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Reviews » Ultra HD Reviews » Terminator Genisys
Terminator Genisys
Paramount // PG-13 // June 12, 2018 // Region 0
List Price: $31.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Adam Tyner | posted June 14, 2018 | E-mail the Author
"...and then, right as Kyle Reese is being flung back in time – from the ruins of a post-apocalyptic future back to 1984 – the Eleventh Doctor grabs John Connor and is all, 'I don't think so!' And then a CGI Young-Arnie T-800 steals those punks' clothes at Griffith Observatory exactly like in the first movie, but then this hulking figure starts walking towards it, and the hoodie comes down an' it's a way older Arnold Schwarzenegger! So, you get some hot Arnie-on-Arnie action as the two of 'em start beating the shit out of each other, until Sarah Connor blasts the evil T-800 through its metal heart with a Barrett M82! Meanwhile, Kyle is half-naked and swiping clothes from a department store – he even grabs a pair of Nike Vandals, just like before! – only this time he's being hunted by a T-1000. And just when it looks like he's about to get skewered by those long arm blade thingies, an armored car busts through a wall, and Sarah Connor opens the door and says, 'Come with me if you want to live!'"

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You might think that was copied/pasted from some cringeworthy LiveJournal fan-fic group, but nope...! Welcome to Terminator Genisys, or, as I'll pretend it's known outside of North America, Terminator Mega Dryve. Two hours of "hey, remember that part where..." and "wouldn't it be cool if...?" sensory overload and time paradoxes.

The first verse is the same one you've been humming along with for decades now. Civilization has all but been snuffed out by the sentient artificial intelligence known as Skynet. Machines of its creation now hold dominion, yet impossibly, what few survivors remain now stand on the brink of victory. Knowing it's been defeated, Skynet sends one of its Terminators back in time to kill the mother of the resistance's leader. End Sarah Connor in her youth; no John Connor to wage war against the machines. The resistance counters by sending one of its own soldiers back to 1984 as well to protect Sarah.

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Genisys opens with the same premise as the original Terminator but on a considerably more massive scale. Part of that is owed to just how much we see of the Future War, and part of that's because time as we know it has been ravaged, as the multiverse's many Skynets unleash one variant after another of this chronicidal scheme. The same as we first saw more than three decades ago, a T-800 is dispatched to gun down a barely-out-of-her-teens Sarah Connor. It was Skynet's first volley but no longer the first that Sarah herself has been pitted against. A T-1000 was sent to kill her at the tender age of eight. She escaped. Her father didn't. In the years since, she's been under the care of a T-800 that Sarah has come to nickname "Pops". Hailing from the future and all, her substitute cyborg daddy knows precisely when and where this other T-800 will arrive, reducing a conflict that once spanned an entire film down to a few short minutes. Sarah (Emilia Clarke) has spent so much of her life preparing for this moment – and preparing to meet Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney), the man she's fated to fall in love with. She and Pops are less prepared to learn that the future isn't what it once was. Judgment Day no longer rains hell on 1997; Skynet instead gains sentience with the launch of the Genisys operating system a full twenty years beyond that. And then...eh, let's just fast forward through the rest of the synopsis. Homebrew time machine. Old Arnie becomes Super Old Arnie. T-3000. T-5000. Fate of humanity in the balance.

It's not exactly a daringly hot take to say that Terminator Genisys is kinda lousy. Arnie aside, all of these familiar roles have been recast and miscast. Michael Biehn's outmatched, suffering resistance fighter who's just trying to hold it together is replaced by a hypermuscular gym rat. Kyle Reese isn't and shouldn't be a chest-puffing, relatively dim action hero. I'll go against the grain and say that I actually have few complaints with Jai Courtney's performance in and of itself – he can't sell the "oh, I fell in love with my best friend and mentor's mom based on a photo and his stories!" deal, but he otherwise ably shoulders everything that Genisys throws his way. Y'know, bland but capable. The problem is more conceptual, remolding the character into one devoid of Biehn's humanity or the urgency of what he knows to be a suicide mission.

