Monday, July 6, 2015

Terminator Genisys...Explained...Sort Of

So the El family ventured forth from the Fortress of Ineptitude to go see Terminator Genisys. Why? Because Matt Smith...yes, THAT Matt Smith from Doctor Who...was in it. 

A little bit. 

Last year Entertainment Weekly put out a double cover for this new Terminator film which included Emilia Clarke (Sarah Connor) and Jai Courtney (Kyle Reese) on one cover and Jason Clarke (John Connor) and Matt Smith (?) on the other. The article inside was coy about what Matt's role would be other than having a "relationship" to John Connor.  But it must be pretty darn big to give Matt Smith a part of the cover. Of course the only reason we had the issue here in the Fortress was because my wife bought it. 

You know, for the Doctor Who connection. Which may explain why EW put Matt on one of the covers because Matt barely appears in the movie. 

Who cares? At least he's in the credits, right? Yes he is. As Matthew Smith. Matthew?  

Now at this point, I must insist that SPOILERS will be invoked so read on if:

1) You have seen the movie (some of you).
2) You haven't seen the movie and have no intention of seeing it (most of you). 

If you are among those who haven't seen the movie but do have an intention to see it in the future, that's fine. The three of you can come back tomorrow for my blog post on women's soccer*. 

*USA! USA! USA! USA! USA! 

On today's topic, I will proceed in 1...

OK, that's enough of a countdown.

Matt Smith appears 3 times in the film. His first appearance almost goes unnoticed. He's lurking in the background but then you become aware of this character making eye contact with the camera. Hey, look it's Matt Smith! In the very last seconds of this bit, he gets a line of dialogue and, guys and gals, I hate to break this to you but...

Matt Smith's the bad guy. 

He appears a 2nd time in a flashback where Matt has a bit more dialogue...evil dialogue...and you can hear the distinctive rhythms of Matt's voice even if it has been de-Britishized. Oddly enough, Matt Smith without a British accent sounds like Neil Patrick Harris.

His 3rd appearance is near the end as a blue hologram thing where Matt sounds even more like Neil Patrick Harris which is quite disconcerting.  

All told, between those three segments, Matt's face is on screen for a grand total of maybe a minute. So if you're a Whovian and you want to see your beloved 11th Doctor on the big screen, brace yourself, that's all you're gonna get. 


OMG! IT'S MATT SMITH!!!!



But maybe the rest of the movie makes things worthwhile so who cares if Matt Smith is basically in a blink and you'll miss it cameo (so don't blink!). 

Er, about that...

What makes or break any movie are the characters on the screen. Whether its a comedy or a drama, whether its life action or animation, whether its historical or science fiction, the audience has to give a damn about that's happening to the people on the screen. And in Terminator Genisys, that kind of empathy is very hard to come by. 

Jai Courtney as Kyle Reese engenders almost no feeling from the audience. Jason Clarke as John Connor has no charisma even before the sinister turn of events that changes him. Emilia Clarke looks and acts like she could be cast in a teenage drama on the CW instead of taking on the iconic role of action heroine Sarah Connor

J. K. Simmons, God bless him, is an unexpected breath of air in this mess as a discredited police officer who actually has some understanding of what's going on, even if nobody believes him. And everything you heard about Arnold Schwarzenegger in this movie is true. As the emotionless T-800 cyborg who's protecting Sarah (more on that in a minute), we feel more for Arnold on screen that we do for anyone else. Maybe its just nostalgia talking or maybe in his golden years, Arnold has just gotten better at bringing nuances to what we come to expect from an Arnold Schwarzenegger performance. 

And while I've had fun with ludicrous brevity of Matt Smith's screen time, his extremely brief flashes on screen deliver a level of intensity and menace that would've really served this movie better if there at been more of that.  

Maybe all this would matter less if the basic plot of the movie was strong and made sense. 

Scratch that. 

