“Arnold is back and better than ever” (Shawn Edwards, WDAP-TV, FOX) in the movie hailed as “the best Terminator since T2: Judgment Day” (Mark Hughes, Forbes). In the war of man against machine, Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney, The Divergent Series) is sent back to 1984 by resistance leader John Connor (Jason Clarke, Everest) to protect his young mother, Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke, “Game of Thrones”). However, this time unexpected events have altered the past and threaten the future for all mankind. Now Reese must join forces with Sarah and her “Guardian” (Arnold Schwarzenegger) to save the world and stop the next evolution of Terminators.
Much like the recent 'Poltergeist' remake, fans of the original 'Terminator' simply didn't give the newest installment a chance – but can you really blame them? The third movie, 'Rise of the Machine', was tone deaf and joyless. The post-apocalyptic fourth installment, 'Salvation,' was overly-serious and lost the interest of its fans. And although the first two movies have completely different tones, they each work perfectly. This latest entry, 'Terminator Genisys,' comes in with great respect for the original two, somewhat ignoring the latter two, and carries the fun and entertaining feel of 'Terminator 2: Judgment Day.' Even if you don't wholly enjoy 'Genisys,' there's no denying that it's the best that the franchise has been since 'T2.'
'Game of Thrones' director Alan Taylor took the helm for 'Terminator Genisys.' Although he has gotten a bad rap for the bland 'Thor' sequel, 'The Dark World,' we all know how controlling Marvel is and it's already out in the open that Taylor was completely dissatisfied with his lack of control and creativity, so you can't really blame them for that failure. Serving like a mulligan, 'Genisys' shows us what he can bring it to the blockbuster arena – only this time he has such good backing that we can see the cinematic fun that he's capable of delivering.
It's easy to tell that the writers of 'Terminator Genisys' are huge fans of the two original 'Terminator' movies. Alternate universe reboots are tricky to pull off because it's easy to lose a fanbase in the process, but 'Genisys' steps in with creativity, playfulness, and grace, all things that Trekkies wish J.J. Abrams' 'Star Trek' reboot could have pulled off.
As classic 'Terminator' movies do, we kick off in the future. Judgment Day has already happened and a scarred John Connor (Jason Clarke, 'Dawn of the Planet of the Apes') leads his human rebel force on an attack against the machines. We meet his right-hand man, Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney, 'A Good Day to Die Hard'), and watch them storm a heavily-guarded Skynet base. Once inside, they find that catalytic moment that sparked the first movie has just occurred. A model T-800 terminator has been sent back to 1984 to kill Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke, 'Games of Thrones') before she can give birth to her future leader son. With John already fully aware of what needs to take place because of the stories his mother told him throughout his childhood, he sends his young father, Kyle, back in time to stop the terminator and save Sarah. Just as Kyle is about to be pulled through time, the naked Kyle sees something happened to John that didn't happen prior to the '84 storyline of the original 'Terminator'. Something from the future has changed and shortly after falling into the dirty and dark alleyway in '84 Los Angeles, Kyle realizes that the mission has changed – especially when a model T-1000 terminator is there waiting for him.
'Genisys' kicks off with a completely playful and entertaining set of sequences. When both the young Arnold and the young Kyle arrive in 1984, we get a couple great scenes that will make you question whether what you're watching is footage from the original movie or new footage that was shot picture-for-picture as homage to the original. Being a fan of the franchise, this witty introduction to the alternate universe plot had me grinning from ear to ear. Fortunately, the fun doesn't end there. Not only does the screenplay surprisingly take the story in a fresh and creative direction (that even echoes some of the narrative of the short-lived television series 'The Sarah Connor Chronicles'), but the tone of the entire film mirrors that of the franchise's best installment, T2. The action, the humor, the unpredictability – it's all there. Each member of the cast does a perfect job reinventing or revisiting the classic characters, including the usually-stiff Jai Courtney and the series' newest cast member, J.K. Simmons.
My only beef with 'Terminator Genisys' comes in the form of violence. I understand that it was shot for a PG-13 – which makes sense because PG-13 movies always make more than R-rated movies – but it's a little silly when it completely screws up the continuity. For example, when the T-800 that we know well from the first 'Terminator' is sent back to 1984, he's shot multiple times with a shotgun. Instead of the balls entering its flesh and revealing the metallic exoskeleton, they spark when they hit the skin and don't cause any damage. As dumb as that nitpick may be, if it's my only one, then 'Genisys' got something right.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Paramount' has given the 3D edition of 'Terminator Genisys' the fully-loaded combo pack treatment. Along with the 3D Region A BD-50 comes a 2D companion disc (which contains all of the special features), a DVD and a Digital HD copy. All three discs are housed in a blue keepcase with a hinged arm in the middle that holds the two Blu-ray discs. A glossy and embossed slip cover is included, but it's worth noting that the cardboard is slightly flimsier than usual. On both the 3D and 2D Blu-ray discs, only a Paramount reel plays before the main menu.
