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Terminator: Genisys **

It tells a good story, but the action is surprisingly underwhelming.

Is it worth $10? No

Here’s something you rarely read about a summer action pic: The story in “Terminator: Genisys” is clever, but the action is meh. Quite boring, actually. What most likely happened is the filmmakers got caught between paying homage and giving the audience something awesome to say “wow” about, and homage won, so it all feels recycled. When you’re the fifth film in a franchise and you feel tired from the get go, not much good follows.

The story, however, is rather ingenious, and not just another reboot. Directed by Alan Taylor (“Thor: The Dark World”) and written by Laeta Kalogridis and Patrick Lussier with fond affection for “The Terminator” (1984) and “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” (1991), the movie begins with machines created by man deciding mankind is no longer worthy of living. Three billion people die on what’s called “Judgment Day” in 1997. In 2029 John Connor (Jason Clarke), leading the resistance against the machines, sends Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) back in time to 1984 to prevent a killing machine from murdering John’s mother, Sarah (Emilia Clarke, no relation to Jason), before John is born.



Fans of the “Terminator” films are familiar with this setup. What makes “Genisys” different is what happens when Kyle is sent back in time: Sarah is already a warrior, having been visited by a terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger, now 67) she affectionately calls “Pops” when she was nine years old and living under his/its protection ever since (they explain why Schwarzenegger’s robot ages – it has real human tissue on its exterior). Other surprises/differences in this alternate timeline abound, including a new form of terminator, a new date for judgment day, and some familiar lines spoken by characters you may not expect. In terms of premise this is pretty solid, except for machinations that lead to the main villain, which seem a bit forced.

One problem with the action scenes is they’re far too quick. There are plenty of them, but they’re fleeting. Early on, modern Arnold’s terminator fights Arnold circa 1984’s terminator (a bodybuilder played ’84 Arnold, then the real ’84 Arnold’s head was digitally inserted via CGI), and it’s a darn cool idea. But they exchange only a few quick punches before it ends. Give us more!

When the action scenes do last a bit longer they play out in ways we’ve seen before: Dangling from a bridge, a truck driving through an interior setting, chases in which the liquid metal terminator use blades to open doors and stab at people, etc. Heck, even the running joke of teaching Pops human expressions is taken straight from “Terminator 2.” Clearly Taylor and the writers miscalculated what they thought would play as homage, because the end result feels trite and redundant.

In movies like this we usually complain that the action is great but the story doesn’t hold together. “Terminator: Genisys” has the opposite problem, and in 2015 that’s unforgiveable. We can accept a so-so story if the action is exciting, but a good story with lame action is a bore. And a boring “Terminator” is not worth paying to see.

Did you know?
In September 2014 Paramount announced two “Terminator” sequels, with part two coming in May 2017 and part three in June 2018. Depending on the success of “Genisys,” the films may shoot back-to-back.


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