They finally did it. They made a movie that made me give up on a franchise I love. Not since Sonic the Hedgehog 2006 has a more pathetic excuse of fan fiction involving time travel been created. Congratulations Alan Taylor, and Laeta Kalogridis and Patrick Lussier, for making the worst movie of 2015. From here on out it’s spoiler territory as I dissect what can laughably be called the “plot”.
Spoilers From This Point Forward.
Terminator 3 and Salvation are no longer canon. We start with an opening narration from Jai Courtney (A Good Day to Die Hard, Divergent Series) playing Kyle Reese. I refuse to consider him Kyle Reese. Can someone tell me why Jai Courtney is so popular to Hollywood executives that he keeps getting roles in everything? I know Australians are considered the new hot thing in Hollywood now, but Courtney puts more effort into hiding his non-American accent than in acting. Meanwhile other Australian actors like Toby Leonard Moore (Daredevil, John Wick), Rachael Taylor (Jessica Jones, Transformers), Wil Traval (Jessica Jones, All Saints), and Eka Darville (Jessica Jones, Power Rangers RPM) are almost completely relegated to TV and many movie-goers have no idea they exist. Why hasn’t Hollywood offered roles to these people in spite of being excellent actors who deserve wider recognition?
The opening narration spends its whole time on what everyone already knows: Skynet, Judgement Day, Kyle Reese fighting under John Connor (Jason Clarke), and then action sequence where John and Kyle attack a Skynet facility in Utah where the T-800 is sent back in time to kill Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke). (Jason and Emilia are not related.) “The Colorado Unit” takes down Skynet Central which deactivates all the machines and John’s crew goes inside to see the time machine and prepare to send Kyle back. The dialogue and acting for John Connor in this movie makes him the blandest, most boring John Connor ever. At least Christian Bale (Empire of the Sun, American Psycho) tried to make his work. Let’s just accept that Bale is probably the best adult John Connor we will ever have. Also the photo of Sarah Connor that Kyle has is the same photo from the original movies but Emilia Clarke’s face is CGIed over Linda Hamilton (Black Moon Rising, Silent Fall).
John tells Kyle to make Sarah believe his tale of being from the future by giving the “Thank you Sarah for your courage through the dark years” talk, except in the first movie that was told to Sarah AFTER she already believed the story. Kyle gets into the time machine, we zoom in on Matt Smith (In Bruges, Doctor Who), and not surprisingly, Smith attacks John. We later find out Smith is a Terminator with Skynet itself inside. We know only through statements from the director himself that this Skynet is from another dimension. The Star Wars prequels at least had books talk about everything even if many people, myself included, didn’t read them. Also Skynet attacks John after Kyle has already entered the time machine, thus risking John Connor being born again.
Los Angeles 1984. The T-800 (body doubled and CGI masked by bodybuilder Brett Azar) arrives and is confronted by an older T-800 already here, this one played by the real Arnold Schwarzenegger (Kindergarten Cop, True Lies), one of only two good actors in this movie, and they fight. It is rendered pointless by Sarah Connor when she snipes the younger T-800.
Kyle arrives, steals a homeless man’s clothes, LAPD chase him, and the officer is a T-1000 (Lee Byung-hun), who chases Kyle into a clothing store. Kyle gets arrested by two real LAPD, the T-1000 kills one of the officers, Kyle and the other cop (Wayne Bastrup) hide, and then a truck arrives to save Kyle. Here we are formally introduced to Sarah Connor, and by extension the second worst actor in this movie, Emilia Clarke. I have not seen Game of Thrones, but her acting here is terrible. There is also no way she could know about Kyle being here. She screams “Come with me if you wanna live!” and then I realize, this movie is going to be nothing more than a crazy nostalgia trip. They escape the T-1000, and Sarah poorly, tells Kyle to just accept what’s happening. Ironically, The Ramones “I Wanna be Sedated” starts playing. It’s not the last time we’ll hear it. Sarah shows how dumb she is by showing Kyle a “good guy” Terminator before he knows such a thing exists, resulting in him being knocked out by the T-800.
Kyle has flashbacks to a life he never knew and now Kyle remembers two timelines. I’m fine with remembering two timelines. What I’m confused by is Kyle only having one memory from the other timeline. Sarah affectionately calls the T-800 “Pops”. It’s not nearly as endearing as the movie thinks. Also there’s a running gag about how Pops is “old, not obsolete”. Who sent Pops back? “Those files have been erased”, to which Kyle speaks for the audience, “Oh that’s convenient”. I do not believe the writers and director even know who sent him back. Later an action sequence happens where Kyle and Sarah beat back the T-1000, and the whole action sequence just tells me I’m watching a video game. Just as video games need to stop trying to be like movies, movies need to stop being like video games. They are two very different mediums.