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And look, the entire Terminator franchise obviously hinges on the idea that the resistance lives and dies by John Connor. Still, actually hearing Jason Clarke's Connor speak about all this in the future – effectively saying to the soldiers who moments earlier had seen so many of their brothers mercilessly slaughtered to achieve victory that "without me, there is no resistance" or "all these other schlubs would die to save Sarah Connor, so why should I send you, my right hand, to the past, Kyle?" Fuck you. I like Jason Clarke well enough as an actor, but I hated John Connor after that. The fundamental core of the movie repulsed me.

I get the allure of Emilia Clarke as Sarah Connor. There's a bit of Linda Hamilton in her appearance, and Clarke's capacity for strength, resolve, and ferocity had long since been established on Game of Thrones. Daenerys is a fundamentally different character, though. It's one thing to be a principled, regal leader overseeing entire armies and a destructive, supernatural force the likes of which hadn't been seen in centuries, and it's another to rock a leather jacket and square off against cyborgs with a shotgun. Nothing about her Sarah Connor works.

The dialogue they're saddled with is no great shakes, but it sounds even worse with this international cast, as if they're concentrating so hard on maintaining their American accents that everything else about the delivery is compromised. There's no real chemistry in these relationships. These characters in every way fail to convince. I can't claim to be so entranced by Kyle or either of the Connors that I ached for further adventures of theirs in the years to come. While humor has long been woven into the Terminator franchise, it's entirely too...geez, what's the word I'm looking for here?

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"Nice to see you!" Oh, I remember now: 'in your face.' Despite that occasional mugging for the camera, Schwarzenegger is far and away Genisys' saving grace as the aging T-800 and the emotional core of the film.

After all these sequels and all this time travel, the mechanics of the plot are a mess. Worlds removed from the first two Terminators, there's rarely the feeling that these characters are in any real danger. Rather than come across as anything resembling actual people, they're simply the narrative thread to string together a slew of top-shelf action sequences. There's surprisingly little urgency to these moments, even with the quite literally ticking clock harkening the launch of SkynetGenisys. The very concept of Genisys is on the disappointing side – it's not transformative tech but basically an iOS-style operating system that bridges together your phone and various digital profiles. So, yeah, it's basically WUPHF, only it talks to military installations and stuff too for whatever fucking reason. No wonder young Kyle Reese – who, after Sarah's one-way time travel to 2017, cannot actually exist, so thanks, time paradoxes – is so eager to unwrap a tablet that won't do anything but show a countdown clock for a while. I mean, you know how excited kids these days can get about aligning their phone and social media contacts! And the countdown doesn't mean too much because it's soon shown that Skynet can speed up the time table as it evolves. It's a good thing the launch isn't sped up too much since Kyle and Sarah arrive in 2017 about a day and a half before the end of humanity, which makes sense from a dramatic standpoint but strategically...?

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I could keep droning on and on and on, but you get the general idea. The plot doesn't hold up to even a little bit of thought or scrutiny, it feels like too many questions remain unanswered to build intrigue for sequels that would never be, the bland performances are way below par, and its finger-wagglingly wacky sense of humor is nails on chalkboard. Genisys seems to be okay with that. Despite the lip service throughout the hours of extras paid towards crafting a reverent but forward-looking story, characterization, and sincere emotions, it's really just about killer robots and shit blowing up. Genisys may be a hollow action spectacle, but it's a spectacle just the same. The pacing screams ahead at a breakneck pace. The scale and scope of its many, many visceral action sequences frequently astonish, from acid baths to dueling helicopters to a schoolbus taking a tumble off the Golden Gate Bridge. It may not be good in the sense of...good, but Genisys still manages to be a hell of a lot of fun. J.K. Simmons also has a memorable supporting turn as a cop who was in the middle of the chaos in 1984 and is still on the force all these years later to lend a hand, and Simmons being onboard is always a check in the win column.

