Terminator and Terminator 2 judgment day are like two gold items that we like to decorate our homes with. Terminator 3 rise of the machines reminds me of a dry rusk. It is good if you dip it in tea or honey, otherwise, it is tasteless. Terminator Salvation, until then, was deemed as the worst movie from the franchise. From the studio conveniently leaking Christian Bale’s tantrum for publicity to creating a plot that makes no sense whatsoever, they went as low as they could. But it didn’t touch the floor, though the box office numbers dipped to a level that bankrupted the studio. Well, the fifth installment, Terminator Genisys reminded me of a rock found at the bottom of the ocean. It could be used as a case study or to measure how low you could go to ruin a beloved franchise.
I didn’t want to see this film in the theater. The trailer has ruined almost everything but still, I gave it a try because I liked Laeta Kalogridis’s work. She did a commendable job in Avatar and wrote an extraordinary script which became a highly underrated movie, Shutter Island (2010). Alan Taylor left his signature in the world of Television. Emilia’s status as a heartthrob who brought one of the most feisty and glamorous characters to life gave this film some kind of leverage.
Arnold Schwarzenegger chose to remain in the league of actors who continue to do the big work despite his age, which is inspiring when analyzed from that regard.
Schwarzenegger aged well but his choices didn’t. Terminator as a franchise, with all the technological hullabaloos, descended deep into the black. The film ended-up cremating everything good the original films stood for. If you liked the first two Terminator films or if you worship the source material by James Cameron then please, keep a marker pen near you. Note down the number of times you have face-palmed through the course of the movie.
The timeline has changed, Sarah Connor is the badass you are familiar with and not the naive waitress. But that’s not the ultimate twist. The twist (which was spoiled by the trailer) is that John Connor is corrupted by Skynet and is the main villain, T-3000. Skynet has to ensure his survival as opposed to killing him.
The hero that was introduced as a ‘messiah’, who made an impact in the hearts of the audience because of Michael Biehn’s vehement narration, despite not showing up on screen, that badass that we should believe in, is the ultimate villain.
Who the F* told the filmmakers that it was a good idea?!
And John does not care about killing either Sarah or Kyle because duh… all that matters is the Skynet’s survival and… something about paradox… and stuff…
Which would make sense if they invested more time into explaining all of that.
Nick Stahl under-performed as John Connor in T3 and had to be recast with Batman Bale. Bale expressed in an interview that T3 and T4 should not have been made because neither of them matched up with the original’s standards. Jason Clarke, who did a commendable job in films like zero dark thirty and Everest, made John Connor look like a clown as opposed to a compelling leader or an intimidating villain.
If he comes after you with that smirk, you might as well laugh your ass off instead of grabbing your guns. Michael Edwards made a more charismatic appearance in just 20 seconds in T2 judgment day, neither Stahl nor Clarke came anywhere close to that. Bale couldn’t shed his Batman performance and make Connor, a version of his own. Furlong’s personal life cost him his chances otherwise he is the best actor to continue this role.
I have read the reviews and all the anger and energy were directed at Emilia Clarke’s interpretation of Sarah Connor. Despite what the pundits are spewing, she is the only redeeming factor in this movie. Not because she did an appreciable job or lived up-to the expectations but because she tried. At-least tried.
She tried to make Sarah look strong and vulnerable as someone who is torn between different secrets and choices. Sarah’s bond with the T-800 is meant to be as believable as the bond between T-800 and John Connor as shown in T2.
Well, if you didn’t hate this movie then you might see that aspect. Though the scene where she points a gun at T-800 when he tried to choke Kyle Reese will make you facepalm.
It is a machine for god’s sake Sarah and it need not fear a bullet.
Which brings us to the biggest problem of this film. In fact, the most compelling reason why I can’t forgive the filmmakers.
The depiction of Kyle Reese.
When they announced that Jai Courtney will play Kyle Reese, I was taken aback. After seeing his performance in the divergent, I thought he could play the Terminator due to the body build and stone cold face that lacks expressions. Now let’s look at the problem.
