Cybernetic Mystification

Not sure where that title came from, but I think I love it. BeKindRewrite, that probably needs to be an InMon prompt!

So, I am mystified by the critics of the cyborgs. Of all the things I never thought I would say…

If you like The Terminator, and Terminator 2, go see Terminator: Genisys. Go see it in the theaters. It is well worth your time. But whatever you do, DO NOT WATCH THE LATEST TRAILER. It spoils a great twist.

Terminator: Genisys screen shot

Terminator: Genisys screen shot

The critics are raking this film over the coals, even moreso than the abysmal Terminator 3, and Terminator: Salvation. While I grant that the film is not as solid as the first two installments in the franchise, I contend that it blows T3 and T4 completely out of the water, and yet it’s rating from the critics falls well below them. Fan ratings are more mixed, thankfully. My brother and I are not the only fans who enjoyed it.

I’ve heard/seen all sorts of complaints about this film, but here is my non-spoilerific assessment:

Despite what a lot of folks have said, I found the writing to be solid. The dialog is effective, the call-backs are tasteful (which is a very rare thing in sequels) and the plot, though convoluted, doesn’t fall apart any more than that of T1 and T2. In fact, I have some very interesting theories about what is actually going on in this film, and I expect to see more explained if any sequels see the light of day. The writers have given themselves some very intriguing options.

Before anyone who disagrees with me decides to launch grenades, hear me out (it’s amazing how fast a fan-base can fall to vicious infighting). From the very beginning, The Terminator was a paradox. (Spoiler for the original Terminator film): You have John, born well before his own father, who sends his father back in time to protect his mother from a cyborg that would not have been sent to kill her if he, John, had not been born in the first place (/T1 spoiler). Terminator: Genisys complicates the timeline, but it does not hand me anything less believable than the original paradox. Enjoying the Terminator films at all requires suspension of belief.

Being familiar with the first two films will, most definitely, contribute to one’s understanding/enjoyment of this one. I did not watch it, the first time around (yes, I plan to see it again in the theaters), with an eye to how it would strike a newcomer.  My guess is that it would be overwhelming. Even with my background of being very familiar with the 1st 2 films, the pace in the second-half was a bit hard to follow.

The call-backs and references to the earlier films are everywhere. I am VERY picky about call-backs in sequels. It is easy for them to feel forced, to be used as a crutch to prop up a weak copy. Done right, though, call backs can act as a touchstone for fans, or even an inside joke. This film, for the most part, uses them right. It reverences the first two films, but it manages not to rely on them. I like the way James Cameron puts it in his (The video contains SPOILERS!) Featurette endorsing the film:

I start to see things I recognize. It’s being very respectful of the first two films. And then, all the sudden, it just swerves, and now I’m going on a journey.

The writers paid attention to the first two films. I think they must even have loved them in order to get the feel of this one right. Terminator: Genisys, feels like it belongs with T2, it works as a continuation. It has a similar style of dialogue and humor. Where Genisys drops the ball is, in my opinion, in the pacing. There is so much crammed into this movie that by the time we reached the climax, we were still, mentally, lagging a few scenes back. Said climax is confusing, and fails, on some level, to work for me. However, it wasn’t enough to break the film. It’s several pegs below T2, in my mind, but that does not make it a bad film. It still works. I still enjoyed it, and I am still thinking about its implications.

I found the twists intelligent and interesting. I won’t go into them more, here, because spoilers, but I will allow spoilers in the comments, so if anyone wants to pick my brain, feel free.

Oh, and as a note, if you know anything about helicopters, you might want to shut your brain off when the whirlybirds show up in order to enjoy the scene. It’s fun, but it laughs in the face of physics.

The acting is effective. Reese was the least-right, in my mind, (a very different Reese from T1), but even he didn’t grate on my nerves. Watching how Arnold handles his role in this film is gratifying, (yay development!) and Emilia Clarke is very fun to watch. They managed, shockingly, not to sexually exploit her very much. The film focuses on her as a person rather than focusing on her physical attributes… yes, I am glaring at you, T3. In good Sarah-Connor fashion, she’s a person with agency, not an object. I’ve not seen Game of Thrones, so I’m not biased about Emilia one way or another.