They retreat to an old factory and the T-1000 arrives. Remember young Arnold from earlier? Our heroes have the body, and apparently T-1000 liquid can revive older, half destroyed T-800. Action sequence happens where both of the enemy Terminators try their best to play out quick time events sequences in video games instead of just kill the enemy, resulting in their destruction.
Now we see in 1984, you can use anything from Radioshack to build a time machine and the only piece you need from the future is a computer chip from a T-800. Kyle and Sarah get sent to 2017 because Kyle’s new memories tell him “Genisys is Skynet”. They decipher this through techno jargon from Pops because a murder bot from the future also doubles as a science professor. Kyle and Sarah go to 2017 and at this point an opportunity for a much better movie is shown: What does Pops do for all these 33 years leading up to 2017? It could have been an amazing silent exploration movie.
San Francisco 2017. We see on billboards that “Genisys” (Skynet) goes online 35 hours from the point Kyle and Sarah arrive. Why didn’t they arrive a week before instead of 35 hours before the apocalypse? They get hit by a few cars, causing a crash, and police arrive literally seconds later, making me wonder where they came from? Were they on the road when the pile up started? Kyle and Sarah are arrested, Sarah explains to Kyle that as a young girl her family was attacked by a T-1000 in 1973. Pops arrived and destroyed it… somehow. We’re not shown exactly what happened but we are told the second idea for a much better movie: “A young girl raised by a Terminator”. Kyle still doesn’t trust Pops, which makes me wonder if Kyle is as dumb as Sarah. Does he really think Pops is playing a long-con game of not killing Sarah?
Kyle and Sarah are brought to the hospital and remember the other cop in 1984 that arrested Kyle? He’s alive and grew up into JK Simmons (Law and Order, Whiplash), the only other good actor in this movie. He’s dismissed as a “conspiracy freak” for talking about time travelling robots. Now we have a THIRD idea for a better movie: his perspective through all these years. Instead he’s an over glorified extra! He was on the overpass above the car crash caused by Kyle and Sarah, shows footage he captured on an iPad of everything that happened, including showing the two emerging from the explosion, but is dismissed by SFPD because the plot demanded it.
Kyle and Sarah are handcuffed and notice one of the hospital interns’ iPhones has “Genisys” on it. He explains “Genisys does everything. My phone will link to my tablet, will link to my computer will link to my car.” So… iOS? This great killer-app is already obsolete due to what current gadgets and teens have been capable of doing since 2012! Why apps? Why not nuclear holocaust? Too much sense?
SFPD interrogate them, Simmons shows up, Kyle and Sarah make an obvious fake argument for an obvious way to escape, and because this is a movie, law enforcement allow it and then the police leave. Homeland Security shows up and lo and behold, it is John Connor!
John helps Kyle and Sarah escape, real Homeland Security arrive, and SFPD go looking for John and the others. Later Pops comes to them, pulls out a shotgun from a stuffed bear he had because this movie thinks that’s as cool as pulling a shotgun out of a box of roses from T2, and shoots John. Lo and behold, John is a Terminator! Not that it’s surprising if you saw the second theatrical trailer. For some reason they allow him to talk instead of simply flee. John explains that when Skynet attacked him, he was turned into a Terminator. His body was replaced on a cellular level with nanobots. I’m not surprised we now have a Terminator model with nanobots, but I am sick of nanobots. It doesn’t help that half a year ago, I became a fan of Metal Gear Solid, a series notorious for saying, “everything happens because nanobots” and I am personally very happy that recent installment The Phantom Pain, spends very little time on nanobots. Can we move on from nanobots and find some new special tech? Also this movie made John Connor, humanity’s last hope, the villain! AND it’s proud of itself for that!
John threatens to kill Sarah, Kyle, and Pops if they don’t join him, to which Sarah points out “You can’t kill us. We’re your parents. Without us you’re never born,” to which John smugly responds, “”Says who?!” To which I respond “SAYS EVERYONE!” The entire timeline was changed when Terminators were sent to 1973 and as a result, a successful mating between Sarah and Kyle might not even result in John Connor anymore! How is John even here now?!
John gets trapped to an MRI machine long enough for our heroes to escape. Later John is at Cyberdyne where he is working on Genisys. CEO Miles Dyson (Courtney B. Vance) is talking about how even his tech wiz son, executive Danny Dyson (Dayo Okeniyi) “can’t decipher some of the enhanced code [John’s] integrated into Genisys”. This means that, thanks to John, Skynet invented itself. And now we see the third time machine of this movie, being constructed by Cyberdyne, and Danny says “we’re years away from making this thing work”.
