This is pretty much spoiler free, sans things we all know from trailers and such.
The film certainly isn’t “The Terminator” or “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” - but it’s also not “Rise of the Machines” or “Salvation” either. It falls in between, and in doing so, I honestly feel it succeeds in at least giving us a better film than we’ve had since 1991. It’s not without flaws; but those flaws don’t feel as fatal as the last two cinematic outings.
Admittedly, I could have blinders on. I went into this with low expectations, as I’m sure we’ve all had. We’ve been hurt by the franchise we love before, and we’re wary of being hurt yet again. Likewise, the publicity campaign was pretty poorly done up until the last month or two. And showing unfinished CGI in trailers should be made criminal - especially after seeing the final products and being pleased, if not blown away with them like we all where in T2.
I’ll be seeing the film again, perhaps tomorrow, because such is what I do. And so I may amend my opinion up in some spots and down in others. But overall? I left feeling more satisfied than I have been since I was 7 years old. And while I wasn’t as awe-struck or captivated as I was by the first two films - because lets face it, Jim Cameron is phenomenal at his craft - I also wasn’t disheartened.
I know there will be a lot of complaints. I can come up with a few myself. But talking big-picture? I think this film did a a decent job and actually tried way harder than 3 or 4 and should be lauded for such.
The first half of the film is so filled with homage and nostalgia that you can’t help but enjoy it. It is obvious that the intent was to please grumpy fans by really soaking us up to our eyeballs in that which we loved, even while simultaneously upending it on it’s ass. To some this all might backfire and make them feel irritated or annoyed, but to me? It was like seeing an old friend again. It worked. It got me in a better mood and gave me hope.
The second half of the film is much lighter on such, and where/when things really turn different. Even still, they still keep throwing a number of call-backs in, both subtle and gross. We’ve all seen the obvious - and oft repeated in the advertising ones - but I’ll be curious to see how many of us pick up on all the other more subtle ones.
The biggest failing of the film in my opinion is Jai Courtney as Kyle Reese. Quite frankly, the man can’t act his way out of a paper bag, and has so little chemistry with his co-stars, it’s a real question in my - and a lot of critics minds - why Hollywood keeps hiring him. If you saw “Live Free or Die Hard” you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. He’s just got nothing to offer.
Emilia Clarke and Jason Clarke offer valiant efforts. Do they take the reigns of their rolls? No, not particularly. Linda Hamilton still owns Sarah Connor, with Lena Headey as a very honorable mention. But Emilia is a capable actor and really doesn’t make you cringe the way Courtney does. The same for Jason Clarke - although his John being the bad-guy for so much of the time really doesn’t give Clarke as much to work with as he could. If you saw “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” you can see why they’d cast him as John Connor. But he didn’t really get to flex those quiet but brave leader muscles much. Perhaps next time? Theoretically? I don’t know.
Arnold is… Arnold. Uncle Bob is still my favorite take on the T-800. Here, we get a few glimpses of something similar, but not to the same levels, which is a bit disappointing. I think it’s more of a writing issue than Arnold himself though. We know he can make us feel for his Terminator, but I didn’t feel for him what we all felt for Uncle Bob.
J.K. Simmons character is the answer to a question so many of us have asked ourselves and our fellow fans over the last 30+ years. I won’t say how, but you’ll understand what I mean when you see the film. Matt Smith is… in about 5 to 10 minutes of the film. Any of you Dr. Who fans going to see him will be very, very disappointed.
If you want me to put a grade on this movie? B- or C+, with the first two both getting A’s while “Rise” gets a D and Salvation a D+ or maybe C-. That’s my initial opinion, and that’s all it is: an opinion. I’m early awaiting to hear from other fans, and have some lively discussions over the coming weeks.