I know this reads like an epic length, frothing-at-the-mouth rant, but honestly, I'm not clacking away at my keyboard with righteous fury so much as heaving a twelve paragraph sigh. If The Terminator had to exist beyond one entry, the franchise should've drawn to a close when James Cameron stepped aside. (At least as far as feature films go; I'm an avowed fan of The Sarah Connor Chronicles.) Genisys is more for the sake of more. Its countless callbacks to the first couple of movies makes it the summer blockbuster equivalent of Family Guy reference humor. Something as disposable as Genisys isn't worth getting mad over. It's a McGriddle – I know it's not good but these empty calories taste alright going down, it's quickly forgotten, and there's another one on the assembly line seconds later. Genisys doesn't aim high, so I can't be too disappointed when it turns out to be...y'know, this. Rent It.

Although Terminator Genisys made its Ultra HD Blu-ray debut in Europe last year, Paramount has made this domestic release worth the brief additional wait. Rather than simply rehash that 2017 disc, this Genisys UHD BD has been updated to include Dolby Vision. Switching back and forth between this and the original Blu-ray release, the differences are even more startling than I expected. The colors in the original BD have a tendency to look dull and muddy by comparison, whereas most every last moment throughout Genisys in Dolby Vision just looks right. The palette is more vibrant and immediate without ever coming across as artificially manipulated. Fleshtones actually look...well, fleshy, which isn't always the case on Blu-ray. Every conceivable light source – from headlights to laser grids – can't help but make an impression in HDR. Highlights similarly impress.

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As Genisys was finished with a 2K digital intermediate, it's not a terrible surprise that the increased definition and detail are a subtle refinement rather than a revelation. Thanks at least in part to the improved compression, there is an incrementally richer sense of texture as well. While it perhaps requires a direct A/B comparison to be fully appreciated, I can better discern elements like individual hairs in close-ups or posters in the background here than I can in 1080p. The Dolby Vision grade also unearths details previously lost. For instance, the throwback sequence with the dueling T-800s has one shot in which Pops is smashed into a lamp post, and the background is awash in a sea of gray. I can barely make anything out behind the cyborgs except for some lights in the far distance and leaves from unseen trees. On Ultra HD Blu-ray, I can now clearly see the railing and the entirety of those same trees. I'll confess to walking in with modest expectations, but this is a really nice looking release and a worthy upgrade.

Terminator Genisys is presented on a BD-66 and is accompanied by a pair of traditional Blu-ray discs. One of those additional discs houses the movie and a handful of featurettes, while the other piles on two and a half hours of extras.

This Ultra HD release of Terminator Genisys showcases the same phenomenal Dolby Atmos audio as the Blu-ray before it. This unrelenting aural assault attacks from every direction: the missiles that harken Judgment Day soaring overhead, the foundation-rattling bass reinforcing the nuclear explosions that soon follow, plasma blasts and sprays of gunfire from every which way, HK-Aerials screaming towards their prey...and that's all just in the opening moments of the film. The nearly two hours that follow take similarly full advantage of the soundscape, such as the immersive roar of the Time Displacement Equipment, a T-1000's metallic spear flung from afar and pinning Pops to a brick wall, an oxygen tank blasting its way throughout a hospital, a pulse-pounding helicopter dogfight, a school bus violently upended on the Golden Gate Bridge, and the aging guardian slamming his way through one wall after another. All the while, dialogue is readily discerned and never struggles for placement. Say what you will about Terminator Genisys as a film, but it's an action spectacle of the highest order, and it has the soundtrack to match. This easily ranks among the most exceptional Atmos soundtracks that I've come across.

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An English descriptive audio track is also included, along with Dolby Digital 5.1 dubs in French, Spanish, and Portuguese. Subtitles are provided in each of those languages: English (traditional and SDH), French, Spanish, and Portuguese.

Terminator Genisys is a three disc set. As is generally the case, there are no extras at all to be found on the Ultra HD Blu-ray disc. Three featurettes accompany the film on the first Blu-ray disc, and they're either repeated or incorporated into a dedicated disc of extras that runs two and a half hours in all – longer than Terminator Genisys itself! The majority of these extras are not available on the initial UHD BD from overseas, nor were they a part of the standard Blu-ray release back in 2015.