So the long and the short is this: It’s a fun, non-cringe-worthy film. No, it’s not perfect, and no, it doesn’t measure up to its first two predecessors, but really, who was expecting that? It is smart enough to hold up under discussion, and I had a roaring good time when I went to see it with my brother (to whom I owe my introduction to the Terminator films). Also, lots of Dakka, but some very interesting non-dakka stuff goes on as well. Terminator: Genisys has earned a place on my dvd shelf, which is something T3 and T4 never even came close to doing. I finally feel like we have a trilogy of Terminator films, and I have some hope that any that come after this have a chance of also being good.

For those who are curious, my ratings of the franchise are as follows: T1: 9/10, T2: 9.5/10, T3: 3/10, TS: 5/10 (ok film, but NOT a Terminator film), TG: 8/10

I cannot vouch for the comments! Spoilers will be allowed. I do ask that spoilers be marked as such.

If you’re curious, here are some reviewers who have a similar opinion. I’ll add more as I find ones I like:

Angry Movie Review (Spoilers)

The Examiner

Bandit Incorporated (Despite what it says, a little spoilerific)

The Leisure Time Blog (a little spoilerific)

And, of course, James Cameron’s Featurette mentioned above.

For Fun

HISHE: Terminator – One of my favorite mashups ever

ERBoH: Robocop vs. Terminator  – be advised, this video contains some adult themes and foul language. But the Geek in me doesn’t care, it’s great!

Honest Trailers: Terminator 2: Judgement Day – contains spoilers (duh!)

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About jubilare

Just another tree in the proverbial forest. Look! I have leaves! View all posts by jubilare

12 responses to “Cybernetic Mystification

  • Stephanie Orges

    I haven’t actually seen any of the Terminator movies. Am I uncultured swine, or should I blame my brother?

    • jubilare

      Shame on your brother! SHAAAAAAAAME! ;)

      Well, some other fans might take me out in the street and mow me down with a Gatling gun for saying this, but the films aren’t everyone’s cup of tea. They are my cup, however. I’ll give you a non-spoilerific rundown of them, and you can decide for yourself.

      “The Terminator” is a horror-flick. As you know, I don’t usually like horror flicks, but this is an exception. It’s got a lot more suspense than action (surprisingly) Not, of course, that it doesn’t have some great action. I have some issues with James Cameron, but he is a darn good director. The film shows that off (and is largely responsible for launching his career). It’s beautifully put together. I’d even dare to call it a work of art.

      Keep in mind, though, that it SCREAMS 80’s culture. From the rooftops. We’re talking hair, clothes, synth-music, the works. If you decide to watch it, be prepared.

      There’s lots of violence, some blood, and some squicky stuff involving the Terminator doing self-repair (he removes his own eyeball, among other things…). There are a couple of sex scenes, too, one of which is pretty explicit. I watched it for the first time as a teenager, though, and it didn’t traumatize me.

      T2 is more of a sci-fi action thriller and, in many people’s opinion, including mine, it is a better all-around film (it definitely appeals to a wider audience). It still has creepy elements from T1 (murderous machines, oh my!) but its themes are more complex. Note, if you don’t already know the plot, do NOT watch any trailers. The trailers for this film, like the latest trailer for the new film, are horribly spoilerific.

      T2 screams 90’s the same way T1 screams 80’s. Sarah Connor is awesome. Seeing Linda Hamilton reprise the role, and the difference between the character in the first and second films, is fantastic. As for Arnie, I am not generally a fan of his work, but he is the Terminator. I love him as T-800 model 101. I guess the man was born to play a cyborg.

      T2 is a more family-friendly film, though there are still a few disturbing moments of violence (that’s to be expected, though… I mean, cyborg assassins, right?) and one nightmarish depiction of a nuclear strike that was praised for its realistic portrayal *shudders*.

      Both movies are filled with scenes that are deservedly iconic. Seeing them will, at least, let you in on a whole swath of pop-culture references and in-jokes. ;) I kind of envy anyone who gets to watch them for the first time. They hold up great to re-watching, but nothing beats an introduction.

