2015 has been a year of monster blockbusters. Records have been broken left and right, with movies like Avengers: Age of Ultron, Inside Out, and Jurassic World all combining to make this a huge year for studios. It should follow logically that a film existing within one of sci-fi’s most popular fandoms would find similar success. Terminator: Genisys had all the makings of another record-breaker, especially given its built-in audience along with a promise to remake the formerly disappointing sequel-scape that followed T2: Judgment Day. But things didn’t quite go as planned.
Opening numbers were beyond disappointing for the fifth installment in the Terminator saga. Its $28 million haul was the third-best among all challengers, beat out by Jurassic World and Inside Out, films that have been out for three and two weeks respectively. So why couldn’t Genisys put the franchise back on top?
Ultimately, it fell well short of creative expectations
If there’s one thing we’ve learned from Terminator’s failed sequels, it’s that the truly great movies are the ones that will form a lasting legacy. Unfortunately, Genisys couldn’t offer that. Rotten Tomatoes currently has it sitting at a paltry 27% positive rating, with the critical consensus painting a bleak picture:
Mired in its muddled mythology, Terminator: Genisys is a lurching retread that lacks the thematic depth, conceptual intelligence, or visual thrills that launched this once-mighty franchise.
If you want people flooding into theaters on opening night for a franchise that hasn’t been good in almost 25 years, it would behoove you as a studio to ensure that you make a good movie. The mistake many studios make is that they can make money on reputation alone. Jurassic World, despite all its flaws, was still the second best movie in that saga, as a marked improvement over the two previous sequels. Conversely, Genisys suffered from some extreme issues in its storytelling in an attempt to reboot far too much at once.
The later stages of trailers spoiled Genisys’s biggest plot twist
For anyone who somehow hasn’t had this yet spoiled for them, know that it will be if you continue reading. In initial trailers for Genisys, we learned the very basic elements: What appears to be the original Terminator story has dramatically shifted, things are exploding, and Arnold is back for more one-liners. That alone would have been enough to sell the movie.
But then weeks later, a second full-length trailer debuted, giving away the biggest plot point in the entire film: That John Connor has been turned into a Skynet cyborg, and is coming after his mother. They even show the exact moment where this is discovered, when Arnold fires a shotgun at what appears to be a normal John Connor (much to the shock and horror of Sarah), only to see John reassemble into an evil robot.
In the grand tradition of Terminator trailers spoiling major story twists (T2′s trailer did the same), there was no longer much incentive to see it when audiences knew all about the grand reveal. This alone likely didn’t sink the box office opening weekend, but we’d be shocked if it didn’t play a large role.
In the end, we were offered nothing new or exciting
If there’s one thing Genisys set out to do, it was to wipe out the old timeline of the franchise in favor of a fresh new one. In that attempt though, the movie still fell back on tired tropes: The liquid metal T-1000, Arnold protecting the Connor family with his life, poorly-explained time travel, and so much more. People are going to flock to see Star Wars in December because they’re getting new Star Wars: A new story, new characters, new twists and turns. Genisys offered the same characters in a mildly new story, all looking to achieve the same goal as the last four installments.
Leading into the release, there have been ambitious plans to further expand the universe, including a TV show, and a whole slate of new sequels. In light of the disappointing opening box office though, we could very well see those plans put on hold. Perhaps this is well and truly a dead franchise. Or maybe it simply can’t function without its creator, James Cameron. Whatever the reason, there’s a whole lot of soul-searching to do for the studio in the wake of a third-place opening weekend finish.
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