‘Terminator Genisys’ Review

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Dir: Alan Taylor

Writer(s): Laeta Kalogridis and Patrick Lussier

Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jason Clarke, Emilia Clarke, Jai Courtney, J.K. Simmons, Dayo Okeniyl, Byung-hun Lee and Matt Smith

Synopsis: John Connor sends Kyle Reese back in time to protect Sarah Connor, but when he arrives in 1984, nothing is as he expected it to be.

 

 

*Reviewer Note:  This will be a spoiler free review.*

*Reviewer Note 2: There is a brief mid-credits scene*

 

 

Terminator 2: Judgment Day is one of my favorite movies of all time, and dare I say one of the best actions movies ever. Of course I’m not the only person to share that feeling and it’s because of that reason that the Terminator series holds a special place in many people’s hearts. However, after Terminator 2 the series took a bit of stumble with the lackluster Rise of the Machines, and the not reaching its full potential with Salvation, so when it was announced that another installment was coming fans were right to be weary. However, when news that Arnold Schwarzenegger would be returning, some of those fans become a little less weary and curious to what they were going to do.

 

Fast forward – or time travel? – to earlier this year and one of the biggest twist that could have probably happened in the series was ruined in all the marketing. So what happens when you know the big twist to a highly popular series and once-was anticipated movie? You go in and try your best to enjoy it. So, was Terminator Genisys good? Terrible like the majority of film reviewers are putting it? Or something else? Well, bit of everything actually.

 

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Terminator Genisys isn’t just another installment to the series; it acts as a prequel, sequel and reboot. So in case you’re brand new to the series, don’t worry you’ll be thrown into the world that many have enjoyed for years. The movie starts with letting us know the events that led to our downfall: The day Skynet became aware and the day Judgment Day happened. We hear the story of one man that lead a resistance against the machines, and that man was John Connor (Jason Clarke). We see him leading the resistance with his right hand man, Kyle Reese (Courtney) to take down a harvesting farm, which is a cover for a weapon that John knows is there: The time machine.

 

Fans know the story: John sends Kyle back in time to 1984 to protect his mother, Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke), who is targeted by Skynet as they send back a Terminator model T-800 to kill her before she can give birth to John. However, something happens when Kyle is sent back and it changes the timeline in a dramatic way. When Kyle ends up in 1984, Sarah isn’t a fragile and scared woman instead she is a strong fighter that knows about Terminators and the future. She also has someone that has protected her, a model T-800 Terminator that she happily calls Pops (or named Guardian in the credits). Kyle is of course confused about this and Sarah tells him that everything has changed and that they have been preparing for him. Another problem they have is a new T-1000 (Lee) is there and is hunting them down.

 

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However – again ruined in the marketing – Kyle and Sarah eventually come face-to-face with John himself. The reunion is cut short when Pops shoot John to reveal that John is in fact some sort of new Terminator. Kyle and Sarah make it their mission to not only save the future, but also try figure out what happened to John.

 

Like I mentioned before, the twist of John being a Terminator is a pretty big and nice twist to the series, and it would have been awesome to see it play out on screen for the time first. Instead marketing – and not director Alan Taylor – made the decision to give away the big twist to the movie killing any sort of tension to not only the scene, but for the rest of the movie. Yes, it is commonplace for studios to show off or reveal a few of their key sequences to make sure you go buy a ticket, and some studios have even tricked the audience into going to watch the movie by showing a really cool moment, that just so happens to be the end of the movie. But giving away the “John is some sort of new awesome Terminator” twist really hurt the movie going in.

 

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Also, we’re dealing with time travel. Just know going in that you’re going to deal with three different timelines that thankfully don’t get too murky. At one point, it’s explained by Pops that the timelines have changed and thankfully it doesn’t stop the movie dead. The alternate timeline does change a few things up and it should be interesting to see where they go with things from this point forward. Although at this point I’m not sure how many fans want to stick around after the new “twist.” Yes, there is another twist to the movie that only starts off in the third act and is obviously set up for future sequels. I’m not going to get too into it because it does go into spoiler territory.