Michael Biehn’s version of Kyle Reese is believable and draws in the respect he deserves. When you see him in his introduction scene, where he arrives from the future, you could understand that he came from a brutal war-stricken place.
He was in pain. He could barely lift himself up. He looks undernourished yet strong. He has this strong will that is driving him. Biehn’s vehement performance when he narrates the story of judgment day, all the fights with the terminator, and at the end of the film where he sacrificed himself to save Sarah made Kyle Reese an icon. Anton Yelchin managed to bring that dynamic in Terminator Salvation. He resembles Biehn. Added to that, he tried to imitate Biehn’s performance while at the same time making it his own. Courtney, as it seems wanted to create his own persona of Kyle Reese, that is where it went wrong. Both Courtney and Jason Clarke looks too strong and well built and they are living in a war stricken situation. The amount of food and water resources is scanty, yet, they look like Jocks who spend most of their time in gyms and playing video games. And, how did they build all those muscles without proper access to proteins and carbs?
When Kyle Reese arrives in 1984, he looks like someone who just stepped out of the shower. Then he puts on his pants while jumping in it. That’s right.
You have a Terminator parody right there. You can’t introduce a hero, who is supposed to carry a film on his shoulders by doing something that is expected from a comedian.
Then, we see Reese being sidelined while Sarah, John and the T-800 take over. Reese’s role is limited to being at gun points, asking questions, and to look bewildered (or try to). And there is that convenient plot-line about seeing himself as a child, where he reminds himself that Genisys is Skynet. Courtney’s vocal performance drags you back to the facepalm festival even if you try to get out of the same.
Prepare to facepalm.
Facepalm #1: Sarah Connor mouths the line “come with me if you want to live” to Kyle Reese. I get that Sarah is reclaiming her space with her feminist portrayal but saying that line to a soldier at that point of time doesn’t make sense. And Michael Biehn dropped that line when Sarah’s life was in danger and she had no idea what is going on.
Facepalm #2: John Connor reveals that Kyle Reese is his father. One of the biggest attractions from the original films is that Kyle never knew anything remotely related to that. John gives him a picture of Sarah and the feelings came to him naturally. Kyle goes back in time thinking that he volunteered but the truth is, John will choose him no matter what or else he would never exist.
Facepam #3: Kyle’s reaction after John’s big reveal. Here, John’s reveal and Courtney’s bland reaction throw several pieces of bullshit at the original films.
Facepalm #4: Yet another classic Kyle Reese quote is stolen. When Michael Biehn holds on to Sarah and say “he can’t be bargained with, he can’t be reasoned…“, he is trying to convince both Sarah and the audience about how dangerous the Terminator is. Biehn’s performance beats everyone every second in that scene. Here, John Connor as T-3000 is narrating this line from the first person just for the sake of intertextuality or in my POV, for creating a parody of the classic Terminator.
Facepalm #5: Courtney and Clarke lack the chemistry to fuel the movie. Both Clarkes. Christian Bale and Anton Yelchin surprisingly created a tense atmosphere with their aura in Terminator Salvation with their chemistry. All Bale has to do is keep quiet to spare the movie from his Batman voice. Looking at the classic films. Even today, all Hamilton and Biehn have to do is sit next to each other and their chemistry is well visible, this is obvious in their comic con appearances with Hamilton’s views on love scenes and Biehn’s subtle blush. Here, I just don’t see it. Clarke tries to look at Courtney the way she looked at Khal Drogo. For whatever it is worth, Khaleesi managed to turn a fearsome guy into a soothing lover.
Here’s the thing. The movie could have been better. So much better.
At least an enjoyable 3D experience. T1 and T2 highlighted a message about environmental destruction, people’s dependence on technology and how it could backfire, proto-feminist narrative, and loss of childhood.
If you liked the originals then please, say bye-bye to film as well as more promises.