'Terminator Genisys' arrives on Blu-ray with a 1080p/MVC MPEG-4 3D encoding and a 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 2D encoding. Either way, you're getting a flawless and impressive visual experience.
The 2D disc comes with fantastic resolution and detail. The crispness of the imagery is brilliant. Detail and texture abound during the usual expected moments, but the story at hand creates even more instances to impress you. For example, a new model terminator uses nano-like particles to take shape. When used, they can be seen in rich detail.
The color palette isn't wide, but that's not to say that there aren't many uses that span the spectrum. Great vibrant colors with realistic saturation pop up from time to time, but the majority of the film – like the old 'Terminator' flicks – is heavily set in a black, shadowy world. Black levels are wonderfully deep and shadows are well-delineated. There are no traces of crushing. Some sequences happen in sunny daytime settings, but they often turn cloudy and overcast, bringing a nice gray hue with them. Banding, aliasing and noise are absent.
The 3D disc comes with all of the great 2D accolades and more. The 2D version features a nice dimensional feel that the 3D version amplifies. Although not shot in native 3D, 'Genisys' certainly feels like it was shot with 3D in mind. Foreground objects are not misused, like many 3D transfers typically do these days. When we get shots with foreground, middleground and background objects, there's a genuine and realistic depth to the imagery. Instead of making objects pop out of the screen, it's like we're looking deep into staged production that's spectacularly unraveling before our eyes. Shots with computer-animated effects typically feature greater depth than the live-action ones, but not so much that it's an eye-sore when we return to the live-action images. Not a single instance of cross-talk appears, although alternate timeline flashback sequences feature intended double-vision effects that need not be mistaken for a disc flaw.
My only complaints with the 3D version are personal nitpicks and do not result from the transfer or presentation. I've found that home theater 3D works much better with a 1.78:1 or 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Wide 2.40:1 aspect ratios close the screen off too much and lessen the impact of the image's depth. On top of that, although I don't mind lens flares, when lens flares are made to protrude out of the 3D proscenium, they're distracting. I don't usually notice them, but the 3D distraction pulled my eyes each time one came on-screen. In a similar complaint, shaky cam doesn't bother me; however, for reason unknown, a few talkie scenes in 'Genisys' inexplicably switch into shaky mode. In these scenes, the 3D causes the shaky cam effects to be very distracting – but that's just me. Those nitpicks are my personal opinion and do not reflect the 3D transfer.
'Terminator Genisys' features a Dolby Atmos track with an absolutely loaded and heavy-hitting 7.1 base track. The wartime intro is entirely immersive. It features the expected gunplay and explosion effects with constant 360-degree dynamics, but it also layers in additional effects fitting for the story at hand, specifically the clanks and chinks of metal colliding with metal. I've not been in the crossfire of war, but this track gives you a great sense of what it might be light in the center of a hectic and hellish firestorm. Bass and LFE is used throughout.
The nice thing about the effects mix is that it doesn't limit the activity of all channels to just the action scenes. Any and all off-screen sounds are properly layered into the mix, from simple environmental effects, like elevator dings and parking garage noise, to the hoped-for seamless imaging of congested-yet-speedy traffic whizzing by and helicopters circling around the space. The sound effect associated with our newest model terminator sounds like a million tiny short sounds layered one atop the other, yet audible one-by-one.
The music mix is also very full and space-filling. It brings with it an extra amount of detail that causes it to function harmoniously and hand-in-hand with the dialog and effect mixing. At one point, Sarah listens to The Ramones' "I Wanna Be Sedated" on her headphones. When we hear it from her perspective, the music floods all cahnnels, but when we cut to John and "Pops" loading magazines behind her, the music playfully drops in volume and the effects of the bullets racking into the magazines solely emits from the front. When you pay close attention to this track, you'll notice many instances of well-crafted mixing at play. When you're not playing close attention, it perfectly blends together to create a notable listening experience.
Throughout 'Terminator Genisys,' Arnold's aged T-800 model is starting to fail mechanically. When his capabilities are called into question, he replies that he's "old – not obsolete." This same response can be used to describe the 'Terminator' franchise after five installments: it's old, but at this point, it's far from being obsolete. Without question, this is the best that the franchise has been since 'T2.' Considering what has come before, this is definitely the most playful that it has been with the already established canon. Being an alternate universe reboot, it handles the property with respect and homage, all the while remaining creative and establishing a new narrative that's worth investing in. The 3D combo pack release includes everything that you could possibly want from it: perfect 3D and 2D video presentations, reference quality top-notch sound mixing and DVD and digital copies. Although light on special features, 'Terminator Genisys' is a franchise installment that any fan should want in his/her Blu-ray library.
Portions of this review also appear in our coverage of Dunkirk on Blu-ray. This post features unique Vital Disc Stats, Video, and Final Thoughts sections.