The three featurettes on the movie disc include:

  • Family Dynamics (16 min.; HD): The first of Terminator Genisys' extras delves into the sprawling international cast. Everyone understandably marvels at Arnold Schwarzenegger and his iconic role in the franchise. For his part, Schwarzenegger notes that the original Terminator was the first action movie he'd appeared in where he kept his clothes on (for the most part, anyway) rather than merely being cast to expose his physique. Also discussed are the many facets of Emilia Clarke that landed her the part of Sarah Connor, avoiding looking for Michael Biehn 2.0 when casting Kyle Reese, why John Connor proved to be the most challenging role to cast, Byung-Hun Lee's physicality and ability to deliver a performance as a T-1000 devoid of dialogue, Matt Smith repeatedly declining to star before being browbeaten by his mother into signing on, and the revelation that J.K. Simmons wrote some of his best lines himself.

  • Infiltration and Termination (25 min.; HD): Next up is a featurette focusing primarily on locations and set design. We learn of the allure of filming in New Orleans, which beyond being such an exceptionally accommodating city to shoot in – shutting down its biggest overpass for several nights! – in some ways more closely resembles downtown Los Angeles in the mid-'80s than L.A. itself does nowadays. Recreating Griffith Park and transforming the Port of Orleans into a futuristic battleground are among the other highlights. While it's possible with the right crew and a sufficiently healthy budget to transform New Orleans into another city, mimicking San Francisco is a far more daunting prospect, and "Infiltration and Termination" aims its cameras towards that leg of the shoot next. The featurette showcases quite a bit of conceptual art that's compared to the finished product, it's made clear just how much of Genisys was accomplished in-camera, and there's a metric ton of behind the scenes footage along the way.

  • Upgrades: VFX of Terminator Genisys (15 min.; HD): "Upgrades" is the sole featurette here that isn't directly carried over to the bonus disc, although most every last second has been woven into its "Manipulating Matter". We're treated to the sight of the various stages of many, many VFX shots, how James Cameron's original designs have been updated here, and everything you wanted to know about the legions of Genisys' different Terminators but were afraid to ask. Discussed here are the challenges of recreating a thirtysomeodd year old Schwarzenegger all these decades later, comparisons of the original T-1000 from Terminator 2 to Genisys', the T-3000's embrace of complexity standing in stark contrast to the T-1000's elegant simplicity, and the T-5000 challenging me to see if I can spell "phosphorescence".

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That brings us to the dedicated disc of extras.
  • Reset the Future: Constructing Terminator Genisys (140 min.; HD): Boasting a runtime longer than the film it chronicles, Reset the Future is comprised of eight substantial featurettes. They can be viewed individually or played in sequence as a feature-length documentary.

    • Paradigm Shift (15 min.; HD): Reset the Future opens by exploring how Genisys honors the earlier Terminator films while forging an identity all its own. The long list of talent on both sides of the camera speak about the emotional elements that have come to define this franchise beyond legions of murderous robots, including how they stumbled upon Genisys' critical twist while combing through them. James Cameron speaks to being onboard as an unofficial advisor, thanks in part to longtime collaborator Laeta Kalogridis co-writing the film. The collision between past and future is most deeply felt in the dueling T-800 sequence, which is discussed here, as is our increasing dependence on iPhones and the like that is core to Genisys' premise. Other standout notes include bringing Game of Thrones' Alan Taylor onboard to direct, the skeleton of LAX serving as a Future War battleground, and using color to visually distinguish between these several distinct realities.

    • Family Dynamics (16 min.; HD): See above.

    • Old. Not Obsolete. (16 min.; HD): Perhaps my single favorite segment in Reset the Future is this deep dive into the practical effects, most notably the design, fabrication, and finish work behind the robotic endoskeletons. The fleshy bits occasionally wrapped around those endoskeletons is another favorite topic of discussion, including sculpting circa-'84 Arnold over a scan from the early aughts and the creation of more severed Arnie legs than any reasonable person would know what to do with.