 

So let’s go in the cast. Arnold steps right back into the role without fault. Yes, he is older and the movie goes into why that is, but there is a lot more to his character this time around. Like I’ve mentioned, Sarah calls him Pops and his official character name in the credits is Guardian, by that you know a lot of things have changed. On the other side of the coin, Jason Clarke as John Connor/new Terminator – no official name, just his quote that he’s “something more” – has to pull double duty as the John Connor legend, who gives a pretty impressive speech at the start of the movie and has a great relationship with Kyle before he sends him back, and the Terminator, who is like he says “can’t be bargained with.”

 

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Again, the twist would have been really cool to see for the first time while watching the movie, not only because it’s a massive spoiler, but also because it changes the dynamic of the character that we’ve known is the face of resistance against the machines and the mythos of the series. John Connor is no longer the good guy, the man that we root for. Instead he is our primary villain out to kill our heroes and has fallen into become a machine!

 

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As for John’s parents, Jai Courtney – who I’m not a real fan of to be honest – does okay as Kyle Reese. He doesn’t really go beyond anything we’d suspect from his character. Sure he has a standout moment when talking to Sarah early in the movie, but other than that nothing stands out. As for Emilia Clarke’s Sarah Connor, I’ve seen some reviewers say she’s been miscast or doesn’t do anything special for the role, and I don’t think that’s the case to be honest. Clarke is stepping into big shoes yes, but at the same time, this is a different Sarah Connor from the original The Terminator. Instead we get the Terminator 2 Sarah Connor, the one that is ready to fight anything that stands in her way and Clarke holds her own for the most part. She does work better off Arnold than Courtney for the most part and but overall she’s does fine playing the part of badass warrior.

 

J.K. Simmons as a small supporting role that doesn’t really add much to the overall movie, but you can clearly tell his character will have some sort of role in the potential sequels. Sadly, Byung-hun Lee’s T-1000 character doesn’t get a ton of screen time and is underused. Luckily, his part is rather enjoyable but you feel his missing presence throughout the movie.

 

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The action in the movie is actually pretty enjoyable, and there is quite lot more than I suspected. The other thing the movie had that surprised me was humor. It’s not like the movie is cracking jokes every minute, but humor is sprinkled throughout the movie and it makes sense. Of course, the movie has many more references and subtle additions from the previous movies – and yes, even the TV show – that fans can appreciate.

 

One thing that will bother people – even me to some extent – is the movie has a lot of questions that it asks, but never really answers. If they do, they don’t give you the full answer. The movie suffers a bit from setting things up for sequels instead of making the movie stand on its own. Some things make sense, but for the most part, the studio makes sure that they want the audience back for another go-around.

 

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All in all, Terminator Genisys isn’t as terrible as many people out there want you to believe. There are some enjoyable moments scattered throughout and the action is pretty great to watch. The cast work well together for the most part, with Jason Clarke and Arnold being the standout. The movie may act as a prequel, sequel, and reboot, but make no mistake that it is another addition to the series. Let’s hope that fans will want to keep coming back.

 

Terminator Genisys

3 out of 5

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‘G.I. Joe: Retaliation’ Review

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Dir: Jon M. Chu (Step Up 2 and 3)

Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Adrianne Palicki, D.J. Cotrona, Byung-hun Lee, Elodie Yung, Ray Stevenson, Ray Park, Jonathan Pryce, Channing Tatum and Bruce Willis

Synopsis: The G.I. Joes are not only fighting their mortal enemy Cobra; they are forced to contend with threats from within the government that jeopardize their very existence

 

It’s not very often when we get a sequel that is intended to be a sequel but at the same time a reboot. This is exactly what Paramount and Hasbro have done with director Jon M. Chu with their highly popular 80’s TV show and toy line G.I. Joe. If you didn’t see G.I Joe: The Rise of Cobra (lucky bastard) then you really don’t need to worry. The only characters that cross over to Retaliation are Duke (Channing Tatum), Strom Shadow (Byung-hun Lee), The President (Jonathan Pryce), Snake Eyes (Ray Park) and the character of Cobra Commander (although played and voiced by a different actor).

