Saturday, July 11, 2015

The Homeless Nerd Reviews- Terminator: Genisys

At a glance- the 5th Terminator movie, with more humans vs killer robots time-travel action craziness

What is it?  A series is a funny thing, each subsequent movie/book/whatever can really change the tone and direction and meaning of the ones before.  Ideally each work expands on and improves the prior ones, adding new layers while keeping the same core.  The Terminator movie series has not had that for the most part.  The Terminator was an action movie with a little sci-fi twist.  It was nothing special, but it was very watchable and the main star, Arnold Schwarzenegger, did a great job with the most important part.  Terminator 2 added to the first film, showing a cold killing machine learning about being human, and suggesting that there is no fate or destiny and that people can change their future.  It did what a series piece should, kept the same core and expanded it.  Then it all went to hell.  Terminator 3 seemed to have been made just so we could see a female terminator, and it suggested that there was no way to change fate, directly contradicting the previous movie.  And it was not a great movie even on its own rights.  Then Terminator: Salvation made the biggest mistake of all, it took us into the dystopian future the series is built on.  See, there's one problem with the whole man-machine war that lies at the heart of the Terminator storyline - what the hell does Skynet need to keep any humans alive for?  With control of America's nukes Skynet literally had enough firepower to render the planet a smoking husk.  It would have been easy to cause so many nuke strikes that there would be no more ecosystem, no more human life, no more pesky people that Skynet was so afraid of it had to kill them as its first act of sentience.  So why the hell does Skynet bother to capture people, who have to be fed and cared for to continue doing work, instead of relying on its unlimited robot army?  In The Matrix at least the robots kept people around to feed off of them, which is some sort of a reason, good or bad.  In the Terminator series we never get an explanation, and with a little logical thought there seems to be no good reason at all.  Even if you say Skynet doesn't want to destroy the planet with nukes, how about engineering a super-virus, or just letting loose one that it has access to from its seemingly total control of the military?  The whole core concept doesn't make any sense, and Terminator: Salvation really made those flaws stand out (along with the good-guy-turns-into-bad-robot-turns-into-good-guy thing that was actually done better in Terminator 2).  So now we have the reboot Terminator: Genisys which is going to create a new timeline and reboot the series, thus invalidating the last 8 hours you spent committing to the series to date (wow, thanks, I love the "it was all really just a dream" cliche).

The acting- Okay, usually I go over the cast of a movie in one of my reviews, but in all honestly there is only one worth mentioning: Arnold Schwarzenegger is the Terminator.  And he is still awesome in the role he created.  Nobody else is really that memorable.

The story-  We begin again in the future, voice-overed by Kyle Reese, on the eve of the human's victory against Skynet.  We see him go back in time, and then things go wrong.  John Connor is attacked in the future and Kyle is sent to a past that is not the one he was supposed to arrive at.  Sarah Connor is a tough robot-fighting machine and there is another Terminator, named "Pops" of all things, that was sent back to help her by person(s) unknown for reasons unknown.  John is revealed to be a terminator (which isn't a spoiler since the stupid trailer spilled the big secret before the movie was released - great job marketing idiots) and Skynet is now Genisys, a military defense program that is also going to manage everyone's on-line life (and boy is that one of the stupider things in a very stupid plotline) that goes live in 2017 instead of 1997.  Honestly, don't try to think about it too much- it doesn't make any damn sense.  It kind of reminds me of the computer game Bioshock Infinite.  The game is like 15 years old now, so I don't think I'll spoil it for anyone, but the core concept of the game's story is that one character has traveled to a parallel universe and another character has to travel through time.  There's a problem with that however, time travel and parallel worlds/universes are two separate concepts!!!  And T:G seems to have a problem deciding if it is a story about time travel or parallel worlds.  But it has to, because it makes a big difference to the story depending on which one it is.
    I saw the movie two days ago, and I have been trying to think of how I was going to review it, and there are two things that keep running through my mind: disappointing and meaningless.  The movie was a huge disappointment for me, it did not bring anything actually new to the series, that for the last 2 movies (now three) has had a serious lack of new things (except for the "black dust" terminator instead of the "liquid metal" terminator, what a change).  And at the end of the day, one of the things I ask myself about a movie is: what was this movie about?  What was it trying to say?  Even a light, fluff movie like Avengers: Age of Ultron has a sort of theme about teamwork and how we can be our own worst enemy.  T:G though seems to be lacking any meaning at all.  If there was some sort of a message here I can't see it.  It never resolves weather or not they really changed the future, so I don't know if it was going future-variable T2 or future-fixed T3, and honestly those two movies have already explored that concept.  We sort of see Skynet, it even talks, and it almost has a personality, but we never see it enough to know why the evil robot decided to be an evil robot instead of a good robot, so there's a miss on the potential theme of AI evolution.  There are just so many things unanswered that there is nothing solid to hold onto, nothing to form an opinion about.  And that may have been done in the hopes of future movies, but without a solid message in this one I just don't care about any future movies.  Honestly, I hope and pray this will be the last terminator movie I ever see - because the series has sucked so bad that it needs someone to drive a stake though its heart, cut off its head, and burn the body.

My recommendation- see it for free, only because Arnold is worth watching, but don't expect much.

P.S.- there is a short clip about halfway through the credits (something I personally wish would stop, but apparently will be with us off and on forever)

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