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Schwarzenegger Brings Some Fun to 'Terminator,' But It's Not Enough

'Terminator: Genisys' doesn't bring anything new or interesting to the universe, but Arnold does make it palatable.


Everything about Terminator: Genisys makes sense except the movie itself. It makes sense to bring Arnold Schwarzenegger back to his signature role. It makes sense to release it on the 4th of July weekend. It makes sense to tone down the violence for a PG-13, and to cast an under-utilized-but-beloved actress from the insanely popular Game of Thrones. It even makes sense to take it back to the original Terminator story, playing with that first film in ways that fans will love to see.

The movie itself doesn't make much sense, but it doesn't have to. This is a big summer blockbuster that'll have you switching off your brain and — best case scenario — turning on your grin. It's meant to be big dumb fun, and that makes sense. But it's also kind of a shame. It's a shame that after two great movies from James Cameron, no one's figured out another story in this very compelling universe that's as interesting or as clever or as purposeful. Terminator: Genisys is an okay movie, but we didn't want another okay Terminator movie. We wanted Ah-nuld to come back to this world with his guns blazing in a no-holds-barred 120 minutes of madness that would leave us with our jaws on the floor. I don't know what that movie would look like, but after seeing Mad Max: Fury Road, I bet George Miller might.

Instead we got another CG-monster movie without a soul, just big fights. In that regard it reminds me of Jurassic World, but Jai Courtney is no Chris Pratt, so it compares poorly for want of charisma.

Speaking of the cast, everyone is good, but no one stands out, leaving Arnold Schwarzenegger in the awkward position of having to anchor a movie while playing a character that isn't supposed to have any human emotions. As the franchise star, Schwarzenegger gets to mug all he wants these days, so he gets a few fun and memorable moments like with this silly robot grin where he draws back his lips and shows every single one of his teeth. If you're curious about seeing Emilia Clarke outside Game of Thrones, she's solid, but doesn't have that same eye-drawing quality she has on the show. Of course her character is made a little more absurd this time around because she's supposed to see Schwarzenegger's Terminator, which she calls "Pops," as her dad. And how do you play that without it being ridiculous?

As for the Terminator universe, Genisys does nothing to clear up the mish-mash of timelines, disconnected stories, and various paradoxes that have accumulated over the years. In fact, it just convolutes everything more. This is a movie that embraces the "don't think too hard about it" approach, leaping us into 2017 for no real reason other than it's roughly the audience's present.

Schwarzenegger's screen presence goes far toward making the movie more palatable. If anything, his charm has only grown over the years. It's impossible to hate him in this movie when he's clearly having so much fun. So as much as there is to complain about, it's actually impossible to totally hate the movie itself. It's big dumb fun, and sometimes that's enough.

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