Now don’t worry, you’re not missing much really but the only real thing you have to know is that Zartan (played by Arnold Vosloo from The Mummy) has been planted into the U.S government to take the form of the President by Cobra and that Cobra Commander is locked away. All caught up? Good now lets get on with the review.

I mention before that this movie acts like a sequel but also a reboot for the franchise which the movie truly needed. Besides some of the characters the whole movie brings in a new cast and a new overall approach of being more serious than comedic like The Rise of Cobra. The movie does have humorous scenes which fit very well within the scenes and aren’t so cheesy that it won’t make you roll your eyes.

The early scenes establish the close bond between Duke (Tatum) and Roadblock (Johnson). We’re told in a brief scene that Duke now runs his own unit and includes Snake-Eyes (Park), Flint (Cotrona), Lady Jaye (Palicki) and a few others. But when the Joes are framed and ambushed, Roadblock, Flint and Lady Jaye (I’ll get to Snake Eyes in a bit) escape and try to clear their names and find out what happened to them.

Now, this is only one half of the movie. The other half of the movie is told through the story of Snake Eyes and of course, ninjas. Maybe one of the only good things about Rise of Cobra was that it went into the some of the back story between Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow. Here it goes into more as Snake Eyes is trying to get Storm Shadow so he can pay for the murder of their clan leader.

This actually leads to the standout sequence of the movie and one that has been understandably well-featured in the trailers, the mountainside scene. The reason it truly stands out is because it is a dialogue-free fight between Snake Eyes, Jinx (Yung) and a horde of Red Ninjas, which is inspired by Larry Hama’s famous silent issue of the 1980s G.I. Joe Marvel comic. In about ten minutes all we get is background music and an intense and thrilling action scene that involves everybody diving, gliding, flipping and slicing each other. Retaliation goes back into its roots, more military combat and ninjas, and the movie doesn’t depend on heavy doses of CG, like power suits, expect for the destruction of London (not a spoiler it’s in the trailers) but does have some cool futuristic tech that I kind of wish they used more in the movie.

Let’s get to the performances shall we. They’re all pretty solid. Johnson pretty much runs the show here, arguably next to Snake Eyes, but Johnson proves that he can take over the franchise if need be. On the other end, Jonathan Pryce as the President/Zartan President, has more to do here and you can tell he’s having fun with the role and it’s pretty fun to watch. Palicki and Cotrona don’t really have a lot to do besides their action sequences which they hold their own. Elodie Yung’s Jinx is interesting because despite being a presence’s in the ninja storyline and mountain scene she kind of just gets lost in the background once the stories merge.

Stevenson, with his southern accent, looks to have fun playing the villain Firefly as does Walton Goggins who plays a warden that holds Cobra Commander. Speaking of Commander, he was played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the first movie but was replaced in this one by two people (one voice other as the actual character). The funny thing about seeing Cobra Commander is that he actually looks like he does in the TV show and even his voice is a bit closer and yes it does sound a bit cheesy at times but come on that’s the character.

I know the commercials have been pushing Bruce Willis as General Joe Colton, he’s the reason they call themselves Joes, but he’s not really in the movie that much. Willis’s role is really a glorified cameo. But the real negative on the acting side is RZA as the Blind Master. Every time he comes on screen it kind of slows the movie down and the performances comes off more as campy than “good cheesy” (can I use that term?).

All in all, Retaliation is the G.I Joe movie that the first movie should have been. It was tons of fun to watch and really enjoyable with cool action sequences and humor that should please fans. I did end up watching the movie in 3D and some scenes were kind of cool to see but you can go watch it in 2D and won’t miss much.

G.I. Joe Retaliation

4 out of 5