Oh, Michael Biehn, where art thou? The actor who played the original Kyle Reese, future savior of the past, and thus the future, was James Cameron’s go-to badass in three of the director’s most action and emotion-laden pre-CGI spectaculars: the stone-cold classic The Terminator, 1986’s relentlessly dark Aliens, and 1989’s unfairly overlooked The Abyss, in which Biehn played a Navy SEAL suffering from high-pressure nervous syndrome (read: bugfuck crazy) determined to set off an underwater nuke and kickstart World War III. (Biehn’s Lt. Coffey was also tweaky about the rightly ridiculed underwater aliens that showed up mid-movie, but that’s another story for another time.) Suffice it so say that Terminator: Genisys’ Reese (Courtney) is laughably miscast in this fifth iteration of Cameron’s original apocalyptic robot wars. Equally miscast is Jason Clarke, who here plays the by now superheroic John Connor, the man fated to lead humanity to victory in the war against the machines. Clarke comes off more like a curly-haired boor you might encounter at a group-therapy session. Even his vainglorious speechifying to his troops on the eve of their final (yeah, right), time-traveling coup against the self-aware, mankind hater Skynet feels feeble and sounds rote. Bah!
And there’s the return of Schwarzenegger in his career-defining role – apart from governor of California, I suppose – as the hulking Terminator. As a sop to fans, he’s given far too many one-liners (“I’ll be back,” ad nauseam) and is generally played for laughs. This being a highly convoluted, temporally scrambled time-travel action film, we do get the pleasure of seeing Ahnold’s old-school model literally age before our eyes, from the digitally re-created – and completely naked – young Schwarzenegger fucking up some punks at Griffith Observatory to the craggy “old, not obsolete” nonlethal Terminator circa 2017.
The storyline, from writers Laeta Kalogridis and Patrick Lussier, is all over the place (no pun intended), moving from 2029 to a 1984 that differs radically from the one that Cameron and co-writer Gale Ann Hurd posited way back when. This pretty much reboots the whole franchise’s history, but, what the hell, it’s quantum, baby. Chock-full of various sorts of Terminators, thuddingly dull explosions, and one of the most downright boring helicopter chases ever created for the movies, Terminator: Genisys is a catastrophic misfire on nearly all counts. It’s only saving grace? 2015 Oscar winner J.K. Simmons (Whiplash) as a Mulder-gone-to-pot-esque cop who believes in these “goddamn time-traveling robots.” But other than that, all I can do is paraphrase Biehn’s Kyle Reese: “Come with me if you want to yawn.”Read a full review of Terminator: Genisys.