Movie Review: Terminator 4 Genisys

Cyberdyne Systems

First of all, spoiler alert.

But if you’ve seen the second trailer for the movie, the movie’s already been spoiled (watch the movie first, then the trailers). And therein lies my biggest complaint. Thanks to to fact that the trailer pretty much summarized the whole movie, I couldn’t enjoy the so-called “twist” in the movie as a twist. It was hard for me to avoid watching the trailer because I cannot resist watching everything that is Terminator. I love Terminator stuff. Despite the poorly executed trailer, the movie wasn’t a total loss.

WHAT I REALLY ENJOYED…

1. Sarah Connor

Nobody loves Sarah Connor more than I do. Nobody. Just kidding. I’m sure there are even more legit die hard fans out there. But seriously, I idolized this woman when I was a little girl. So it was very satisfying to see the new movie revolve around her as the main character again. Sarah Connor is what makes the Terminator series great. Everything else from robots to soldiers to weapons to world apocalypse just serve the purpose of highlighting her awesomeness.

Of course, Linda Hamilton is undoubtably the quintessential iconic embodiment of Sarah Connor’s soul. Everyone knows it’s hard to fill in those shoes. Although her performance didn’t wow me, Emilia Clarke did a decent job of it. I could tell some close study of Hamilton’s original mannerisms were there, and there was great effort to capture certain angles of her face, to do her make-up and hair, and to cast just the right shade of golden light on her features to bring out anything that looked even remotely like the original Hamilton Connor.

The only main complaint I have of Clarke’s Conner is the lack of muscle. If she is supposed to be a young warrior Sarah Connor, she should look the part, so I just wonder why Clarke didn’t buff up for Genisys like Hamilton had done for T2. That was disappointing.

2. Pops

In T2, there was this great transformation of the T-800 from the relentless killer of Sarah Connor to the relentless protector of John Connor. He became like a reluctant father figure for the young leader of the future Resistance. It was awesome how they were able to take that to another level in Terminator Genisys with the T-800 becoming a protective father of the young Sarah Connor (making him grandfather to John?). In fact, the connection between Sarah and Pops was the most heartfelt and believable relationship in this whole movie. The chemistry between the two of them was priceless.

3. Throwback lines & SCENES to Terminator 1 and 2

It wasn’t just the “I’ll be back” and “Come with me if you want to live”, it was completely redone scenes from the original T1 along with reintegrated line sequences made to fit in to new rebooted timeline. Having watched the original T1 and T2 movies countless times (i.e. committed first two films to long term memory), it wasn’t hard for me to get all giddy and giggly every time I saw or heard something that harked back to the first two originals.

WHAT I DIDN’T ENJOY…

1. Romance between Kyle Reese and Sarah Connor

Although the Kyle Reese character in the first Terminator movie was a little stalker creepy if you think about how he fell in love with a picture of a girl, infatuated enough to travel back in time to protect her, you can’t help but admire his courage and gumption to put it all on the line for Sarah. It was clear Kyle would not only take a bullet for Sarah, but eternal damnation if that’s what it took to keep her safe.

At first, that seems too much like the archetypal knight in shining armor swooping in to protect his damsel in distress, but the lovely thing that makes it NOT that is that Reese protects Sarah fully knowing she is the woman that will raise and train the military strategist who will save humanity from extinction. She is, as he calls her, “the Legendary Sarah Connor”. For all he knows, he’s just a peon red shirt cog in the great machine to ensure the Connor legacy comes to pass. The only reason he needs to protect her is because she has no idea what is coming for her and what is coming later. And as he protects her, it’s clear she transforms from damsel to warrior, the birth of the Legend complete when she crushes the T-800 and saves herself and the unborn John, even after her “knight” is dead.

In Genisys, clearly built into the plot is that Reese lost all of his thunder. He arrives to his destination only to find that his mission to protect Sarah has been made irrelevant by a previous attempt on Sarah’s life that was thwarted by Pops. So Sarah originally fell in love with Kyle because of his dedication to her, of his role as the only thing that made sense in the new insane terminator world she was a part of, and the sympathy she felt for his struggle and his suffering. All that is gone in the new timeline reset. Sarah already has a grounding in the world hurtling towards Judgement Day, she now knows how to protect herself better than Reese can protect her, and she’s already suffered the trauma of murdered parents and an attempt on her life–she is definitely not the innocent and naive waitress who can’t even balance her own checkbook.

So what is there left for the budding of a new romance then? Well, what I would expect is that Sarah has lived a lonely life isolated from everyone else. The only other “person” who knows about Judgment Day is a terminator programmed to protect her (by who, we don’t know yet). Then into her life enters a real flesh and blood and bone (no titanium chassis) human being who knows exactly what she’s going through. Though resentful of that fact that she’s supposedly destined to “mate” with him and produce John Connor, it’s hard to deny that she’s no longer alone in all that she’s going through, and that companionship and camaraderie should be fertile ground for an even deeper love between the two.

Unfortunately, that didn’t quite come through in Genisys, and the last love scene moment between the two of them just came off as awkward, cliched, and unbelievable, which was the final litmus test of whether their relationship was developed enough throughout the movie. It was not.

2. Evil John Connor

Of course, the trailer that gave away the twist that John Connor was evil may have played a role in this, but this just did not work out for me. After the trailer revealed that John Connor had somehow turned evil, I was hoping there was a twist on the twist, but no. That’s pretty much it. And there isn’t even any psychology behind it. John is just straight up Skynet’s puppet. That leads me to the next point I wasn’t so happy about.

3. Evil Skynet (a.k.a. Genisys)

Skynet is again just the one-dimensional evil bad guy in the story. If there’s going to be any sort of twist, it would be some development on this A.I. mind. In fact, they played up Skynet’s evil-ness even more by making it seem humanly sadistic, which made the story more simplistic and predictable.

The original story is based on the fact that Skynet’s decision to kill humanity was a knee jerk reaction, fight-or-flight response to the fact that humanity was its greatest threat. That indicates Skynet has an almost childish mindset, with fear and self-preservation at the most base level of self-awareness. If Skynet persists in exterminating humanity, then it has not moved much beyond the reflexes of an animal or possibly small child. Although the fear can logically persist up until later development, more development would likely lead to the cognitive complexity that would be fertile ground for empathy. If Skynet is really that smart, it wouldn’t jump to genocide so quickly and decisively.

4. No Dr. Silberman

In Terminator 3, there was that golden moment when the T-800 burst out of the mausoleum with a casket full of weapons and Dr. Silberman, the psychiatrist that was in T1 and T2, relapses after years of therapy meant to help him forget the memory of the T-1000 in that mental institution so long ago. I had my fingers crossed that we would see Silberman again here, but no dice.

Overall, the movie was good, but it didn’t wow me, but hey, you put “Terminator” on it and as long as it doesn’t horribly defile the original canon, I’ll watch it and enjoy it.