    • Tactical Apparel (12 min.; HD): Genisys' costume design featurette shows just how much thought, effort, craftsmanship, and iteration goes into a task as seemingly simple as "Guardian in a hoodie". The lengths involved in returning back to 1984 are impressive, from drafting Nike to recreate their Vandals from more than thirty years ago and searching through countless thrift stores for military jackets. With a slew of concept art unveiled along the way, we also learn how Arnold's current-day measurements stack up to his '84 physique, informing Sarah's strength and ferocity by tapping into punk rock culture, and the role that car mats and a cement mixer play in outfitting the rebellion in a futuristic war.
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    • A Once and Future War (16 min.; HD): Just because it's not a real war doesn't mean it's a cakewalk. "A Once and Future War" takes a look at the training that went into sculpting these warriors, including a 67 year old Schwarzenegger getting back to Terminator size. Genisys' arsenal is also explored at length, from Pops' preferred shotgun from each era all the way to a plasma cannon. The featurette additionally delves into the blend of the digital and physical required to realize action on this scale, and there's no shortage of behind the scenes footage of Pops going all Kool-Aid Man through a police station interrogation room.

    • Infiltration and Termination (25 min.; HD): See above.

    • Manipulating Matter (30 min.; HD): Post-production is the central topic of discussion here. The visual effects portion of "Manipulating Matter" builds upon "Upgrades" from the previous disc, while also exploring the helicopter dogfight and staggering scale of the Golden Gate Bridge sequence. The meritocracy of the editing process is briefly touched upon before devoting much of the featurette's remaining runtime to the score. This includes detailed comments about many of the individual themes as well as extensive footage of the orchestral recording.

    • Exiles in Time (10 min.; HD): Reset the Future draws to a close with an overview of Genisys and what the future – at least at one time – seemed to hold for the franchise. James Cameron speaks to seeing Genisys relatively blind and greatly enjoying it, particularly the way in which it celebrates his two films yet points towards something new. Schwarzenegger likens the movie to a rollercoaster ride but one not defined purely by its high-octane action. The foundation that Genisys was meant to lay for a trilogy is also briefly touched upon, although...well, that's not how things have actually shaken out. Of course, this feature-length doc hasn't yet gotten the memo on the fate of the franchise, so those sorts of comments still make for a happy ending.

  • Battle on the Bridge: Multi-Angle Scene Background (10 min.; HD): No, you won't have to mash the never-used Angle button on your remote; this is instead three brief segments on the havoc wrought on the Golden Gate Bridge. First up is previsualization – illustrative 3D animation and storyboard animatics. This is followed by a more traditional featurette with behind the scenes footage and interviews, including the reveal that an actual, physical bus was flipped over, not just some CG model in virtual space. In fact, scores of school buses were demolished along the way. Last up is a picture-in-picture composite of the previz with the finished sequence.

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A digital copy code is tucked inside that can be redeemed via UltraViolet or iTunes. Terminator Genisys arrives in the expected slipcover as well.

The Final Word
Decades after storming into theaters, The Terminator and Judgment Day continue to define the shape of sci-fi/action cinema as we know it. Terminator Genisys, meanwhile, is...well, number five. It's more of the same in a glossier, more at-least-in-theory-audience-pleasing package. It's...it's...

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Oh, who am I kidding? I can't stay mad at that face. The heavy-handed stabs at humor are one swing and a miss after another, and I can't say that I found myself emotionally invested in the story or these the-same-but-different-but characters. It could be and should be so much more, but as much as a misfire as it is in so many ways, Terminator Genisys at least still rates as a fun, disposable popcorn flick. So, I guess what I'm saying is:

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Mmm, I wouldn't take it that far, but whatever. Rent It first if you've never caught Terminator Genisys before; Recommended for established fans, especially given the terrific presentation and the volume of extras you may have missed out on the first time around.
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