      T3 wasn’t written by the same people, I don’t think Cameron had anything to do with it, and… it’s bad. Just… bad. Interesting concept, but such poor writing and poor execution that it’s painful. The best I can say for it is that there were a few funny lines.

      T4, didn’t strike me as a horrible movie, but it is a horrible Terminator movie. I only saw it once, so I don’t remember much, but I do remember that it made little sense in the mythology of the series, and I’m not sure anyone involved with the previous films was on board with it.

      My opinion on the latest addition would be sort of redundant, here. You definitely don’t need to see 3 or 4 in order to enjoy it. Only 1, 2, and now 5 are worth watching.

      I’m pretty sure you would like T2. And in order to get the full impact of that film, you really do need to see T1. But I’ve been wrong before. If you decide to give them a try, go in without taking them too seriously. Yes, I think they are great movies, but they’re great for the sheer entertainment and good directing. Also, if time-travel paradoxes annoy you, prepare to be annoyed because from the beginning it is one huge paradox.

      If you do see T1 and T2, and provided you’ve also seen Back to the Future (please tell me you’ve seen Back to the Future!), you must then come back and watch this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bBBw9E2Q_aY It is one of my favorite mash-ups ever. XD

      Wow, that was long-winded. Sorry! If you see them, please let me know what you think. I’m always curious to see how the films strike fresh eyes.

      • Stephanie Orges

        I’ve added T1 to my Netflix queue and I’ll check for T2. I generally enjoy paradoxes, and I’m a fan of Back to the Future, so I have high hopes for enjoying it.

        Brother is, perhaps, too busy trying to figure out if I’ll like 300 and Children of Men to bother introducing me to Terminator just yet.

        • jubilare

          I don’t think T2 is on Netflix, sadly. At least, it wasn’t last time I checked. If need be, though, I could always mail you my copy if you promise to give it back. ^_~

          Tell your brother that I highly disapprove of his neglect of your Classical education. ;P

          • Stephanie Orges

            I actually told him yesterday “So Anne’s mad at you for not making me watch Terminator.” “To which he replied, “Who?” Even though I’ve mentioned you before. He said he didn’t think the first one was very good or that I would like it…well, we shall see. I’ll let you know if I need to borrow T2.

          • jubilare

            Blasphemy! ;) But in all seriousness, or as serious as I can be about these films (if they’re not fun, what’s the point?) The Terminator is a sci-fi-horror-thriller. An 80’s sci-fi-horror-thriller. Many people prefer T2 as a film, me included, but part of that is because T2 is a different kind of film.

            What T1 is, is Cameron’s low-budget, nightmare-inspired baby. It’s beautifully shot, the pacing and tension are excellent, the Terminator itself is iconic, and there are just these… moments in the film that stick in the mind. It’s not story or character driven, at bottom it’s just a rather smart thriller, but I’m not surprised by the mark it’s left on pop-culture.

            Plus, T2 is better if you’ve seen T1, and as the first few minutes of Genisys calls back directly to T1, sometimes shot-for-shot, the 1984 classic is a necessary prerequisite.

            But worse-case scenario, if you end up not liking either movie, you will at least have an important pop-culture puzzle-piece under your belt. Pop culture is very hit-and-miss, but its collective reference pool is useful, I think, for writers. :)

            p.s. I’m not “mad,” so much as disapproving. It is the duty of elder siblings to indoctrinate the younger. ;)

          • Stephanie Orges

            Yes, I certainly plan to watch the first first. I should see it for the principle of the thing, and for research especially since it’s my genre.

            It’s sort of like I had never actually seen Jurassic Park all the way through until a couple of years ago. Scandalous.

          • jubilare

            Really? How did you manage to avoid that? Then again, I shouldn’t talk. There are gaps in my experience, too. I’ve never seen, for instance, Titanic all the way through.

            Have you seen any of the Aliens films? What do you consider sci-fi classics, in that someone wanting to know the genre should see X film?

  • tigercrh

    Reply to your comment: I love HISHE, and that’s definitely a good one.

  • Mary

    Huh. Well, I watched the first 2 Terminator movies on your recommendation and enjoyed them both so maybe I should treat myself to seeing this one in the theater.

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