Review: 'Terminator Genisys'

Arnold Schwarzenegger has returned, but he can't save 'Terminator Genisys' from itself
BACK AGAIN: Arnold Schwarzenegger has returned, but he can't save 'Terminator Genisys' from itself.

Disgruntled fans of the franchise are already calling Terminator Genisys the worst, but it is loaded with Schwarzenegger, unlike the awful 2009 Terminator Salvation. (Someday, some blogger will rewrite the career of Salvation director, Joseph McGinty "McG" Nichol, as "an oeuvre that takes Tashlin-esque delight in destruction...essential to understanding the pleasures and perils of America in the Bush age... " etc., etc.)

Director Alan Taylor (Six Feet Under) plays jump-rope with time-lines—it takes place in three different eras. The film is yet another rescue mission for Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke)—she whose womb must be safe-guarded for the foaling of future messiah John Connor (Jason Clarke). Connor's right-hand man Kyle (the dull Jai Courtney) is the future commando sent back to 1984. But the malevolent AI system, Skynet, has already rewritten history so that liquid-metal T-1000 robots are on the prowl in Los Angeles. A gigantic neon eggbeater of a time machine allows more temporal jumping, but a version of Connor himself may be the ultimate obstacle in preventing Sarah and Kyle from ending Skynet before it begins.

Schwarzenegger has now suffered that fate predicted for humanity so many years ago—he's been turned into obedient pixels by a supercomputer. Greyer and waxier from plastic surgery, he is much as he was: massive, with chrome bones protruding through the wounds. He's enough of an actor that he can get the desired results from small gestures, such as overcoming a Parkinsonian tremor in his hand as he loads an ammo clip. If I were a cruel young person, I'd denounce this as sentimental, but Schwarzenegger invests his decay with dignity.

"Old, not obsolete," he intones with a slight edge of doubt; the square head and the grimace (meant to be friendly) recall the impact of Karloff's Creature. Noble old killbot!

They have a star—I just wish they had more of a movie. The new Skynet turns out to evolve from the latest cloud-based technology, complete with a rollout that commands billboards all over San Francisco. The city that's been beaten up a bit in the movies too much lately. A barely animated helicopter chase and yet another fight on the Golden Gate Bridge seem to be going through the motions. Terminator Genisys goes out of its way to avoid poignancy and humor—it says something about a movie when Arnold Schwarzenegger is the funniest person in it.

Terminator Genisys

PG-13; 125 Min.

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