Fun and Gun — A Perspective on Terminator Genisys

cropped As he said numerous times before, Arnold Schwarzenegger is back in the brand new film of the Terminator franchise. Terminator Genisys is headlined by Schwarzenegger as the titular character, Terminator model T-800, Game of Thrones’ very own Mother of Dragons, Emilia Clarke as the new Sarah Connor, with Jai Courtney as Kyle Reese and Jason Clarke as John Connor.

We’ve seen time travel being used as a method to clean up a franchise’s continuity prior in X-Men: Days of Future Past. Terminator is taking a similar approach through Skynet’s “secret weapon” as a mean to ease the way for latter films in the franchise. Whoa, whoa. Is it too early to predict the coming of sequels? Genisys was, after all, only released worldwide on June 22. But we know, these days, Hollywood film studios, Paramount included, are always eyeing for a possibility to create a string of money-garnering movies or, in this case, prolonging the life of an already existing franchise.

While it may not possess the most solid plotline, I have to say that I really enjoyed my experience of watching this movie. Being a long-time fan of Clarke since her gig as Daenerys Targaryen, I was really looking forward to see her take on Sarah Connor’s badassery. I was not disappointed; in fact, I was in for a treat. Granted, she has none of fellow Thrones headliner and previous Sarah Connor, Lena Headey’s natural chiseled features to easily be called a badass, but she certainly provides an interesting take on Sarah Connor’s character. She successfully convinced me that all the badassery that goes with the name “Sarah Connor” comes naturally for her. Driving an armored car while shooting a Desert Eagle without breaking a sweat, seriously? And let’s not forget how she rocks that Barrett M82 on board a chopper, or that Milkor grenade launcher.

Emilia Clarke as Sarah Connor in Genisys.

Emilia Clarke is the new Sarah Connor.

I also love how she portrays the more fragile side of Sarah without going too far with it; enough to give my feels a little bit of punch, but not enough to get me all teary-eyed (‘cause that is totally for a whole different sort of genre). How adorable is it to have Sarah call Arnold’s character “Pops”? Clarke’s posture makes her look like a child next to the towering Schwarzenegger, in the best way possible, because for me it just enhances that uncanny yet endearing quality her Sarah Connor brings in the movie. Yet another reason to love this new take.

A few things could certainly be improved, in terms of marketing decisions. For instance, deciding to reveal that John Connor is the New Big Bad Guy/Robot in the franchise in the trailers? Really? Seriously, if they were looking for something awesome and to be looked forward to, the film has a few really awesome, really shocking shots. The other guy who runs this blog would easily tell you that I am not one for spoilers; I like to walk into the cinema not knowing anything but the rough premise of the movie and be completely blown away when I walk out. So with the TV spot running around flaunting John Connor’s new status, the variable lost its impact on me when I saw the final product.

John Connor’s character poster—yup, spoiler alert.

I have to say, though, Jason Clarke did an amazing job in this one. And I’m not talking about the whole Oscar-caliber type of acting, but the type of acting that is just right for this sort of movie. He managed to convey that aura of badassery about him that oozes just the right amount of sympathy that compelled me not to hate his character so much (which I end up loving to hate the character anyway—like seriously dude, what the hell? One touch from the rogue Time Lord and that was it?). He gave the character just enough depth for this new John Connor to be more than a badass shape-shifting ex-good guy robot thing. Not forgetting his complicated family relations to both Kyle Reese and Sarah Connor, of course.

Kyle Reese

Jai Courtney as Kyle Reese in Genisys.

The character of Kyle Reese is also interesting. I completely failed to remember Jai Courtney’s previous action as the ever-spiteful Eric from Divergent series the first few minutes into the film. With that sincere, wide puppy dog eyes active throughout the film, he had me fooled. We first see the character as a kid who is saved by John Connor from a Terminator unit, but then it evolved into more than that. Reese becomes John Connor’s right hand man who is then sent back in time to protect a helpless Sarah Connor—only, when he gets there, Sarah Connor is not at all helpless. I certainly enjoyed watching the dynamics between Reese and Sarah there, how both have expected something different from each other. I think what I like most about Courtney’s Kyle Reese is how sincere and resilient he looks throughout the film, despite that resilience becoming somewhat of a pain in the butt when he refuses to trust T-800, or as he is now called, Pops.