Danny makes an announcement to the company’s investors about Genisys being “the ultimate killer-app. Our pre-orders… have reached over 1 billion”, to which I laugh. This is 2017, a year and a half from when the movie was released. We’ve heard so much about apps we’ve become desensitized. 1 billion people are NOT pre-ordering.
Our heroes arrive at Sarah’s secret hiding place on a small island off the coast and Pops says he wasn’t at the hospital earlier because “stuck in traffic”. Nonsense. He would have been there weeks ahead of time just to over-prepare. They go underground and we see the place is an armory. However a substantial amount of bullets are still not loaded and Kyle and Pops, over “I Wanna be Sedated” have an angry staring ammo loading contest. A lot of bullets are not in magazines yet Pops had 33 years to do this, yes? This makes me even more interested in what he did with his time. They begin planning, “but our strategy did not account for John Connor,” and that’s why you should have given yourselves more time.
Kyle was shocked to find out he is John’s father, and asks Sarah why she didn’t tell him. “You die. You want to tell me how that conversation is supposed to start?” Easy: That happens in the old timeline; now that everything is changed, it can’t happen. Also since Sarah knew about being John’s mother from Pops telling her, that means he was sent from a timeline acknowledging Kyle Reese as the father of John Connor. Only John could have told him that though.
John arrives, action sequence, our heroes steal a school bus, meaning they’re leaving a group of school kids at the site of a Terminator attack! John, after recovering, sees they’re back on the mainland and steals a motorcycle to catch up. Isn’t he nanobots now? Can’t he “cloud” his way there? Our heroes emerge from a tunnel and John lands on top of the bus because he apparently caught up to them that quickly. John is beaten back, on the Golden Gate Bridge of course, and our heroes are arrested. I should note that it was broad daylight when they were arrested, because by the time they’re at the station getting mugshots, the sun has gone down.
John arrives to kill our heroes, JK Simmons helps them escape, they get on a helicopter, and a chase scene happens. Pops shoots a gas tanker because no humans could possibly die from that right? Pops drops into John’s helicopter that he is flying only because Pops didn’t destroy the rotors to prevent John from using it earlier. He says “I’ll be back”, to which I sigh heavily. The helicopter crashes on Cyberdyne’s front lawn and John calls off the alarm, which isn’t already sounding from a helicopter crash!
Kyle and Sarah arrive, and we see Genisys/Skynet reveal itself to be the unspeakable horror of… the AI kid from Mass Effect 3. He even goes through puberty, aging to teen, to young adult, to Matt Smith. Each stage decreases the time needed for him to go fully online. John arrives, Pops traps him to an electrical screen with a helicopter blade, and they do nothing to ensure he stays trapped. Pops leads the way, explaining he was a construction worker on the building and for some reason he didn’t set explosive charges years ago he could have used to blow the place anytime he wanted. Pops also explains that only the flux capacitor of the time machine is working while the rest of the contraption isn’t. When Danny said “We’re years away from making this thing work” I assumed John made it appear that way to everyone while hiding its full functionality. In actuality, John, Skynet from the future, couldn’t get his time machine working in 2017, even though Sarah and Pops could in 1984!
Pops opens a door by smashing the control panel because the filmmakers don’t know how security works. We also see what is essentially a mechanism that makes T-1000s but because Skynet isn’t fully online yet, the robots are harmless. Let me remind you that earlier a T-1000 was able to revive a T-800 with liquid metal. Sounds cool right? It is only an excuse to resurrect Pops at the end. They begin setting charges, John arrives, the detonator is destroyed, Kyle and Sarah are locked out of the main room with the time machine, and now Pops, a 40-something year old T-800, will go toe-to-toe with John Connor, a Terminator, made out of nanobots, so powerful it gets its ass kicked for the first half of the fight. We also see John use abilities we didn’t see before. That is because John is one of those video game bosses you have beaten multiple times in the game already but for the final fight he has new attacks and upgrades he didn’t have before because the game needs to present a real challenge to the player now.
Kyle and Sarah bust into the room, attack John, Pops drags John into the flux capacitor, Kyle and Sarah go to an underground shelter because Pops programmed security access for Sarah that neither John, nor Skynet, noticed and deleted. Pops is thrown into the T-1000 liquid, is upgraded, flux capacitor blows up, Pops busts into the underground shelter to save Kyle and Sarah, they drive off into the sunset. The end. Except it isn’t. We have an end credits scene setting up a sequel revealing Skynet is alive and there is some glowing red sphere we’ve never seen before. What is this thing? I don’t know, and I don’t care.
It has come to the point where even the first two, actually good, Terminator movies have become tainted. I don’t think even James Cameron realizes what fans actually like about the movies because he calls this incoherent, convoluted mess of a movie “the true third movie”. I am FINISHED with the Terminator films. This franchise is dead to me.
Image from http://forbes.com