Terminator: Genisys: written by Laeta Kalogridis and Patrick Lussier, based on characters and situations created by James Cameron and Gale Ann Hurd, some of which were inspired by Outer Limits episodes written by Harlan Ellison; directed by Alan Taylor; starring Arnold Schwarzenegger (Guardian), Jason Clarke (John Connor), Emilia Clarke (Sarah Connor), Jai Courtney (Kyle Reese) and J.K. Simmons (O’Brien) (2015): Oh, what a terrible movie. About all one can charitably say about Terminator: Genisys is that it’s competently directed and that Arnold Schwarzenegger has a few good moments as the old good-guy Terminator.

Otherwise, the movie makes a terrible hash out of the first two movies with a time-travel plot designed to negate all the significant events of the previous Terminator films and replace them with new, shoddier versions. It also gives us a strange, far-flung future of, um, 2017 in which everyone from the U.S. military to adolescent boys are ga-ga about a Cloud-based app that, umm, integrates all your computer-based systems. This is Genisys. Hoo ha.

There are mental workarounds to make the plot work, though they involve positing things the film doesn’t seem to have thought of yet. And it’s not an enjoyable enough film to give the benefit of fannish thought to. It’s also perhaps the worst-cast big-budget movie I’ve seen in, perhaps, ever. Jason Clarke is vaguely serviceable as John Connor, who’s now been played by almost as many different people on screen as Sherlock Holmes, but there’s nothing in him to suggest the charismatic leader of the human resistance to Skynet and its machine army. Emilia Clarke (no relation, so far as I know), Daenerys in Game of Thrones, seems to have invested so much effort into creating an American accent that she can’t reliably furnish adequate line readings.  And Jai Courtney is utterly without charisma or interest as Kyle Reese. 

The script compounds the problem by giving them almost nothing to work with. The movie spits out the famous lines from earlier Terminator movies in different forms and coming from different characters. This is what passes for wit. 

What also passes for wit is that Arnold’s old Terminator (the ‘Guardian’ of the credits) now repeatedly plays Mr. Spock to Courtney’s Dr. McCoy. Well, Star Trek and The Terminator ARE both Paramount properties. The action sequences are competent except in situations that give us cartoon physics. Oh, cartoon physics. How many human characters would die in action movies without you?

This being what looks to be a failed attempt to generate more Terminator movies, I feel obligated to warn you that the ending is conditional. Well, if you watch until about halfway through the credits, anyway. It’s just one more bad taste in a movie full of them. The film-makers even seem to crib an explanation of how time works from a Star Trek episode penned by Harlan Ellison, who once got an out-of-court settlement based on the original film’s similarities to two Outer Limits episodes he penned in the 1960’s. Is another Terminator lawsuit in the works? Not recommended.

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