Time travel is messy. But we keep coming back to it – movie-makers keep making time travel films and I keep watching them. It’s alluring, the idea of going back to a familiar place with familiar people, forewarned of all the hazards, trying to make things right when before, they went wrong.
Sequels work like this too – they take us back to a familiar place with familiar people, as viewers we know the rules and hope that they improve upon the previous movies. And just like Time Travel, if the slightest thing goes wrong then the whole thing unravels.
Poor Terminator Genisys is both a time travel movie and a sequel. There’s a lot of canon to acknowledge and logistical time travel traps to avoid. Things that didn’t any sense were baked into the premise*. I’m not going to pick this movie apart on the basis of any of that – I haven’t seen the other Terminator films and nitpicking time travel has been done to death. This film would be hard to make well and easy to make poorly – people still would have come see it, after all. But it was obvious watching this that director Alan Taylor was not content with half-assing another movie in the series.
I’m going to focus on what it did right because there was a lot. The main thing was it was able to surprise me. There were plot-twists, small and big, that caught me off guard. Terminator Genisys did not just go off the basic premise; it built on that premise and played with it. Groundwork was laid in the first part that paid off in at the end (Checkov’s Gun) .
I liked the acting. Again, based on the movie’s premise, there wasn’t a lot for them to say and still keep the film going at a reasonable pace but they did well with what they had. Emilia Clarke but she had the right tone and demeanour, she worked as Sarah Connor. Jai Courtney too was great (why did they have to time travel naked, again? Never mind, forget I asked) But better than those two was Jason Clarke as John Connor, nuanced in his performance, believable and versatile.
This was a movie about man verses machine but also man verses fate. It asked the question and then answered it, which is proper storytelling but I don’t feel it had much to say about either. Artificial Intelligence is a tired boogieman, or at least this one was. But I liked the special effects – the fighting terminators were still great to watch.
* Why did the machines need to round survivors into ‘execution camps’ when shooting them would have been quicker? Couldn’t they just have destroyed the food supply? Why did the machines need human-like soldiers? Why have ‘infiltration units’ when you could just shoot anything that is not a machine? Isn’t Skynet backed up in an off-site server? If metal had to be housed in flesh to go back in time, how did T1000s (who had none) do it? Why would a T1000 ever need to pick up a gun and fire at people who are behind cover? Why would Skynet not seek a diplomatic solution when it would be easier and safer(I know, I know, but still…)? Why would Skynet (who would presumably have all the intelligence and memory it needed) ever been defeated by humans, couldn’t it just outsmart them?