DVD Review: Terminator: Genisys

This is the fifth and, hands-down, the worst of the “Terminator” sequels. Which is quite an accomplishment as “Terminator 3” and “Terminator Salvation” also were the spawn of a talentless, avaricious crew of screenwriters striving to squeeze a few more mill from the franchise.

Come to think of it, the original “Terminator” (1984) wasn’t much. Definitely painful to watch. Biggest problem: the hair. Big Farah Fawcett hair was all the rage in ’84. Guys and gals. Gag! Also Arnold. While it was surely a marvelous, ironic in joke having the wooden, Austrian bodybuilder play the part of a robot, the fact remained that Arnold couldn’t act for beans. The “Terminator’s” saving grace — and enduring curse — was the premise: In 2029, a malicious, genocidal, artificial intelligence network known as Skynet sends an amoral droid back into the past to kill the future mother of the future leader of the future resistance movement that would battle Skynet. That’s Part A. Part B is that the future resistance leader, John Connor, sends back one of his lieutenants to protect his mother-to-be from the bad bot identified in Part A. (Part C, which we will not get into, is where the time-traveling lieutenant, Reese, has an intimate moment with the lady whose body he is guarding with the result that he becomes the father of his commander in chief. Kinda weird.)

What was so cool is that we had a time travel plot that practically held up. You could suspend your critical thinking and go along with it. The idea really took off in “Terminator 2 — Judgment Day” (1991), that rare sequel that eclipses the source material. Arnold was back but he clearly had spent the intervening seven years taking acting lessons. And get this: he’s the sympathetic cyborg this time. John Connor has repurposed a captured T-800 killing machine and sent it into the past to protect himself — the adolescent John Connor — from a state of the art T-1,000 (liquid metal) android dispatched by the ever-determined Skynet to finish the job that began in the first movie. John’s mother, Sarah Conner (Linda Hamilton: terrific), knowing what she knows, has amassed guerilla skills, weaponry and paranoia since her first exposure to Skynet’s hit bots. When we tune in, she’s in a maximum security mental hospital, having tried to blow up the software firm that innocently and inadvertently invented Skynet.

It was a great movie with lots of memorable lines (“Hasta la vista, baby”) plus humor, humanity and well-drawn characters.

“Terminator: Genysis” takes the original proposition and tortures it to death. It tries to start from the beginning, recreating and, in some cases, reviving footage from ’84. But now the time travel takes place in an alternate reality which seems to have yielded two, co-existing iterations of the past. Huh? All of this is explained (by the inevitable Arnold) through the use of terms such as “nexus,” “quantum fields” and our old favorite “algorithms.” The result is an idiotic, boring ordeal that ought to have been dubbed “Terminator: Interminable.”

Stephen Fay

Stephen Fay

Managing Editor at The Ellsworth American
Stephen Fay, managing editor of The Ellsworth American since 1996, is a third-generation Californian. Starting out as a news reporter in 1974, he has been an editor since 1976, working in Massachusetts, Connecticut and Vermont before settling in Ellsworth with his wife and two daughters. [email protected]

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