Time to follow the bouncing ball as we make our way through this thing. First, a recap from 1984. 

The Terminator tells the tale of a future gone mad. In the future, a computer network turned malevolent entity called Skynet leads a robot revolution that nearly decimates humankind. In 2029, a human resistance led by John Connor begins making headway against Skynet and the robots so Skynet sends a cyborg, a Terminator, back to 1984 to kill John's mother, Sarah Connor. The resistance sends back a fighter named Kyle Reese to stop the Terminator and save Sarah. Kyle does this at the cost of his life but not before getting Sarah pregnant with her son, John Connor.  

In the sequel (T2: Judgment Day), Skynet makes another go of it by sending back a T-1000 which can morph itself into anybody and anything. The resistance sends a re-programmed T-800 to save Sarah and John. Sarah leads an operation to stop the rise of Skynet that was destined to occur in 1997. The Judgment Day is averted. 

OK, not averted, just postponed. The next two films do the hokey-pokey with time and stuff and...you know what? The producers of Genisys ignore the 3rd and 4th sequels so let's do that too.  

Which brings us to 2015.  

Terminator Genisys tells the tale of a future gone mad. In the future, a computer network turned malevolent entity called Skynet leads a robot revolution that nearly decimates humankind. In 2029, a human resistance led by John Connor begins making headway against Skynet and the robots so Skynet sends a cyborg, a Terminator, back to 1984 to kill John's mother, Sarah Connor. The resistance sends back a fighter named Kyle Reese to stop the Terminator and save Sarah.

But things get weird. 

It seems Skynet sent a T-1000 back to 1973 to kill Sarah Connor when she was 9 years old but a re-programmed T-800 was sent back (by somebody) to save her. In 1984, Sarah is already a gun toting bad ass with a T-800 as a guardian. Kyle does not need to save her. In fact, Sarah and the T-800 have anticipated this moment in 1984 to secure the necessary future tech to kick start their own time machine to jump ahead to 1997 and prevent the rise of Skynet. 

Then Kyle's memories of growing up cold and alone in an apocalyptic landscape are joined by new memories of growing up loved and in the company of his parents. These memories also include a message that Genisys is Skynet and will come on line in 2017.  

So Kyle and Sarah go to 2017 (the T-800 has to take the long way) where they find that John Connor from 2029, the one from the time line extending from the 1997 rise of Skynet, is there waiting for them in this time line where Skynet is not running yet but will be soon. Then we find out that John has been corrupted by the machines and is a weird human-Terminator hybrid thing that has gone totally stone cold evil. He's determined to bring Genisys/Skynet online and start the robot revolution in 2017. 

A bunch of stuff blows up and the day is saved and oh my God, I've got to wait two weeks for Ant-Man

In case you had any trouble with following any of that, here's a handy-dandy graph.









Although I must be completely honest, I'm not sure what all of that is supposed to convey. 

I kept hoping that Matt Smith would put on a tweed jacket and bow tie so the Doctor could explain all this to me. However, chances are even he would go, "Timey-whimey?" and run into his TARDIS.  

It's been said that Matt's role in this franchise will expand in forthcoming sequels but given that Terminator Genisys is an sci-fi action blockbuster released over the 4th of July weekend that came in THIRD on its debut week does not speak well to its chances to getting a next chapter. 

I'm reminded of the debacle when Green Lantern was released a few years ago. A lot of the mistakes in the movie came about because too many eyes were on the franchise and not the movie being made right now. And that's a potentially fatal mistake for Terminator Genisys. To be fair, I think this re-imagined version of Skynet is a great idea but we needed to see it now, not be teased for it later, particularly when the film as delivered may not get a later. And that would be shame if we miss out on a sinister character brought to life by Matt Smith. 

Or Neil Patrick Harris.

Hey, be good to one another. I'll be back here tomorrow with my blog post on women's soccer. 

Which I know nothing about. 

Which has never stopped me before.

Dave-El 
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