Sunday 5 July 2015

Review: Terminator Genisys

Year: 2015
Director: Alan Taylor
Screenplay: Laeta Kalogridis, Patrick Lussier
Starring: Jason Clarke, Emilia Clarke, Jai Courtney, J. K. Simmons, Dayo Okeniyi, Matt Smith, Courtney B. Vance, and Lee Byung-hun.

Synopsis iswell.

Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s amusing dig at Family Guy (Cartoon Wars) and how they create their non sequitur jokes and narratives, is still one of the crowning achievements of the 20 season strong show. Stone and Parker took on their “rivals” with the idea that the weak writing in Family Guy stems from the idea that the staff are actually manatees who lob random “idea balls” of pop culture references, verbs, and nouns into a giant machine. The way Cartman vents his displeasure at Family Guy’s still feels on point nine years on:

“I am NOTHING like Family Guy! When I make jokes, they are inherent to a story! Deep, situational and emotional jokes based on what is relevant and has a POINT! Not just one interchangeable joke after another!”

Idea Balls have now gone from a satirical jibe to rite of passage when it comes to the summer blockbuster. Upon watching Terminator Genisys, with its incoherent muddle of alternative timelines, killer apps and half considered concepts, it’s hard not to be reminded of the idea balls. Director Alan Taylor doesn’t seem to help matters. Worryingly quoted in an interview with The Daily Beast:  

“My favourite part is using humor to sort of skate over it,” Taylor said, optimistically. “It’s a way of saying, ‘You may not get this, but who cares? Keep going!’ There’s a scene where J.K. Simmons [who plays a detective] comes in and says, ‘What you’re doing seems really complicated.’ And [Sarah Connor] says, ‘We’re here to save the world!’ And he says, ‘I can work with that.’ Basically, that’s what we’re telling the audience: Go with it, we’re saving the world.”

Welcome to the culture of the callback. You know the brand? Good. It’s the only thing that’s cared about. Like Jurassic World, Terminator: Genisys urges you to dismiss logical coherence because you know the name of the franchise. Genisys does well to replicate sequences that were found in James Cameron’s seminal piece of low-fi sci-fi. It enjoys nodding and winking to the mythology, but does so at the expense of decent logic.

It’s easy to dismiss such a criticism. Fans of Jurassic World have exclaimed that you shouldn’t look for sense in a film about modern day dinosaurs. I’m sure many will see me judging a film about time traveling metal assassins a little too harshly. However, it’s now starting to bother me about the amount of films that people are telling me to ignore the storyline and just consume. Isn’t that why we go to the movies, to see good looking escapism well told? Instead of asking why I’m looking for more, may I question why we are settling for less? I find this especially frustrating when considering original sources for these blockbuster franchises. Which were enjoyable for how well they constructed their escapism.

Genisys trudges from timeline to timeline with little to no rhyme or reason, bringing with it another charmless performance from Jai Courtney and a dubiously perky display from Game of Thrones star Emilia Clarke. Together they hold a certain chemistry, but it’s one that would play better in a Nicholas Sparks film. Jason Clarke, Matt Smith and J.K Simmons do what they can with piecemeal roles, while Lee Byung-hun gets royally shafted by being the right person in the wrong film. His role as a villainous T-1000 is better than the film deserves. Genisys decides the best thing to do with him making sure that his role doesn’t make sense, before burying him as quickly as possible. It’s frustrating to see an actor shoved into a role with no other reason other than to pad out the films running time.

What about Arnie? As opposed to my issues with The Last Stand (2013) in which Schwarzengger came off as stiff and awkward, he once again shows that he was born to play the T-800. Although this time it seems clear that Arnie is having a hard time trying his hardest not corpse in his scenes. Annoyingly, Genisys’ lousy screenplay ups the ante by making the character more “human”. So now we have Arnie crack more jokes and parody the role as if the film was directed by a Zucker brother.

Genisys is actually directed by Alan Taylor (Thor: The Dark World). An experienced T.V and film director, Taylor delivers competent action sequences and frames the throwback 1984 sequence meticulously.  But to what avail? Genisys’ horrid screenplay would be a quagmire for any filmmaker to work with. It’s confusing, confounding, and full of risible dialogue. It’s also constantly hedging its bets on explaining itself in future instalments. A trend that I’m finding more and more loathsome as I grow older and realise more and more that my time on this earth is finite.

However, people’s hunger for franchise lip service seems to be limitless. Terminator Genisys has an extremely healthy IMDB rating, which happily laughs in my cynical face. That’s fine. I wish those fans no ill will. I however will sleep easier tonight once the lingering images of Genisys leave me like a ghost completing its unfinished business.