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.
Vital Disc Stats: The Ultra HD Blu-ray
In France, Paramount Home Entertainment brings Terminator: Genisys to Ultra HD Blu-ray as a three-disc combo pack with a flyer for a Digital Copy, which can be redeemed via UniversBluray.com but only available in HD / SDR. Housed inside a slightly thicker than normal black keepcase with a glossy slipcover, the dual-layered UHD66 disc sits comfortably opposite a Region Free, BD50 disc on a middle panel. The third BD50 disc is on the last panel and contains a collection of special features. The same package is also available in the United Kingdom, which you can order here. At startup, the UHD goes straight to a static menu with music and options along the bottom.
Time-traveling robot assassins deny everyone from changing their fate on Ultra HD with an impressive and often lovely H.265 encode in HDR10, delivering a surprisingly good upgrade over the Blu-ray. Admittedly, resolution and definition don't show a dramatic difference, though there is an appreciable uptick in the overall picture quality. Shot on the Arri Alexa camera system capable of 3.4K resolution, which was later mastered in a 2K digital intermediate, the 2160p video displays clean, fine lines around various objects in the background. The threading in the clothing is a bit more distinct while the creases and faded cracks in Pop's leather jacket are more visible than before. Every time John Connor morphs, viewers can better make out the unique features in his nanocyte body, like tiny little block with spikes scrambling everywhere. But again, the difference between the HD version and this one is relatively small. Worth mentioning, as well, are the few, negligible instances of aliasing around the sharpest edges of some objects and light fixtures.
However, where the UHD really shines is the significant improvement in brightness levels, and the difference is far more dramatic and striking than in any other aspect. Compared to its SDR counterpart, sequences set in the middle of the night or taking place inside darkly-lit environments display deeper, penetrating shadows, such as Sarah's underground bunker or John's final offensive to stop the time machine in the first half of the movie. And amid all the darkness, the details of the small objects in the distance remain plainly visible, allowing viewers to see every piece of equipment in Pop's makeshift time machine or individual soldiers fighting the Terminator army during the invasion. The difference in blacks is also apparent in the clothing worn by our trio of heroes, looking inkier and more true-to-life than before, while still maintaining excellent variation between the various shades in the jackets, shirts, military gear and surrounding shadows. Amazingly, the Blu-ray seems duller and faded by comparison while the UHD delivers a more cinematic experience.
Presented in a 2.40:1 aspect ratio, the 4K presentation also arrives at its 2017 destination with a brighter and slightly wider array of colors throughout, starting with better coloring in the faces, showing a natural, lifelike rosiness in the complexions. There were a couple moments where the cast appeared somewhat flushed, but it doesn't happen often. Again, John's final offensive and the Sarah saving Reese sequence is a genuine highlight, showing perkier, more dazzling purples in the laser shots and a tighter, livelier shine in the red electric fence. Also, the armored truck is of a distinctly redder shade and while Sarah and Pops talk over a passed out Reese, the red lights glow on each of their faces with more realism. Unfortunately, contrast doesn't receive much of an improvement, looking about the same as the SDR version. Then again, whites are a tad more brilliant in many exterior scenes, and specular highlights are improved, providing the glow of light bouncing off metallic exoskeletons an impressive shimmer and sparkle. Fire and explosions also reveal a bit more detailing within the brightest areas, making this a better watch than the Blu-ray.
The killing machines from the future follow directives equipped with the same, near reference-quality Dolby Atmos soundtrack heard on the previous Blu-ray. Igniting the screen right from the start, Lorne Balfe's score sprawls across the screen and into the surrounds and front heights, keeping viewers fully engaged until the very end.
During these same opening moments, laser blasts zoom in every direction and the engines of HK-Aerials fly overhead, immediately creating a satisfyingly immersive, dome-like soundfield. Quieter sequences are also littered with a variety of atmospherics circling the listener, such as water dripping from above while inside the sewer, acid showering from the ceiling or the heavy traffic commotion of the city. When using the time machine, the electrical pulses from either the machine or during a character's arrival flawlessly pan from one speaker to the next, and the final, climactic fight at the Cyberdyne complex is a good deal of fun.
The object-based mix also enjoys detailed clarity in the mid-range, exhibiting sharp distinction amid all the mayhem and the clanging of metal upon metal. The background is continuously layered with convincing off-screen activity, generating a wide and spacious soundstage with excellent balance and separation between the channels. Amid the loud, ear-piercing chaos, the back and forth yelling between characters remains prioritized and intelligible. Best of all, the mix comes with an insanely powerful low-end, delivering some ground-shaking, wall-rattling bass to gunshot, punches and explosions. But the two standout moments are definitely the scenes with the school bus overturning on the Gold Gate Bridge and Pops' fight against John Connor inside Cyberdyne, featuring a couple hits that ferociously dig into 17Hz with strong decibels and a few other hits around 26Hz (bass chart).
The first Blu-ray contains the same three featurettes seen stateside, but the second BD disc contains a documentary made available for the international market.
Infiltration and Termination (HD, 25 min): Cast & crew interviews discussing the production design, the performances and shooting locations with tons of BTS footage of key sequences.
Family Dynamics (HD, 16 min): Talks on the chemistry of the cast and performances.
Upgrades: VFX of Terminator: Genisys (HD, 15 min): Decently entertaining discussion on the use of practical effects mixed with CG visuals, along with some on the fight & war sequences.
Reset the Future: Constructing Terminator: Genisys (HD, 99 min): A six-part documentary detailing every aspect of the production, starting with gushing praise of James Cameron's original while adding to the mythology. The rest of the pieces are a closer look at the special visual effects, costuming, stunt & fight choreography, cast training and much more.
Old. Not Obsolete.
A Once and Future War
Exiles in Time
Battle on the Bridge: Multi-Angle Scene Breakdown (HD, 10 min): Exactly as the titles suggests, viewers are given three perspectives on the massive, pivotal action sequence.
On the Set
Previsualization/Final Film Composite
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 Ultra HD Blu-ray comes courtesy of Paramount Home Entertainment in France, featuring an excellent 4K presentation that noticeably improves on the black levels compared to the Blu-ray SDR. The same near reference-quality Dolby Atmos soundtrack is ported over. Also included is the same set of supplements seen in the international releases of the movie. In the end, the overall package is recommended for 4K enthusiasts.
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.