Pops poppin' that shotgun out of a giant teddy bear.

Pops poppin’ that shotgun out of a giant teddy bear.

Now, Arnold Schwarzenegger. I still found his action in the new film as hilarious as in the previous ones, I don’t even know why. Maybe because we are now given a new reason so laugh over T-800’s vintage creepy smile, or that smile just hasn’t really gone old after all. The appearance of another Terminator unit with the face and body of young!Arnie also provided me with a comic relief at the beginning of the movie. I still held a certain fondness towards Arnold Schwarzenegger, and it was rekindled per watching Genisys. His action sequences are definitely scene-stealers—plus, he’s proved that he’s still got his guns. One personal favorite scene of mine is when he walks into a hospital carrying a giant Teddy Bear (which turns out was a cover for something else). Oh, and I still have no idea how he pulls off that eerie-yet-funny mechanical smile so easily.

J.K. Simmons as LAPD Detective O'Brien.

J.K. Simmons as LAPD Detective O’Brien.

Other scene stealers are, of course, J.K. Simmons, Matt Smith, and Lee Byung-hun, all of whom has had a previous whiff of the nerdy world prior to this project. J.K. Simmons is well-known for his role as J. Jonah Jameson in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man films. Matt Smith gained mainstream fame as the Eleventh Doctor in BBC’s longest running science fiction show Doctor who, while Byung-hun Lee previously had a swing as Storm Shadow in the G.I. Joe films.

The one and only, Matt SMith, playing a character way different than the Doctor—though he does retain some Time Lord qualities. Wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey.

The one and only, Matt Smith, playing a character way different than the Doctor—though he does retain some Time Lord qualities. Wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey, Doc.

I don’t know if the decisions to keep their respective scenes separated was a deliberate move, but I have to commend the filmmakers for that. The separation allowed me to geek out at different periods of the movie without getting distracted by the arrival of a different scene-stealer character. J.K. Simmons did amazing as the police Detective O’Brien who, having previously almost gotten killed by Byung-hun’s Terminator character in 1984, assists Kyle Reese and Sarah Connor in their journey into year 2017. Matt Smith appears earlier in the film posing as one of John Connor’s men and he got me going, “Oh gosh that’s Eleven!”. But that was before he proved that he could pull off a different sort of character entirely. Lee Byung-hun has not run out of his badassery as he’s proven in his action as the T-1000 ‘liquid metal’ Terminator unit, and as to how he could manage the whole melting face and arms sequence and still looking cool while he’s at it, I have no idea.

Lee Byung-hun as the newly introduced T-1000 unit.

Lee Byung-hun plays the newly introduced T-1000 unit.

Now, being a sucker for cinematic scores, I can’t not write this review without talking about the music. It is scored by Lorne Balfe (Assassin’s Creed III, Penguins of Madagascar). The music frames the action sequences of the films well, and I found myself having to stand outside the lines of the movie to enjoy a few tracks, which is usually a sign that the score is good.

Genisys suffers from many similar problems other Hollywood blockbuster action films possess, but while not possessing an airtight plotline, top-notch acting, beautiful, soaring music, or other award-worthy qualities, Terminator Genisys is a solid enough film as a mean of entertaining yourself with guns, a dope row of cast, and a trip down memory lane. I find my experience watching it moderately to well entertained, and I expected nothing less from Alan Taylor (Game of Thrones, Thor: The Dark World).

If you’re looking for quality you’d normally expect from an Oscar-winning film, this movie is not for you. But if you’re looking to sit back, relax, and enjoy myriad of action sequences with lots of fun and guns, then you can go ahead and see Terminator Genisys. I can’t guarantee that you’ll like it, because, again, it’s up to your own taste in films, but as I always say to myself, if the fandom fits, hit it.

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