Friday, July 24, 2015

LAURIE & DONNA DECODE TERMINATOR GENISYS

 In the second of our occasional series of tandem movie reviews, SL crew members Laurie A. Green and Donna S. Frelick offer their opinions on this summer's blockbuster reboot of the story of a girl and her cyborg, TERMINATOR GENISYS.

LAURIE SAYS:

I enjoyed TERMINATOR GENISYS's fresh take on an old icon that felt much like the STAR TREK reboot--familiar story lines, but with surprising twists. Some of the dialogue is even a rehash of the original, though the lines may be coming from an unexpected source in this re-envisioned future (and past). I viewed the standard version, although it was also released in Real 3D and IMAX 3D.

Without offering up too much spoilery, this latest installment harks back to the original 1984 version featuring Kyle Reese's dramatic trip through time to save Sarah Connor from assassination by the rogue Skynet artificial intelligence operative, except that the timeline has been altered. Now there's a brand new bit of evil software to defeat in the form of Genisys, which is revealed to be the predecessor of Skynet, the system that unleashed nuclear holocaust upon the human race. There's also a new villain in a familiar persona who spurs some incredible internal conflict for Sarah and Kyle.

Arnold Schwarzenegger's return to the title role (along with a bit of F/X magic) made a perfect fit for the original "old...but not obsolete" Terminator model, Cyberdyne Systems Model 101 Series 800,  delivering a few moments of humor to break up the non-stop action. As for the rest of the cast, well...I'll have more to say on that later.

"Uhnode" and company are up against some super high tech opponents, including the melty T-1000 model, and an even newer technological-assassin incarnate. Some of the special effects in Genisys are updated and flashier than the original, even spliced into what looks like original footage, and the time-traveling element is a bit more involved in this storyline. All and all, it's a fun and fresh retelling, but in spite of some extreme action scenes, lacks the dark intensity or desperate romance of the original movie.

My overall rating: I think it's a GO as an exciting summer side-trip into a dark and re-imagined timeline, but with a caveat that you shouldn't expect it to live up to the pure genius of the original.

Now, a few words about the cast.

T-800 Terminator: No complaints whatsoever about Schwarzenegger's return. He's the perfect, and only, actor who could be effectively cast in the role, IMHO. I loved seeing him reprise the role that helped make him an icon.

 Emilia Clarke
https://melrook.files.wordpress.com
Sarah Connor: At first glance, I wasn't keen on the "new" Sarah, but as the film progressed she seemed to grow and meld into the role and some of her expressions even mirrored those of the original personality. I was thoroughly, utterly shocked to discover that the actress was Emilia Clarke, better known as Daenerys Targaryen in the HBO hit series Game of Thrones, based on George R.R. Martin's Fantasy series, A Song of Ice and Fire. I'm a huge fan of Daenerys and I never realized it was the same actress playing the role of Sarah until I read more about the film after viewing it!

Michael Biehn
http://terminator.wikia.com/wiki/Kyle_Reese
Kyle Reese: Now here I had some issues. Although Jai Courtney is an accomplished actor, probably best known for his bad-guy portrayal of Eric Coulter, a Dauntless faction leader in DIVERGENT, I just couldn't get a feel for him as the new Kyle Reese. Michael Biehn's quiet, brooding, smoldering presence is an incredibly tough act to follow, but I think another DIVERGENT actor, the man who played Four (Theo James) may have made for a much more convincing Kyle. There also seemed to be a lack of chemistry between the new Sarah and Kyle, and the  love scene that was so moving in the original version was very much missed in this new rendition.

John Connor: Ouch. I simply had no feels for the new John Connor, played by actor Jason Clarke. The brooding (seems it's genetically passed down), intense John played in the 2009 release TERMINATOR SALVATION by Christian Bale will always be in my mind's eye as the real-deal John Connor (even with the actor's in-production outburst incidents). No offense intended to Jason Clarke or his considerable acting talent, but I couldn't ignore his resemblance to comedic actor Bill Murray, which totally killed the tense atmosphere for me. I kept expecting him to break out in a joke or a song, ala GHOSTBUSTERS.



DONNA SAYS:

I’m a fan of the TERMINATOR series—bad Terminator, good Terminator, John Connor-dominated TERMINATOR, Sarah Connor-dominated TV TERMINATOR. I’ve pretty much enjoyed them all.

And just in case I had forgotten, I got to see them all again in the latest entry into the series, TERMINATOR GENISYS. Every incarnation of the sentient cyborg from clunky to slinky, from evil to self-sacrificing. Every iteration of John Conner, from battle-hardened cyberwar vet to mom’s protected cub (and even one we hadn’t seen yet). The only thing this movie lacks is Sarah Conner as the innocent she was at the beginning of the very first TERMINATOR film. In this re-imagining of the TERMINATOR story, the Sarah Kyle Reese finds when he returns to 1984 to save her is no virgin when it comes to the battle between human and machine.

If all this in one film sounds a bit chaotic, trust me, it is. Like Jim Kirk, time travel in any form gives me a headache, and the “fractured timeline” in TGEN produces a doozy. Unlike the events at the beginning of J.J. Abrams’ STAR TREK, which allowed a seamless transition to an alternate Trek future, the event that alters the past in TGEN just serves to confuse things. Everything needs constant explanation from that point on, mainly because you have a central character, Kyle Reese, who remembers one timeline, but has been thrust back into another.

Sarah Conner is not the only character changed by the new timeline, of course. I won’t explain who else is changed fundamentally, for fear of giving the whole show away. It’s an interesting twist, but not very believable. And your headache will definitely get worse just trying to figure out how it could happen.

Then there’s the whole problem of characters meeting themselves on another timeline. Not supposed to be able to do that, though, what the hell, who can time travel anyway, right? Finally, the end of the film contains a huge time travel faux pas committed merely in the interest of sentimentality. Can’t tell you what it is for fear of spoiling. Just wonder how many caught it.

Sarah Connor, godmother of SFR heroines
Arrgh. Okay, I did enjoy some things about this movie. Arnold reprising his role as the T-800 (good version) was funny and charismatic as always, though the explanation of why a cyborg should age did not convince me. The usual summer blockbuster CGI slam/bang/boom-fest was entertaining, but not worth the extra money you’d have to spend for 3D or IMAX. On the other hand, the acting was merely competent; no one stood out except Schwarzenegger. Certainly Emilia Clarke is no Linda Hamilton.

So, mission call? This film is a GO only for die-hard TERMINATOR fans or the kind of people who see everything that comes out (like me). For everyone else it’s a NO-GO. Wait for the DVD.

Cheers, Laurie and Donna


2 comments:

  1. Fun reviews, personally am waiting for the DVD. I totally agree with Laurie re Michael Biehn, although she's right - Theo James just might be able to pull it off!

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  2. Thanks, Veronica. Mr. Biehn has been mentioned a couple of times this week here at Spacefreighters. (The other reference was to his portrayal of Hicks on Aliens.) Between these two films and The Abyss (though not as the hero), I think he's made his mark on SF(R) fandom. :)

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