orders another T-800-101 out of storage before something attacks him, maybe even show another model terminator attack him.

#7.  The rest can move along much for the movie, did but remove the comedy, or make it darker, this a serious and dark story.  Have Sarah save Kyle, the uncomfortable bit with Pops, all that and make some real social commentary about too much inter-connectivity in devices.

#8.  Instead of the birth of GENiSYS causing Judgment from the start show/explain that the Skynet consciousness evolves from it, and eventually blackmails the military into installing into their weapon systems, or installing Skynet.

#9.  This is the important part, have them fail to stop Genisys, let them blow up the main site, only to see the countdown continue and the altered John Terminator reveal that there was more than one server location before it dies.

#10.  Show the survivors escape back into the wild, with shots taken from various social media, and CCTV sources.  Maybe even show Sarah as pregnant and agonizing over whether or not to tell him what will happen to him, if it even really was him and not some kind of copy.  Include messages they post to the web about not trusting GENiSYS or Skynet, warnings that allow people to escape and get out of the line of fire once Judgment Day comes.

#11.  Final bit, maybe make this an in credits (not post credits scene).  Fast forward through Judgmetn Day and the war back to the time travel device, after the attack that  “kills John.”  Show another group of resistance fighters arrive and retake the time machine, their leader ( a woman) orders the second T-800-101 readied to be reprogrammed and sent back, also show her grieving the loss of John.  This could be an older Sarah or possibly John’s future wife.


This next bit is cribbed from a conversation I had on a discussion board about the Terminator Franchise but explains my thoughts on the individual entries.

I grew up watching a version of the Terminator my G-Pa got that had the cut scenes at the end (back in the 80s) that showed how the whole plot was a casual loop, and how skynet planned to bring about its creation even with the death of Sarah and John.  The reveal that the final battle took place at Cyberdine, and that those parts of the terminator survived forms the basis for the creation of Skynet.  Even if the terminator were successful, it likely would have self destructed at Cyberdine in order to ensure the creation of Skynet.

T2 threw the causal loop out the window with its ending, and no one in the movie ever mentions it.  Even the cut scenes didn't help matters, there is no reason to ever create the time machine to ensure John Conner's birth and even if you did, they would have to send a terminator and a brainwashed Kyle Reese back in time to do so, to ensure John grows up the right way.  Taken on its own T2 can be a good, fun illogical (lets change the past) sci-fi action movie, but it fails as a sequel to a true Causal loop storyline, and also breaks some of the rules established by T1.

T3, I view as a poor attempt to try and correct the timeline.  It shows that somehow the Cyberdine tech survived, and all they managed to do was delay Judgement Day.  It could have been done better, with a better John Connor, but it tried to correct the issues left by T2.  Even then it leaves massive plot holes, especially in regards to why Kyle tells Sarah certain dates for Judgement Day, that obviously are wrong.

T4.  This movie should have saved the franchise.  They jump forward, have an awesome cast, and show us the future war.  Unfortunately it was saddled with bad plotting and a terrible director that just bogged the whole thing down.  The root story should have worked, and some nice twists could have been worked in, but the fact that Skynet knew who Kyle Reese was ruined things.  All the new terminators, especially the giant one, just made no sense and screwed with things.  If it had just been the story of how John C rose to power as the leader of the resistance, and met Kyle it would have been great.  It maybe could have even introduced or foreshadowed the T-800 at the end, or showed early T-600 infiltration attempts, instead of making them those lumbering oversized humanoids.  A proper sequel, or two, would have shown the resistance coming full force against the T-800 infiltrators, and getting their butts handed to them before turning the tide and making the final push on Skynet HQ.  The last movie could then end with showing Kyle travel back in time to save Sarah, along with any other Terminator(s) that are sent back.

What people tend to forget with the original Terminator, is that by having Sarah/John live, we win the war.  Yes, Judgement Day is coming, and that is a dark immediate future, but John will save humanity from Skynet, and the only reason he can is because he defeats Skynet before the movie begins.  Sending the Terminator back in time was a last ditch effort by Skynet because it had to know the risks of doing so, and possibly knew it had to do so no matter what.  Kyle getting sent back is because the human defeated Skynet and so they send him to ensure that John will be born, live and be there to defeat Skynet.

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