Combustible Celluloid
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With: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Emilia Clarke, Jai Courtney, Jason Clarke, J.K. Simmons, Dayo Okeniyi, Matt Smith, Courtney B. Vance, Byung-hun Lee, Michael Gladis, Sandrine Holt, Wayne Bastrup, Gregory Alan Williams, Otto Sanchez, Matty Ferraro
Written by: Laeta Kalogridis, Patrick Lussier
Directed by: Alan Taylor
MPAA Rating: PG - 13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and gunplay throughout, partial nudity and brief strong language
Running Time: 125
Date: 07/01/2015

Terminator Genisys (2015)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Uncertain 'Terminators'

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

San Francisco takes a beating in Terminator Genisys, the fifth movie in the sci-fi/action series that opens Wednesday in Bay Area theaters, but the terminators keep on going.

After disappointing third and fourth chapters, the new movie returns a bit closer to James Cameron's originals, The Terminator (1984) and Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991).

Terminator Genisys begins on the night, in the future, when the first Terminator is dispatched to the past, to 1984, to kill Sarah Connor. Shortly thereafter, her grown son John Connor (Jason Clarke) sends Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) back to protect her.

Directed by Alan Taylor (Game of Thrones, Thor: The Dark World), the movie lovingly re-creates some of the memorable scenes from the first film, but then establishes something new: an alternate timeline.

Now Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke, also of Game of Thrones) is already a warrior, with her own Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) — whom she calls "Pops" — to protect her.

Arriving in the past, Reese has new memories of a computer program, called "Genisys," that will be responsible for the whole mess. So he convinces Sarah to journey from 1984 to 2015, in San Francisco, to shut it down.

Unfortunately, once all this is established, the rest of the movie basically consists of the heroes shooting, pummeling, smashing, and blowing Terminators to smithereens, only to watch them re-form again — borrowing images from decades ago — so they can start over.

Genisys, conveniently, has a countdown timer, so we know that the heroes won't even get close to it until it comes down to the final moments. That's a lot of time to kill with not much story.

The alternate timeline gimmick is fun, and, truthfully, it makes more sense here than it did in the Star Trek reboot, given this series' roots in time travel. However, it raises some interesting questions that, frankly, the movie either answers too quickly, or drops altogether.

The characters have "business" that they can fall back on, repeated themes about "straight lines," or the word "theoretically," etc. But there are no characters here to connect with. There's no real love story, nor any concept of anything personal at risk.

Recent Oscar-winner J.K. Simmons turns up in a vaguely comical role as a former cop who seems to know what's going on, but doesn't do much. (He won't be nominated for any Oscars this time.)

In one scene, he tries to figure out what's going on, and Sarah replies with, "we're here to stop the end of the world." If only someone had a better answer.

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