Review: Terminator Genisys

Terminator Genisys is getting absolutely slaughtered by reviewers. It’s yet another film in the franchise that fails to live up to its original release and its sequel. Die Hard experienced the same dissolution of greatness; Taken, too. Jurassic Park was following the same path until Jurassic World. A blockbuster’s cachet only reverberates so long before it inevitably dwindles. But amidst all of its problems – and they are myriad – there’s some fun to be had with Terminator Genisys.

Despite my trepidation with all things related to time travel and alternate realities, the beginning of Terminator Genisys got my attention. It is essentially a remake – almost shot-for-shot – of James Cameron’s original film, augmented (I use that term loosely) by scenes from the future. We see ‘Pops’- – the Terminator who rescued Sarah Connor when was a child, and effectively raised her – – take on the Terminator whose murderous rampage we witnessed in that first film. Then Genisys flicks into full-throttle T2: Judgement Day territory, introducing the liquid metal T-1000, who targets Kyle Reese the moment he arrives from the future, and who is dealt with in an ingenious manner. Up to that point, I was enjoying myself, despite the winks to the franchise being anything but sly.

Then the film lost me.

The moment Sarah and Kyle travel forward in time – – from 1984 to 2017 – – when Skynet has become an app (yes, really) which connects all technology, the already-questionable foundations on which Genisys stands begins to crumble. There’s plenty of action, but none of it is spectacular – – nothing iconic, nothing to excite the audience – – and the ‘twist’, spoiled in various trailers, when John Connor reveals himself as something inhumane – – part man, part machine – – leads only to a confrontation packed with pedestrian dialogue, and lacking any sort of emotional resonance.

Arnold Schwarzenegger does his best with the flimsy material. He provides some comic relief to proceedings, which is essential, as the majority of character interactions are monologues; information dumps providing the audience with backstory and explanations. And despite being portraying an emotionless machine, Schwarzenegger is essential the movie’s heart, which isn’t to undermine Emilia Clarke’s prowess; she just doesn’t have much to work with. The same goes for Jai Courtney as Kyle Reese; he’s played more as an action hero here, never short of a quip, unfazed by the nonsensical events around him. In the original Terminator, Reese’s fear of the Terminator was palpable; he confronted the machine knowing he couldn’t win – – he was effectively tasked with mission impossible. In Genisys he takes these confrontations in his stride. His appeal is diluted.

Terminator Genisys flirts with great ideas, but stumbles in its execution. It’s a messy, unspectacular film, salvaged by the appeal of seeing Schwarzenegger return to one of his most iconic roles. Definitely the third best in the series; but that’s not saying much.

Taken 3: Take It Away

Taken 3 Oh NoTaken is one of my favourite action flicks, right up there alongside The Rock, Die Hard, Con Air, Face/Off  and The Terminator. But unlike Die Hard, which had a couple of decent sequels, and The Terminator, which is the one franchise I’m willing to debate whether the second film was better than the first, Taken’s follow-ups have lacked the lustre of the original. Taken was sharp and brutal; dark and bloody. Its sequels are bloodless, limply-scripted rehashes of action movie set-pieces. They’re a mess, salvaged only by Liam Neeson’s on-screen appeal; and aided in this third installment by Forest Whitaker, who plays a tic-savaged unconventional detective named Dotzler.

Taken 3 is essentially The Fugitive with the action jacked up to the nth degree. Framed for the murder of his wife (given the spoiler-filled trailer, that’s given nothing away) Bryan Mills goes on the run from the police, led by Whitaker’s Dotzler, both of whom follow various investigative threads to uncover the identity of the true killer. Meanwhile, Bryan’s poor daughter, Kim, is once again the target of killers, all the while dealing with a personal crisis of her own (besides her mother’s murder, naturally; the poor girl can’t catch a break).

The plot is overly complex, although it makes sense (just), and scripters Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen do their utmost to spice up proceedings with extravagant set-pieces and emotionally nuanced moments, none of which truly pays off. Sure, there are fisticuffs and shoot-outs, and car-chases; but set in Los Angeles, a locale that’s been done to death, it’s all a bit dull. Perhaps director Olivier Megaton could’ve done something to alleviate the film’s staleness; perhaps it was inevitable because of the script. One thing that certainly doesn’t help is the obliteration of the franchise’s maturity. I’m not just referring to blood – although there’s mysteriously none of that here, which is ludicrous given the number of shell-casings that litter each location – but the sheer lack of vigour evident in the action. Where’s the brutality we saw in Taken? There’s no crunch to these punches; no oomph. The action is sufficiently choreographed; but Taken was never about that; it exposed the viciousness of combat, demonstrated its dirtiness. Events in Taken 3 occur with an overstated sheen.

There is a moment, at the midway point of Taken 3, when an LAPD cop tells Bryan that things are going to end badly for him. He retorts: “Don’t be such a pessimist,” (which is perhaps supposed to be a quip; suffice to say, there was nobody in my packed cinema who chuckled). It’s hard not to be, assuming there is s a fourth film in the franchise (despite assurances this is, in fact, ‘the end’). Taken was a fantastic action flick that stood perfectly alone; a shining beacon in a franchise-saturated market. Now, it has become a parody of its former self. Once, people pumped their fists at the mention of Taken; now they roll their eyes; puns inevitably surface: “Who will be taken this time?” It’s a damn shame. I just hope it’s left alone now.

Please, Mister Movie Studio Sir: please don’t bury the original beneath more tripe.