Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Movie Review: Terminator Genisys

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Oh dear. Another Terminator sequel again. It's been 24 long years since Judgment Day, the best sequel (also the best film) in the franchise. This latest instalment will act as a retcon to the series, by introducing alternate realities, or quantum universes with many possibilities to establish new events that changes everything, including the past and future. In short, it's no longer happening in the 'same, exact universe' that we once knew or familiar with. Kyle Reese travels back in time to May 1984 to save Sarah Connor from T-800 terminator, only to find that the situation has changed drastically. Sarah is no longer the helpless damsel in distress like before (first Terminator film), but she's already a well-trained, headstrong female warrior who's ready to fight against the machines, accompanied by a T-800, that Sarah sees as a father figure she calls 'Pops'.

Many would probably say that it's a rehash of the original, with just some minor changes or updates in between. Well, while it's not exactly the same as before, the core storyline is. The film shows us events both familiar and yet completely different to what we've come to learn in the original Terminator timeline. We get to see back to same time travel storyline again (the first Terminator), and again (Judgment Day), and again (Rise of the Machines). A character is sent back in time to save another from harm and they try to stop the end of the world together. They tried to take a different apporach on the story in the past (Salvation) but it didn't turn out well and ended up as a box office failure. There are lots of references to the first two films, with famous catchphrases such as "I'll be back", "Come with me if you want to live" (it's rather weird to hear Sarah says this to Kyle since it was originally said by him) are reused again in this sequel. They even enacted the same scene when the first Terminator appeared in Los Angeles 1984.

Everytime we get a new Terminator film, we get to see a more highly advanced model of the terminators: T-800 (Model 101) in Terminator, T-1000 in Judgment Day, T-X (Terminatrix) in Rise of the Machines, T-H cyborg (human-machine hybrid) in Salvation and now T-3000/T-5000 (nanomachine-human hybrid) for Genisys. They're showing us again what we've been shown before in the Judgment Day sequel: what a reprogrammed good terminator would do, that it is capable of learning, evolving, choosing and changing its programming - that there's a 'man' inside the machine. The future is not set and they're once again determined to terminate Skynet once and for all (Yeah, it repeats again).

Despite the similarities, there are some nice touches in this latest instalment though. We finally get to see how the time machine really looks like. The filmmakers managed to fit Arnold's old age into the movie without any issues (the living tissues of a terminator goes through the same aging process like us). Arnold is still doing the best he can to entertain in his old role as the T-800 terminator. His character's deadpan expression still managed to squeeze some humour out of whatever he does in the film, adding new catchphrases like "Bite me", "I'm old...but not obsolete" and a weird robotic smile. The series is further "updated" by showing us our increased dependency on our current technology and gives us the notion that the huge interconnectivity of our current technological devices may really pose a major threat in the future. However, this also means that the events that happened in Rise of the Machines and Salvation no longer applies (Genisys' timeline continues after the first Terminator film and Judgment Day).

Moreover, there's a major plot twist in this film that is ruined by its own haphazard marketing strategy (the latest posters and trailers revealed the twist). This might be a better film if the plot twist had stayed hidden from the public. Well, it's still certainly better than Rise of the Machines in terms of ideas and it's not as dull and serious as Salvation. The film should have taken the time to fully explore John's transformation and show how this affects his humanity as a whole, what he feels about the change and how he reacts to this rather odd family reunion. It could have been a fascinating approach to the franchise. It's rather unfortunate that the film choose to focus on the action instead of the plot. Another hard miss would be the failed attempt in dealing with the love story between Sarah and Kyle. The emotions aren't as strong as shown in the first Terminator film. Although the relationship developed between the T-800 and Sarah is a nice touch to the film, it's still incomparable to the relationship developed between the T-800 and John in Judgment Day.

Overall, Genisys is still a fine sci-fi action entertainment film that serves as a good introduction of the franchise to the younger generation. It's a worthy sequel to the first two films. It could have been great if the previous two sequels doesn't exist in the first place. Some old fans might love it or hate it, as they need to accept that the original timeline they once knew will be no more. It does get tiring that after so many years, the franchise keeps on following the same formula, showing us robot machines shooting or fighting each other on screen when they're extremely hard to kill by bullets or brute force and even capable of healing themselves. A lot of questions left unanswered in this one, which means for another sequel again. How many times the future needs to be "rewritten"? How many more sequels need to be made for us to finally get to see that the war is truly over?

Rating comparisons:
The Terminator (1984)
Terminator: Judgement Day (1991)
Terminator: Rise of the Machines (2003)
Terminator: Salvation (2009)
Terminator: Genisys (2015)

Note: There's a mid-credit scene that further confirms that there'll be another sequel. James Cameron, the original writer/director of the series (the first two films), consider Genisys as the official third film in the franchise after watching it, saying that it's being extremely respectful of the first two films.


Notable Questions that left unanswered in Genisys:

  1. Who sent back the T-800 to rescue Sarah and keep her safe when she was 9 years old?
  2. Which 'version' of Skynet sent the two T-1000s (or is it just one?) back to the past in May 1984 and the time when Sarah was 9 years old? It's definitely not the current 'Future version' of Skynet since the time machine was only built and operate for the first time when John and Kyle infiltrated the base in the earlier scene of Genisys. Could it be the Skynet of the original first two Terminator films timeline sent a T-1000 back to eliminate Sarah as a backup plan just in case when the 1984 Terminator failed to kill Sarah and the T-1000 in Judgment Day failed to kill John? 
  3. How did an old model of T-800 (the current T-800 who protects Sarah when she was 9) knows the current latest development of the machines (know what happened to John and T-1000's weakness)?
  4. If the "current" future in Genisys is another different alternate universe, how does the machine managed to precisely send Kyle and John both back to the another same alternate universe? All different 'paths', 'branches' or 'outcomes' of quantum universes must come from the same past. 
  5. Since original 1984 timeline is screwed up, Sarah and Kyle didn't have sex in 1984 but traveled to year 2017, how John Connor managed to survive in 2013 onwards? The most possible answer is due to John's transformation to T-3000, he's no longer 'John' anymore but a Terminator robot machine that has his looks, mind and memories. 

Note: In this film, it was John who found Kyle. But, Kyle met John in a different circumstance in Salvation compared to Genisys. Also, how Skynet managed to go online was different in Rise of the Machines compared to Genisys. This could only mean that the events that happened in the Terminator Salvation and Rise of the Machines timelines were from different alternate (quantum) universes.

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