BY ROGER THOMAS
I had not seen “The Terminator” before I saw “Terminator 2: Judgement Day.”
My first exposure to the story of Sarah and John Connor (played by Edward Furlong in the second film) was with the sequel. I saw it in a mall in Knoxville, Tennessee, and I was amazed watching the evil liquid terminator transform from one shape to another. It was a startling good film and I was hooked on this saga.
I, of course, sought out the original as soon as I got home. Though the first film did not have quite the amazing effects of the second, it was still incredible storytelling. I hoped for more.
And, of course, we got more. There was “Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines,” which I only vaguely remember. Nick Stahl became the second actor to play John Connor and Claire Danes was his future wife. This time, the evil terminator had a female form during much of the film.
Then came “Terminator Salvation” with Christian Bale, who ends up being the third actor playing John Connor. That is about the only element of the film that I can recall at this point.
Then there was the short-lived (two seasons) television series: “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles.” This series was the best imagining of the Terminator story since the second film. There was no Arnold Schwarzenegger and Thomas Dekker became the fourth actor to play John Connor.
Now we have “Terminator Genisys” with the fifth actor, Jason Clarke, playing John Connor. Throughout these films and the television series, John Connor has been the focus. The prevention of John’s conception is the intent of the first terminator, played by Arnold Schwarzenegger.
His second terminator is sent to protect the young John. Throughout the series, John Connor’s existence has been paramount and for me, that is the greatest downfall of the new film.
I object to the direction the film takes with respect to the John Connor character. It is almost like discovering that Luke Skywalker will become a Sith Lord in the new Star Wars film. That just is not cool.
But I have other criticisms as well. The first half hour or so moves really fast. I know this series specializes in amazing action, but even in the best film, “Terminator 2,” the action paused for meaningful conversations. There is little of that here.
Then there is the whole time travel element that gets very convoluted the more the characters discuss it. I am not asking for the film to be simpler, just have one character who is not quite catching on so someone can explain it to him, and the members of the audience like me who are still catching up.
Another distraction happens when the heroes are fleeing from the villains. There is an awful lot of collateral damage along the way. This is true in all the “Terminator” films. When you are trying to save humanity, innocent bystanders just have to be sacrificed. I get that about action movies, but every so often, I start wondering how many people die while the good guys are doing whatever they have to do to save the future. In this film, the off-camera death toll had to be pretty high.
By no means would I call “Terminator Genisys” a great film. In fact, I have spent most of this review explaining the weaknesses of it and the superiority of its predecessors, at least some of them. However, the effects are stellar, the humor is often quite amusing, and Arnold’s character is great.
I will close with a statement I said immediately exiting the theater: “Well, for all its shortcomings, it is a fun film, and what does one want from a big summer blockbuster if it is not fun.” If you want two hours of fun, ignore the lesser parts and go for it.
Roger Thomas is a member of the North Carolina Film Critics Association. He reviews films for The Stanly News & Press.